The historical special session of the Kansas legislature taking place this week will, I predict, thoroughly fulfill its true purpose, though not its official one. Being clear on the differences between the two is important if one wants to understand the political motivations at work.
Officially, the Republicans in Topeka have pushed Governor Kelly to call back the legislature in order to work out rules which will defend the religious liberty and unemployment benefits of Kansans who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19, in opposition to President Biden’s vaccine mandate. But truthfully, the session is taking place in order to produce declarations and speeches that will help keep Kansas Republican voters united and focused on the culture war surrounding the pandemic, thus benefiting their agenda in both the August vote over an anti-abortion-rights amendment, and the November vote for our next governor.
That such words and images are the true aim of the special session is not to deny that Biden’s requirement that all large employers require their workers to be vaccinated can be legitimately challenged. There are real constitutional controversies built into his order, and that’s why multiple lawsuits have been filed against the mandate (including those which Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who will be the Republican nominee challenging Kelly, has already joined).