Kansas is a Red State — yes — it is — Well… is it? We have 4 representatives in the House — two are Democrats and 2 are Republicans… does that make us Purple? Visit us again Mr. Obama — Purple may become your favorite color! Purple? Yeah… you know… Red and Blue makes Purple. Kansas may be a Red State but it is tinged with Blue.
Four years ago, August 5, 2004, when the Kerry/Edwards train rolled through Lawrence, KS in the middle of the night, passing by a little over a hundred Blue Kansans waiting in the dark for their candidates, it was a wakeup call to us well, ok, die-hard Kansas Democrats. It was a slap…a splash of cold water that basically said, “Kansas is a Red state and we don’t really care whether there are Democrats there or not.” Thanks to Elizabeth Edwards looking out the window of the train as they sped through the Lawrence train station, John Edwards came back a couple of days later to a crowd so large that they couldn’t get everyone (easily 2-3000) into Abe & Jakes (capacity there is only 740 and one of the two non-KU large indoor venues in town). I remember trying to get in to Abe & Jakes. It had been raining all morning and they’d moved the rally from a park to Abe & Jakes… my spouse had worked in the building and knew some back ways in – we managed to get on a balcony (where were the Secret Service???) and stand outside the bar and watch through a window. It was one of the best days of my political life – I put it up there with going to the airport when I was a kid to meet Lyndon Johnson as he arrived on a campaign tour of Texas.
Fast forward 4 years. Now it is mid-June 2008, and we are again hoping for a Democratic president. The difference in Kansas is that there are now more Democrats… we are turning our Red State Blue! Yesterday (June 10th), with the end of filing, we have more than doubled the number of Democrats filing for office and contesting Republican-held seats. We may not yet be Blue but we are moving toward it on the color wheel. This is exciting for me – a life-long Democrat. I have never had the pleasure of living in a state known for being Blue – I moved here from another Red state – Texas. Now that I live in Kansas, we’re not on the “A” list of states to visit because we’re not a critical-must-win-state. We’re small, statistically insignificant, and we’re Red…not a good combination for attracting Democratic Presidential Candidates.
Back in late January, Mr Obama visited small-town Kansas when he went to Eldorado before heading on to Kansas City, Missouri and the Missouri primary. Even though it was a photo op to place the candidate in a more “Midwestern” light, it was good that he did that for the local Democratic base, and, who knows, maybe it made a difference in his showing at the Kansas Primary. February 5th was a cold, wet and nasty night (the rain was turning to sleet as we stood in line) and still better than 6 times the number of people expected showed up. From my point of view, most were for Obama… including a fascinating phenomenon: middle age white women turning away from our sister Hilary and standing with the Obama crowd. It was the most diverse crowd I have EVER seen in my little corner of Kansas. In retrospect, I am going to believe that Obama’s visit to Eldorado a few days before fired up the Kansas Constituency and we came out in force. I wish it were true in my case but it wasn’t – I voted for Obama because that was who I was for THAT DAY. Even so, we Kansas Democrats are working to turn our Red state Blue. We may never make it but we can surely make this state Purple (as in “bruised”) and I believe that is actually a good thing. BUT we need help… we need infusions of energy… like the visit of a candidate to show that Kansas Democrats aren’t in this alone.