Getting engaged (column)

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opinions

March 9, 2018 - 12:00 AM

This week I joined the Communist Party — at least according to Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state.

All I really did was join the Kansas League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization whose goal is to encourage the exercise of this most precious of rights. Filling out the form, no questions were asked about whether I belong to a political party.

Even so, Kobach labeled the group of predominantly white-haired ladies as “communists” when addressing the 2016 state convention of Republicans. Seems the LWV have kicked open a hornet’s nest with their efforts to get out the vote — the very thing Kobach is trying to suppress. This week he’s been in federal court defending a 2013 Kansas law that requires proof of citizenship in order to vote. Kobach maintains voter fraud is rampant. In opposition, the League, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, says the extra paperwork is an unnecessary turnoff to prospective voters.

 

I’M A LATECOMER to politics.

Sure, growing up it was as much a course around the dinner table as green beans, but then it was abstract and I couldn’t see how it impacted my life personally.

I married relatively young, 22, and followed my husband’s career across five states — Washington, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Michigan — never bothering to learn the local or state politics of each new locale. My world then was focused on raising kids and managing the household. 

I remember feeling limited and intimidated when talk turned to politics. And as my kids got older I felt I was not the role model I wanted to be. How could I expect them to be informed and engaged citizens when I was not?

I then began to work my way out of that stifling insularity by paying attention to current events, reading positions across the political spectrum and coming more into my own with my own opinions.

I came to see how everything is local. That the laws decided here, or in Topeka or Washington, D.C., have very much to do with me and that of my children and neighbors.

Slowly, I began to give a damn.

And while I don’t think such awakenings are unique to women, I’d wager they are predominately so, which is why for every woman in political office, there are three men.

That imbalance does a disservice to women, in particular, but to the general population as a whole.

In the U.S. Senate, 22 of 100 senators are women, a record high. But in the House of Representatives, only 84 of 432 members are women. Only six current governors are female, two of which were appointed.

In Kansas, 28 percent of our legislators are women.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, women are working to bridge that gap. According to Emily’s List, an organization devoted to getting female Democrats elected, an estimated 26,000 women have expressed interest in running for political office, up from 920 during the entire 2016 election cycle.

I joined the Kansas League of Women Voters because there’s strength in numbers, and two heads are better than one.

From a glance at its website I found the state chapter is working not only to get out the vote but also  to expand Medicaid and adequately fund our public schools.

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