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Politics too polarizing, Kassebaum says

Staff writer

Former senator Nancy Kassebaum has lived a quiet life in Burdick since leaving office in 1997. She still follows politics, and is worried by how much public policy in the Senate is determined by party lines.

“These thoughtful debates that can take place just aren’t anymore,” she said. “They’re either this way or they’re that way. It’s either Republican or Democrat.”

Many Republicans follow President Donald Trump without question, Kassebaum said, which is why she wants to see a change in the Senate majority.

That’s why she sees Barbara Bollier as the best option to fill Senator Pat Roberts’ seat, and thinks that having a democratic majority would create a better balance.

“I think it’s important for Barbara to go and help stir up the Republicans,” she said. “If the Democrats have a majority in the Senate maybe it will stir up the Republicans to step forward and take a leadership role that’s important for them to take as Republican senators.”

Kassebaum’s preferred news source is PBS, as opposed to major stations like NBC or FOX. She particularly enjoys “Newshour,” which has a 45-year history on the public station.

“How do you get people willing to listen and learn,” she said. “It’s very easy to make a quick judgment. I do, I think most people do a lot of the time. Then you get things you don’t believe on TV, or you do believe, are they right?”

She also views political ads as a hindrance because they often don’t help create a dialogue with peers.

“Right now what I find so disappointing is that it’s become such a toxic environment,” she said. “These ads, millions of dollars are being spent on campaigns, frequently three times more than what I spent. Nobody did much TV in those days.”

She thinks it is vital for citizens to stay involved. Keeping current with politics is especially important on the state and local levels, Kassebaum said.

“I’m a strong supporter of hoping that people will take an interest in who serves on their school boards, who is serving on county commission, and mayors,” she said. “Mayors of cities have shown through this campaign season around the country how important many of them are in trying to address various crises that have affected these huge cities. It can be just as important in a small area.”

Kassebaum knows a few things about local politics, too.

Her only political experience before running for senate was serving on a school board in Maize, where she lived early in her political career.

She was the lone female senator for a short time. The position came with drawbacks and advantages, but her influence at the time was lessened because of how new she was.

“As you’re a freshman anyway, you don’t have a whole lot of clout,” she said. “You work your way up in committees.”

Kassebaum returned to her home in Burdick, which previously belonged to a family member, after deciding it was the place for her.

“I was just ready to retire,” she said. “I never intended to stay in Washington or the Senate. I think there is a good time to retire, and we each have different reasons why we stay.”

Last modified Oct. 21, 2020

 

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