Any citizen will agree that we are in a time of... contentious politics. From the national stage to local precincts, we find people at odds not just on facts and policy, but intent and attitude. We won't attempt to diagnose the problem, nor fix it, in this email. MainStream works to bring all sides together around issues and values, but the job of making that successful, well, it is too great for one group.
Luckily, we are not alone.
The Consensus group, a non-profit in the KC Metro area, just announced the winners of their 2016 Civility Awards. This year, we are thrilled to congratulate Carol Marinovich, the Vice-President of MainStream's Board of Directors, on her selection as a recipient, recognizing her career achievements bringing consensus and progress to Wyandotte and KCK. In addition, one of our partners in Wyandotte, the Grandview Park Presbyterian Church and their pastor, Rick Behrens, received this years award for their work embracing and celebrating diversity in their neighborhoods. Rick is a friend of MainStream (he's even played music at our events!) and we could not be more excited for him.
In 2014, the MainStream Coalition nominated the League of Women Voters of Johnson County for this same award, and they deservedly won that year for their steadfastly non-partisan approach to voter engagement. As we wrote then, "The League has earned the respect of all citizens for their integrity and objectivity when it comes to politics. Their tables and booths, set up at any political event, are known to be islands of impartiality, concerned only with assisting would-be voters in the free exercise of their voting rights."
And perhaps that is the crux of the matter here. Whatever your views, however dedicated you are to your beliefs, we can all agree that the voting booth is where these matters are resolved. In Kansas, we have recently had a fraught relationship with voting rights, seeing tens of thousands of voters denied their right to vote by the state. In the person of Sam Brownback's Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Kansas has sought to deny voting to persons not presenting their citizenship papers, in a bid to prevent voter fraud. Investigations by the office of Kobach have turned up a handful of "fraud" cases to date, non involving non-citizens trying to influence our elections.
But another partner and friend, the ACLU, has pressed the issue before the courts, and just recently succeeded in turning back Kobach's schemes. We applaud them on their dogged persistence on the side of civil liberties.
Two events are coming up where you can celebrate the ideal of civility in Kansas politics. "Why Can't we be Friends: Civility and Politics" is a forum being held on Thursday, sponsored by KCUR and American Public Square.
And, of course, we are honoring the League of Women Voters of Kansas at our annual awards dinner, for their long time activism on behalf of all Kansans, regardless of political leaning.
We believe that we'll come out of this bog, and policy discussions between respectful citizens will come back. But until then, we will continue to support issues over politics, and consensus over partisanship. And we will have plenty of help.
You can help, by being informed, being active, and doing more than voting.