Opinion Columns & Blogs

Influential events in Kansas political history

In honor of Kansas' 150 years of statehood, Kansas State University political science professor Joseph Aistrup compiled the following list of the nine most-influential events in Kansas political history:

* The state's bloody origins before the Civil War gave the state its unforgettable nickname "Bleeding Kansas." Kansas and West Virginia were the only states born during this divisive period of U.S. history.

* The ratification of a constitutional amendment in 1880 forbidding the sale and production of intoxicating liquors set off Kansas' version of the "100 years war" over the sale and consumption of alcohol. Kansas was the first state in the nation to pass such a constitutional amendment. Carry A. Nation, the Rev. Richard Taylor and Vern Miller are just a few of the interesting public figures who took part in this debate. In 1986, 106 years after the amendment was passed, Kansas erased the last vestiges of Prohibition, legalizing liquor by the drink in bars and restaurants.

* The Populist Era of the 1890s sparked a farmer revolt that swept the nation, protesting low commodity prices, robber baron railroads, farm foreclosures, monopolies and the excessively wealthy.

* The Progressive Reform Era in the early 1900s brought major changes in the structure of Kansas' governments. The changes included the city manager form of government, voting rights for women, authorizing the income tax and the line-item veto for the governor.

* The gubernatorial election of progressive newspaper editor Arthur Capper in 1914 united the warring factions in the Kansas Republican Party, which at that time were divided between progressive reformers and "standpatters," who were part of the old Republican Party machine. Capper's leadership allowed the Republican Party to move forward and re-establish its majority status. This majority status has since largely gone unchallenged by the Democrats.

* Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president in 1952. The Abilene resident wasn't shaped by state politics, but he was very much shaped by his Kansas roots.

* The 1960s redistricting established "one person, one vote." Before this, state legislative districts had a rural bias. For example, each of Kansas' 105 counties was represented by at least one member in the state House chamber. After 1966, representation shifted to the newly developing urban and suburban centers around Kansas City and Wichita.

* Passage of a series of constitutional amendments starting in the 1970s helped to fundamentally change the structure of state government. From 1972 to 1986, the Kansas Constitution was transformed into a modern state constitution. Included in those reforms was significant restructuring of the judicial and executive branches.

* The social crusade known as the Summer of Mercy in 1991 flooded Wichita with anti-abortion advocates. This motivated many social conservatives to become active in the political process. Almost 20 years later, social conservatives dominate state government and Kansas' congressional delegation.