Topeka Capital-Journal opinion page editor Matt Johnson has come to an “uncomfortable” realization: “Kris Kobach will be the next governor of Kansas.” Based on the tone of the editorial, “horrifying” might be a more accurate description of Johnson’s angst than “uncomfortable.”
For Johnson, everything Kobach says or does is awful. Kobach called the $1.2 billion tax increase “disastrous.” He has led an “assault on voting rights.” He plans “to emulate Trump’s unapologetic, opportunistic brand of populism and nativism.” He has an “obsession with voter fraud.”
As far as Johnson can see, this is all a con. Like so many of his peers, he believes that Kansans are too stupid to see through Kobach’s apparent smokescreen. Johnson concedes that Trump won the state by 20 points, that 50 percent of Kansans believed Kobach’s proof of citizenship requirement had helped “prevent voter fraud,” that 41 percent believe “the budget should have been balanced with spending cuts alone.” To him, these numbers are all symptoms of an exploitable ignorance.
“While all the other candidates discuss shortfalls and per-pupil spending,” Johnson laments, “Kobach will be waging a relentless cultural battle. And as much as I hope Kansans prove me wrong, it’s a battle I think he’ll win.”
Johnson badly misjudges his fellow Kansans. It is not ignorance that will lead them to vote for a Republican governor–Kobach if nominated–but information. In political knowledge surveys, as the Pew Foundation reluctantly notes, “Republicans often have scored somewhat higher than Democrats.” In the 2011 survey referenced here, on 13 out of the 19 questions “Republicans score significantly higher than Democrats, and there are no questions on which Democrats did better than Republicans.” In 2012, Pew repeated the survey, and the results were roughly the same. In virtually all such surveys, conservatives outscore liberals and moderates.
This only makes sense. To be a conservative in a hostile media and educational environment, the citizen has to know more. Although the state’s major media refuse to tell them, conservatives know what is happening in Illinois, in Connecticut, in Venezuela. They know that Kansas had flatlined economically before the Brownback tax cut. They know that major shortfalls in the agricultural and energy industry deeply affected Brownback’s plan. They know the moderate/Democrat machinations that led to the impasse on controlling spending. They know how the state Supreme Court is appointed and why it has become so political. They know that before Brownback’s election as governor Kansas’s one world-leading industry was late-term abortion. They also know why Democrats and their media allies switched positions in the last ten or so years on illegal immigration and voter fraud.
In sum, Kansas conservatives know how liberals think. It is in their face every day. Kansas liberals, however, rarely know what conservatives think and almost never know why. The Johnson editorial is a case study of the same.