Editorial: Balancing power

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

One message voters sent to state and national lawmakers in Tuesday’s midterm elections is to focus more on governing and less on arguing.

By breaking up the Republican party’s stranglehold on Kansas, giving control of Congress to the Democrats and keeping Republicans in charge of the Senate, voters made clear that no one party has all the right answers. Officeholders who list too far right or too far left do so at their own peril.

That was evident in the Kansas governor’s race, where Democrat Laura Kelly overcame a significant disadvantage in state voter registrations to defeat Republican Kris Kobach rather easily. Kelly, a state senator, won because her pragmatic, centrist approach was more appealing to Kansans than Kobach’s far-right extremism.

Kelly still has her work cut out for her. The election exposed a growing divide between the rural and more urban areas of the state. Can Kelly prove that she is as supportive of deeply red western Kansas as she is of increasingly blue Johnson County? Can she find a way to work with a Legislature in which Republicans hold more than 70 percent of the seats?

Her effectiveness will be determined by her ability to build a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans to work together on centrist ideas like expanding Medicaid coverage, increasing investment in K-12 education and improving the state’s infrastructure.

Similarly, Tuesday’s election was a repudiation of the political approach of President Donald Trump. Democrats seized control of the House, netted an increase of seven governor’s offices and flipped control of legislative chambers in five states.

At the same time, Republicans maintained control of the Senate.

Much has been made of the increasing partisan divide in America, that it’s either red or blue. Yet, throughout history, Americans have shown they are more comfortable when power is divided among the parties, when a Republican president is kept in check by a Democratic Congress and when a Democratic governor must find a way to work with a Republican Legislature.

That’s an important lesson for newly elected lawmakers to remember the next time they have a choice between grandstanding by digging in along partisan lines or governing by reaching across the aisle to find compromise.

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