What’s going on in Kansas? A book with that title (“What’s The Matter With Kansas?”) was published in the United States in 2004. The subtitle read: “How Conservatives Struck the Heart of America.” The author, Thomas Frank, is a historian and comes from the rural US state in the Midwest that was once a bastion of the Democrats.
But that changed. More and more workers and peasants went over to the Republicans and voted against their own economic interests – this is the core thesis of the book. Instead, they defended traditional cultural values. This also marked the beginning of the rise of populist and anti-elitist conservatism in Kansas, which culminated in the election of Donald Trump as US President in 2016.
Is the trend now reversing in Kansas of all places? On Tuesday, a clear majority, almost 60 percent, voted in favor of abortion rights in a referendum. Voters went to the polls in record numbers.
In addition, Kansas was used as a test case. It was the first state in which citizens were questioned after the Supreme Court’s decision in late June to overturn statewide abortion laws.
Further referendums are planned in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont in November. Has Kansas turned a once blue, then red state back into a blue one? Trump received 56 percent of the vote in the Kansas presidential election two years ago. Joe Biden got 42 percent.
Democrats and President Biden celebrated the result, which reflects the political mood in the country. A majority of Americans defend abortion rights and reject the Constitutional Court’s decision to give states autonomy to make abortion laws. As a result, ten Republican-governed states have already passed strict abortion bans. Further bans in other states are expected.
The result in Kansas supports in particular those Democrats who hope the abortion issue will massively mobilize their voters in the midterms, the congressional elections in November. They are also counting on the fact that radical, Trump-loyal Republicans will be nominated as candidates in the current primaries in many states, which in turn has a deterrent effect on the moderate center.
However, this calculation has not yet been clearly substantiated by surveys on the political mood in the country. On the day of the Constitutional Court ruling on abortion rights, the poll averaged 44.4 to 41.8 percent for Republicans, according to the Realclearpolitics website. Although their lead has narrowed somewhat, it remains at 44.7 to 44.4 percent. A serious change in mood cannot be derived from this.
Voters’ political preference is rarely formed around a single issue. In 2004, when What’s The Matter With Kansas? was released, George W. Bush won the presidential election against John Kerry. 38 percent of those Americans who are in favor of abortion rights voted for Bush – and at least 20 percent of those opposed to the Iraq war.
Biden was elected because Trump was considered the greater evil. Can that be repeated in two years? The Democrats are at odds with themselves. Two-thirds of their supporters favor another president and think the economy is doing badly. Almost 80 percent of Democrats believe the country is moving in the wrong direction. The party longs for a new, young dynamic.
John Kennedy was 43 years old when he was elected President, Bill Clinton 46, Barack Obama 47. In contrast, Biden is 79 years old, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer 71, his Deputy Dick Durbin 77, Nancy Pelosi 82, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83. Where are new beginnings, visions and drive?
The Republicans want to push into this unsettled, volatile mood with all their might. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) begins this Thursday in Dallas, Texas. The organizers describe the meeting “as one of the largest and most influential gatherings of conservatives in the world”. A prominent guest from Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, will speak at the beginning. Finally, Donald Trump will speak on Saturday evening (local time).
Everyone who has rank and name among radical Republicans travels. Among them are Trump companion Steve Bannon, former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, conspiracy theory congresswoman Marjorie Taylor, Senator Ted Cruz, and Texas governor Greg Abbott.
Their voices are expected to boom more sustainably than those of Mitt Romney (Utah Senator), Mike Pence (former Vice President) and Nikki Haley (former Governor of South Carolina), who are also present.
Will 76-year-old Trump run again or will anyone dare to revolt? This question hangs over the entire conference. The Republicans want to act as a unit and carry out their attacks on the Democrats as a unit.
They expect the greatest effect from the topics of crime, illegal immigration, inflation, educational content (keyword: critical race theory). The result of the abortion referendum in Kansas gave the Democrats a boost. In Dallas, the Republicans will try to counter.