Kansas Matters


My parents were Democrats on both sides. Strong Dem¬ocrats. Most of my family’s from Ireland. I’m second and third generation.” That short family history, related by Mary Harren of Wichita, Kansas, differs little from that of many Catholics in this part of the country. What is unusual is that Harren will likely continue to vote Democratic this November, putting her in the minority of Catholics in Kansas.

In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush won 52 percent of the Catholic vote nationwide, up from 47 percent in 2000. He even took the Catholic vote in states like New Jersey that supported John Kerry. This represents a significant realignment. Even if the Democrats capture the U.S. House this year, as some polls suggest, the traditional association of Catholics with Democrats is no longer a given. For those asking why more Catholics are voting for Republicans, Kansas may provide some answers.

In What’s the Matter with Kansas? (2004), Thomas Frank argued that a growing segment of voters acts against its economic interest by supporting Republicans, and that it is motivated to do so because of cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Writers like Frank see abortion as a political ploy: politicians may find abortion a useful issue for delivering votes, but they have no intention of delivering actual results. While this may be true in some instances, it doesn’t hold across the board, and...

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About the Author

Philip Schweiger, a native of Wichita, is completing a master’s in literature at Fordham University.