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Monday, January 29, 2007
(1:35 PM) | Stephen:
Kansas Politics

Now that Kathleen Sebelius is starting to generate some so-called "buzz" as a possible VP candidate, Ezra is rightfully congratulating himself on pointing out her obvious strengths so long ago.

One of the big stories this last year in Kansas was how so many Republicans were switching parties. Nancy Boyda, Paul Morrison and our new Lt. Governor, Mark Parkinson, all became Democrats and won their elections. The Phill Kline fiasco - a gift that keeps on giving for the Johnson County GOP, by the way - has produced several more switches. The JoCo election office said that following his appointment to Johnson Co. DA, they received hundreds of requests for information about changing political parties.

The conventional wisdom about these switches - other than the mess here in Johnson County - is that Gov. Sebelius is just so charismatic, so charming that she is able to produce these outcomes. I certainly don't want to detract from her personal gifts, but this is only part of the story. The whole story is that Gov. Sebelius and other Democrats in Kansas are pointing out the very simple and plain truth that there is room for moderates in the Democratic Party, while that room in the GOP is shrinking every day. She doesn't spend time setting herself against other Democrats, or defining what a Democrat should be. She doesn't waste time criticizing the Democratic party for being too liberal.

Kathleen Sebelius just lays out her priorities and her values and lets the fact that there is a (D) after her name speak for itself. She's the Democratic Governor of Kansas, and she thinks the highest priority for this state is to insure every Kansan. She's against the death penalty. She vetoes abortion bills that restrict women's access to clinics.

So. A Democratic Governor/Lt. Governor, Attorney General and two Democratic Representatives. A newly inspired Democratic Party in Kansas. And it's because of a positive message of what it means to be a Democrat, a positive portrayal of the party and its principles. These moderate-to-conservative Democrats aren't pandering to anybody, and they're remaking the face of Kansas politics.

Something for other Democrats to think about.

On another note, I wasn't living in Kansas when Phill Kline started his fishing expedition/harassment against abortion clinics, so I didn't know that central to the whole drama was Dr. George Miller who runs a clinic in Wichita. He aborted the pregnancy of a woman who was at 7 months, which Kansas law forbids unless the woman's health is in jeopardy. Dr. Miller of course claimed that exemption, and the reason was the woman's severe depression.

The anti-choice crowd very quickly said that depression is not really a threat to anyone's health, that Kansas law needs to be changed to define just what health threats are appropriate. Aside from my extremely quick and angry disagreement about depression not posing a serious risk to the mother - and to the child after it's born, though I wonder if the anti-choice crowd in Wichita would care about that - this highlights how far we have to go in our understanding of mental disorders.

I wonder, for example, if the anti-choice crowd could have whipped up such a frenzy if the mother had Bipolar Disorder, or Borderline Personality Disorder or some other mental disorder that is viewed as being more dangerous than Depression. Certainly, the other disorders I mentioned are serious, and I would say that they are more consistently dangerous than Depression. But Depression, if severe enough, can pose a serious risk to a mother and to her child. Not all depressives simply sit on the couch or lay in bed all day. Depression can result in destructive anxiety attacks and even uncontrollable rage. Depression is not to be trifled with, and unfortunately there are many people who do, from those who dismiss it altogether to those and their doctors who seek and give antidepressant medication when it isn't necessary.

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