Thomas Frank famously wrote a book entitled "What's The Matter With Kansas?" The title quickly became a phrase for describing the phenomenon of red-state voters who vote for economic policies that are against their interests, promoted by politicians who use values-voting to pick the pockets of these voters. Those voters keep on voting to have their pockets picked, either out of sheer stupidity or out of embarrassment for having been so sheerly stupid.
Well, based on recent events, we can still wonder what the matter with Kansas is. The real question is whether, at this rate, there'll be a Kansas in a few years.
Sunflower State voters elected former Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican, as their Governor in 2010, on a promise to take Reagan Miracle-Gro economics down to the state level and make Kansas a paradise to be envied by the other 49 states. With the aid of a supple and not highly critical legislature, he made his policies a reality. Result? Reality kicked back--hard. The state's revenues tanked, followed by its economy, followed by massive cuts to some of its most basic services.
Were Kansas voters deterred by any of this? Uh-uh. They apparently view seriously the old Bolshevik joke: "Proof of the farsightedness of Comrade Trotsky's predictions is that none of them have come true yet." Brownback took it seriously enough to tell Kansas voters as he ran for re-election in 2014 that his wisdom just needed more time to take root. Incredibly, the voters gave him four more years of that time.
Their most recent reward for this? Brownback's recent announcement that he would end quarterly reporting of the state's economic performance, on the grounds that the reports were too complicated to understand. Frankly, it's hard to escape the feeling that, were that performance worth reporting, Brownback would decide that Kansans could put up with the complications.
As it is, sadly, Kansas, like other democracies, has the government its voters deserve. May they, for their sakes and everyone else's, find a way to deserve something better soon.