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Mowing down Astroturf

Enough, already. This will be the last week in which we accept letters to the editor, especially from out-of-county residents, doing little more than endorsing political candidates.

It’s bad enough that our county has been ground up like so much hamburger, random chunks of it vacuum-packed into two different legislative districts dominated by ultra-conservatives from other counties.

Now, we also have to endure an onslaught of letters, all seemingly written by out-of-county members of candidates’ election committees, saying what a wonderful person their candidate is or what a scumbag their candidate’s opponent is.

If either of the two Republican candidates for 70th District state representative actually has support within Marion County, it would be nice to receive a letter from a Marion County reader — and not just an endorsement, but something actually talking about a real issue that uniquely impacts Marion County.

One of the two candidates — either of whom would make Genghis Kahn seem like a flaming liberal — recently sent out a survey about issues in the election. Unfortunately, nearly every issue voters could chose to say was important was some sham question designed mainly to divide voters rather than unite them on a path forward.

Supporters of the other candidate, meanwhile, brag endlessly about how he will never compromise on anything — despite compromise being essential to the democratic process — and how he would transform his legislative role into one that essentially codifies for all to endure the religious views of his congregation.

One of this week’s letters was edited to exclude general praise for the opposition candidate. The other, for the incumbent, was allowed to gush such praise because, in fairness, previous letters had made corresponding claims about his opponent.

We get it: Both candidates hate abortion, love guns, and aren’t too keen on transgendered students, undocumented workers, and mandated facemasks in a pandemic. We don’t need it said again.

From now on, letters must focus more directly on issues that actually might be something the legislature could address — provided its members ever get past seeing themselves as libertarians who want everyone to be totally free to think — provided they think just like them.

Years ago, famed Emporia editor William Allen White wrote an acclaimed editorial, “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” that later was followed up by a book of the same name by Thomas Frank, assailing how politicians have whipped Kansas voters into endless frenzies that end up focusing them on sham issues that in many cases end up hurting them more than helping them.

What we need from our public officials is an ability to bring people together behind positive ideas that will better our community, not fake issues that enrage us, take precious time away from addressing actual topics of legitimate concern, and attempt to substitute church for state.

If letter writers — especially from Marion County — agree or disagree, we welcome their comments. But we’re done allowing our letters column to be used for free advertising for sham “Astroturf” grassroots campaigns, especially when they originate outside the county.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified May 11, 2022

 

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