What’s the moderate with Kansas?

At the MainStream Coalition, we often talk about being moderate when it comes to politics, about getting the moderate vote out, or about moderating extremism. Understandably, a lot of people think "moderate" is a political position. But it's not. Rather, it's an approach to politics. It's the counter to extremism, but doesn't mean one thing or another about your political views. There can be conservative moderates, and progressive moderates, and centrist moderates. And we need more, of all of them, speaking out.

Between political extremes

On the spectrum of political beliefs, voters and legislators range from the ultra-conservatives on the right to the super-liberals on the left. But most of us fall into the middle of that continuum, we're conservatives, centrists, or progressives to some degree. On the fringes, ultra-conservatives in Kansas talk about taxes being state-sponsored theft, and about how arming teachers is the best way to secure schools from mass shootings. On the super-liberal left, well, while it's hard to find actual supporters of concepts like indiscriminately open borders, or confiscating all firearms, those are some of the bogeymen trotted out by the ultra-cons. (This article originally included ‘abolishing ICE’ as an extreme stance, but while that is a very difficult goal 18 years after its creation, it is undeniable that ICE as it exists currently is in need of serious reform and repair.)

But these laughably extreme political views—and other more centrist ideas like crafting a sustainable fiscal policy, letting people live with dignity, or offering medical coverage to the working poor—are just that, political views. The way our political system works, or should work, is that we laugh at the outlandish ideas, we debate the reasonable ones, and we craft legislation that does the most good.

Often, people will call the result the "moderate" position. But in fact, it's a blend of conservative ideas (don't spend more than you make), centrist positions (government should spend to support its people), and progressive goals (people should support the government's work as they are financially able). Perhaps the final legislation bubbles up as "in the middle," but that isn't the same as moderate.

If you look at MainStream's positions (see Where We Stand) it's hard to get away from the fact that many of those stances could be called progressive. But our mission asks us to advocate for the best good for ALL Kansans, and which box that puts us in doesn't matter.

So, what's a moderate?

One of our founding principles is that "compromise around common values builds a just society." Being a moderate isn't about what you believe needs to change, but about how you achieve change. The confusion sets in when ultra-conservatives who espouse a taxpayer bill of rights are also dead set against any discussion of more reasonable ideas. They shout "taxes are theft" from the mountainside and turn their backs when other ideas are offered. Not only are they ultra-conservative in their views, but they are also extremist in their approach to politics. The two have become linked, which makes it harder for conservative moderates to bring conservative ideas to a discussion.

This election, we saw a disheartening trend towards extremism among liberals, too. Legislators who had a 100% record of voting for women, gun sense, reasonable taxes, education spending, healthcare expansion, and LGBTQ+ issues were demonized and "kicked out" simply because they had an (R) behind their name. Some were attacked beyond the pale, their service ignored, their record tarnished with innuendo.

Even to us here at MainStream, habituated as we are to being called "communists" by the extremists on the right, it was a shock to be called "fascists" by these extremists on the left. We can joke about how, if both extremes are angry at us, we're probably doing something right, but the shift is worrying.

A moderate is someone who is willing to listen, discuss, and look for ways to work together with people of a different political view. It is how policy is made when you are looking to benefit ALL the people, not just the ones who agree with you.

It is, quite frankly, the only way governing works.

MainStream was founded twenty-five years ago, not to strike a blow for liberal causes, but to fight extremism. That our issues skew towards the progressive side follows from our founding principle to "respect the rights, beliefs, and freedoms of all individuals." But how we get there, using the political process to forge compromise that moves the world towards a more just society, that's moderation.

Here's a concrete example. The Affordable Care Act, in today's political climate, is as divisive an issue as you can find... among extremists. The extreme right hates "Obamacare" with every fiber of their irrational beings. The extreme left believes a single-payer, tax-funded system is the only way forward. In between these extremes are the moderates—progressives and conservatives both—who are willing to work to make the law better, rather than sit on the sidelines with the screaming crowds while costs continue to increase and rural hospitals continue to close. They believe differently, but work together.

Moderate Kansas

There is no question that Kansas is a conservative state. But Kansas is a moderate state, too, where even with an overwhelming majority of conservatives, centrist and progressive positions can win.

In Kansas, expanding KanCare (one of the provisions of "Obamacare") is popular, supported by a huge majority of Kansans. In 2017, legislation to expand KanCare came within a few votes of overriding Brownback's veto.

In Kansas, with only 25% of the voters Democrats, we just elected a Democratic Governor (extending a 60 year streak of alternating the political party in the Governor's mansion).

In Kansas, some Democrats vote to relax gun restrictions, and some Republicans vote to protect reproductive rights. 

In Kansas, we're not centrists. We're a wild jumble of conservatives and progressives, we hold conflicting opinions, we marry people who don't agree with us, we raise families and work hard to make our lives better, but not at the expense of our neighbors.

In Kansas, we're moderates. That's how we protect the rights, beliefs, and freedoms of ALL Kansans, even those we don't agree with.

Remember, it starts here. With you. Do more than vote.

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