Many progressives trade in stereotypes about Kansas with childlike pride, writes Sarah Smarsh. But to use geography to separate the righteous from the scourge is dangerously simplistic
he division that threatens to split this country in two is not between red and blue states, or between rural and urban areas – it is between the way we discuss politics and the realities of American lives, none of which fit into tidy categories. Contrary to popular narratives, you can be a progressive populist, a wealthy and college-educated Trump supporter, a rural laborer of color, a provincial urbanite, an open-minded midwesterner.
And, as first-time Democratic political candidate James Thompson proved this month in Kansas, you can give conservative Republicans a run for their money as an Army veteran, a rifle-owning marksman, and a civil rights attorney who has fought on behalf of black victims of police brutality. Whose first college major was theater, and who named his daughter Liberty.
All at once. In a “red” state.
When conservative congressman Mike Pompeo vacated his Kansas seat to head the CIA earlier this year, conventional political wisdom said the special election to replace him was in the bag for Republican state treasurer Ron Estes. The district had gone for Trump by 27 points and is home to Koch Industries, the global, $100bn conservative moneybag whose famous family routes hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates across the country.