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Inside the mind of a typical Kansas lawmaker: Fury as far as the eye can see


Inside the mind of a typical Kansas lawmaker: Fury as far as the eye can see

Mar 08, 2023 | 4:33 am ET
By Clay Wirestone
Inside the mind of a typical Kansas lawmaker: Fury as far as the eye can see
The infamous Kansas abolitionist John Brown as depicted in a detail of John Steuart Curry's famous "Tragic Prelude" mural in the Kansas Capitol. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

News item: “You don’t know what woke ideology is?” (Kansas Speaker of the House Dan) Hawkins said when asked to explain the term. “Go and Google it.”  

News item: “When asked to define this agenda, (Rep. Pat) Proctor said he didn’t want to discuss it but knew schools should stick to educational basics, such as reading, writing and arithmetic.”

I am a Kansas state legislator, and I am furious.

I am mad because there are abortions and students are attending public schools. I am mad because there are transgender people and drag shows. I am mad about our progressive tax system. I am mad because society indoctrinates our children with a radical woke agenda.

You would think that my party holding a supermajority in the House and Senate would soothe that anger, but somehow it just makes me more irate.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should punish women for abortions. We should treat them with care and compassion by putting bounties on their heads. And I’m genuinely concerned for students in public schools, which is why my voucher program would send a bunch of money to rich parents whose kids are already in private schools.

Please don’t get me wrong about transgender people, either. I’m sure they’re fine-ish. I just don’t want to see or think about them. Some of my best friends are probably transgender, but they’ve never told me, and that’s the way I like it. Drag shows don’t have anything to do with transgender people, but I saw a drag queen once and felt uncomfortable, which means we need a law.

As for taxes, don’t get me started. We need them flatter and lower, because the rich people who fund my campaigns need rewarding for their good deeds. If that means social service cuts for poor people, what can you do? Not be poor, I guess.

A lot of liberal nanny-state naysayers have asked me to define “radical woke agenda.” They think I’m just repeating a tired phrase that doesn’t mean anything. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m repeating a tired phrase that means whatever I want it to at the time.

Ty Masterson and Dan Hawkins discuss GOP legislative goals during a Jan. 10, 2023 news conference. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Ty Masterson and Dan Hawkins discuss GOP legislative goals during a Jan. 10, 2023 news conference, where they also decried a woke agenda. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sometimes it means I think you’re a communist.

Sometimes it means I think you’re racist against white people (famously the most discriminated-against group).

Sometimes it means I think you’re gay — or enjoy rainbows.

Sometimes it means I couldn’t think of any other way to signify that once upon a time you might have watched a TV channel other than Fox News.

The point is, I’m angry. We need a state that’s the envy of the country. That means low taxes, private schools, straight couples as far as the eye can see, and the Koch organization sponsoring every university. Sure, this might mean years of deficits and making ourselves a national joke, but we survived Sam Brownback and retained our legislative majorities.

The only thing standing in our way is the governor. I especially dislike her, and the way she refuses to talk about the radical woke agenda and the other talking points that were emailed to me by leadership this morning. Also, I suppose, all those voters who supported abortion rights by an 18-point margin in August.

They didn’t know what they were doing, OK? I’m especially mad at them, but I can’t say that too loudly because they still reelected me in November. Go figure.

Sometimes when I walk into the Statehouse, my entire body practically tingles from all the rage-fueled endorphins. My spouse (who is of course a woman, just as surely as I am a man, just the way God intended) can never figure out why I’m so angry during the session.

“Doesn’t your side write all the bills?” she asks. “Don’t you decide the budget and priorities for the state, all while huddling behind a veil of secrecy? Haven’t you all controlled Kansas for decades?

“Shouldn’t you be — you know — just a little bit happy?”

No. I categorically refuse to be happy.

Not as long as our insidious opposition promotes ideas that someone, somewhere in the state supports. Not as long as people I morally disapprove of manage to have a good time, or educate their children, or make a decent wage, or show another way exists to run a state that lifts more people up than it shoves into the dirt.

I am furious. And that’s the way I like it.

Clay Wirestone is Kansas Reflector opinion editor. Through its opinion section, the Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.