Friday, December 08, 2006

Kansas House Republicans: Electing the old white guy's team

By Diane Silver

I have been around Kansas politics far too long. I can't believe that I missed the fact that the entire leadership team recently elected by Kansas House Republicans is all-male and all-white. And just in case a little diversity might have crept in, House Republicans also made certain that their leaders were all-rural and all 60 or older.

I did notice the conservative slant, but didn't even think about the bland sameness of it all until the Lawrence Journal World pointed it out and noted that Kansas Democrats were "snickering at the makeup of the House Republican leadership team."

I missed the significance because, well, it's not exactly a new thing for the Republicans leading the House to be all white and all male. However, when I was covering the Legislature I don't remember them all being so close to cashing in their Social Security.

By the way, the GOP members of the Kansas House include females as well as males. I haven't looked up the ages, but I'd be willing to bet the voters let a few young folk take the oath of office. Does anyone know if there are any black Republicans among the group?

The Journal-World notes:
The GOP leadership team includes Speaker Melvin Neufeld, 66, a farmer from Ingalls; Majority Leader Ray Merrick, 67, a business owner from Stilwell; Speaker Pro Tem Don Dahl, 61, retired of the Navy from Hillsboro; and caucus chairman Dick Kelsey, 60, of Goddard. The two youngest members of the team are Majority Whip Rob Olson, 37, of Olathe, and assistant Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, 47, of Louisburg.

Those candidates were elected by the 78-member House Republican caucus Monday. The only woman to run for a leadership job was Lana Gordon, of Topeka, and she was defeated by Vickrey, 59-18, with one not voting....

Meanwhile, the 47-member House Democratic caucus returned all of its previous leaders, which includes three men and two women, and one of those women, Lawrence Democrat Barbara Ballard, is black. In addition, a new member of the House Democratic leadership team is Paul Davis, of Lawrence, who was elected unopposed as policy chairman to replace Nancy Kirk, who retired from the Legislature. Geographically, the Democratic leaders hail from Greensburg, Wichita, Hays, Lawrence and Leavenworth.


Gary B said...

Old white guys? Bland sameness?
ouch! I resemble those comments.

oh! can't talk now, my oatmeals getting cold.....
Gary B.

Anonymous said...

It's no surprise that this J-W story was written by Scott Rothschild. As the former president of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Topeka, Rothschild is compromised as an objective reporter. The UU is more of a political organization than a religious one, pushing same-sex marriage, the so-called living wage (a UU grant got the living-wage movement in Lawrence started), "social justice," and other far-left initiatives. These are all issues Rothschild has reported on or is likely to report on. No competent editor would put such a partisan in the Statehouse, yet both the Wichita Eagle and Journal-World have done so. (Yes, the Eagle even put the ultraliberal Diane Silver in the Statehouse, which is evidence enough that that paper cares little for objectivity.) In Rothschild's case, the Democrat caucus in the House is so comfortable with him that they actually let him in on private conservations. Incredible.

I am also shocked that Silver would engage in such a display of ageism. At 54, Silver is no spring chicken herself. Are her opinions now invalid simply because she is eligible for AARP membership?

Diane Silver said...

Ah Gary... don't let that oatmeal get too cold.

But seriously, I'm not slamming old white guys. I'm making note of the fact that there is a definite lack of diversity among the leaders chosen by Kansas House Republicans. The situation wouldn't be any better if all the leaders were 54-year-old liberal white women, of which I am most decidedly one.

By the way, I love oatmeal, and as a woman who is soon to be hitting 55, I now understand the necessity for sensible shoes.

And so it goes...

Gary B said...

and quite seriously I wasn't even remotely worried that I was being either type cast or slammed.

Reality it, theres a bunch of us older white guys (I even have white hair)that think we know it all, or at least that we know the important stuff. But we frequently fail to recognize that our position at the front of the line grows from the vestiges of white male priviledge, and our perpetual claim to the visible front serves in many ways to keep others down.

It's not my fault. But if we expect anything better, fairer, or inclusive, we might seek to contribute to a new vision of leadership that promotes the recognition, involvement and participation of diverse perspective: one that invites and promotes people who have different faces and different skins, different stories, different roots, and different ambitions.

As the skillfully layered steel of a samari sword gives strength, so too does the simple and effective construction of plywood sheeting, (with thin layers of wood grain often at right angles to the next,) the multiple layors of our society must be recognized and appreciated as our ultimate strength.
The problem with the white male leadership in the Kansas state house is that they think they are responsible for holding it all together even as the social glue is failing. Gary B

Diane Silver said...


Thanks so much for your insightful comment. I love the analogy of the layered steel in the sword. And yes, all of the layers working together make us strong. Those layers include the old white guys with white hair, the 54-year-old lesbians, the Unitarian Universalists, the socially conservative Christians and all the different aspects of our society.

By the way, I think I know what you mean when you say "the social glue is failing," but I'm not certain. Would you explain?

Many thanks!

Gary Bachman said...

We are not "sticking together." Many of us readily pursue our individual ambitions without much consideration for any social or environmental or even personal consequences beyond the aquisition of what we want, right now. We play alone, we work alone, and eventually we will die alone.

In spite of the opportunity provided by technology to more readily recognize our commonalities we seem more determined than ever to pay attention too and discern any hint of threat suggested by our differences.

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin (or Thomas Payne) who said, "We must hang together, ...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Diane Silver said...


Well said! I agree with you completely.

Lately, I've been thinking about what politics and our country would be like if we had leaders who talked about what we have in common instead of trying to drive wedges between us. Actually, this is important both for leaders and for the average citizen like you and me.

It seems that so often lately our culture has descended into the worst of human nature with fear and distrust the main themes in everything from political speeches to movies to blog posts (and yes, I do it sometimes myself).

It's more than past time to find a way to speak to the best within us instead of the worst.

Thanks for commenting.