Politics & Government

New York Times published a paean to the pragmatic ideologues of Kansas

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback address a joint caucus of the state Senate and House Republicans. (June 11, 2015)
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback address a joint caucus of the state Senate and House Republicans. (June 11, 2015) File photo

A more than 6,000-word piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine included a number of references to Wichita and praised Kansas lawmakers this year for passing tax increases despite their conservative ideological bent.

The article cited multiple editorials in the Wichita Eagle and an old diner called the Golden Bell on West Kellogg Drive. It also quoted Gene Suellentrop, a representative from Wichita, about local job losses in the aircraft industry.

The article set out to explain to liberals on the coasts, who sometimes see politicians in the middle of the country as a caricature, how Kansas’ conservative politicians really work. It was written by Chris Suellentrop, Gene’s nephew, whose family is from Kansas but who now works for the Times.

“I hoped to be able to reveal Gene and his colleagues as something other than the monolith of monsters and morons that they’re so often taken for in the political conversation,” wrote Chris. “Perhaps out of disregard for the moral disagreements that underlie the American political divide.”

The article then focuses on how some conservative politicians were forced to raise taxes after waiting expectantly as tax returns came in and not enough revenue came in to balance the budget.

Gov. Sam Brownback described how much easier it is to get things done in Kansas than it was for him as a senator in Washington. Brownback told the Times that he runs informal meetings in the hallway: “...I can do half a dozen meetings just standing there. Gene walks by with a tax idea and I can say: ‘You know, I’d have a real problem with that. No, nothing against you, I don’t like this one.’ See the next guy, on the education formula: ‘Yeah, I really want to encourage you about that.’ I can do that all day long.”

The article concludes on a note that is sympathetic to the Republicans who chose to raise taxes.

“A group of politicians decided to violate a deeply held principle to protect what they saw as the common good,” Chris wrote. “In this summer of Trump, as the Republican presidential campaign reaches new nadirs of silliness, it may be hard for some to believe that conservatives in the Kansas statehouse could ever hit bottom on the amount of government that could be cut. But that’s what happened.”