Editorial: Democrats’ dilemma

Even if most of their ideas fall on deaf ears, Democratic legislators owe it to the people of Kansas to propose some meaningful alternatives on state policy.

Simply serving as the loyal opposition isn’t the best role for Democratic members of the Kansas House and Senate.

It’s understandable that Democrats, who represent a small minority in the Kansas Legislature, don’t want to spend the time and effort to draft complex legislative proposals that are likely to be rejected by the Republican leadership without ever receiving a hearing. But if Democrats don’t put forth plans of their own, they often are reduced to sniping at Republican proposals without being able to point to meaningful alternatives.

How they approach this issue reportedly is causing some division among Democratic legislators. Last week, the party’s House and Senate leaders released a list of “core values” they plan to fight for this year, but no specific proposals for how to achieve those goals. Some Democrats disagree with that strategy, saying they should turn those “values” into legislation that states a specific direction even if those bills are quickly rejected.

Just as a matter of basic fairness, it seems wrong to simply criticize proposals without being willing to present a plan of your own. Even if Democrats believe their proposals will receive no attention in the Republican-controlled Legislature, they might be noticed by members of the public, which could start shifting popular opinion on some issues.

Putting together and publicizing those plans also could benefit the party politically. Some Democrats see little point to formulating policy plans until they increase their numbers in the Legislature, but people would be far more likely to vote for Democrats if they see them proposing positive strategies for the state. Republicans still hold large voting majorities in most parts of Kansas, and simply being against Republican policies without presenting solid alternatives isn’t likely to get many Democrats elected to the Legislature.

Democratic leaders apparently believe that there is no possibility that any major legislation they propose will have a meaningful impact on what is approved by the Legislature. They could be right, but even if they fail, they might make some points that resonate with fellow legislators or the people of Kansas. You never know unless you try.