Indeed, what Kansas has to teach us goes far beyond abortion. Just as a majority of Americans think abortion should be legal, people across party and region favor policies that expand rights and access to the essential building blocks of a dignified life. For example, in recent years, 72 percent of Americans have said they prefer a government-run health care plan, and more than 70 percent support raising the minimum wage, including 62 percent of Republicans. This is also true in Kansas, where 78 percent of residents support expanding Medicaid despite the state government’s refusal to do so. This and related issues are of especially grave concern in a state where 34 percent of people are poor or low-income, with hundreds of thousands more hovering above the buckling ground of economic precarity.
When we look at referendums like the one in Kansas, we should see more than just a singular act of defiance — we should recognize the rumblings of a sleeping giant of popular opinion being awakened into political action. In the 2020 elections, over 850,000 eligible voters in Kansas had household incomes of less than $50,000. More than 60 percent of this segment of “poor and low-income voters,” across a range of household sizes, participated in that year’s presidential election. And while the vast majority of them were white (over 500,000), this percentage also included Black, Asian, Latinx and Indigenous voters.
In Kansas, we are witnessing what is possible when our electorate is mobilized around issues of real and pressing concern for everyday people. There is a lesson here for all of us; the kind of voting coalitions that can be forged in defense of reproductive rights are the very same that could unite people around a transformative vision for the nation, on everything from climate to housing to labor. In fact, in a time of inflation, looming recession and sharply felt inequality, the majority of Americans are hurting and hungry for change. They are also prepared to fight for it, as long as the stakes are clear and genuine solutions are offered — in other words, as long as there is something to fight for.
This also means that we must be willing to fight for the support of people outside of our comfort zones and the brittle taxonomy of our two-party system. We must look past conventional political wisdom and electoral maps and toward a nation that is not so easily divided into “red state” and “blue state,” but instead brimming with states ready to be organized along more expansive lines. There is much to learn from Kansas and the organizers who reached deep into their state to build a diverse voting bloc strong enough to beat back a disciplined movement of Christian nationalists, shocking the nation.