At one point during Sunday's NCAA tournament game between Wichita State University and the University of Kansas, the television crew zoomed in on Gov. Sam Brownback and his wife, Mary. More than likely, some producer thought the governor's T-shirt featuring both teams involved in the intrastate clash was noteworthy.
The boos that erupted spontaneously once that image was flashed on the arena's big screen surprised many out-of-state announcers and pundits at the game. They associated the disapproving cacophony with the duality support on the governor's attire.
Such a conclusion was as incorrect as the announcer's attempt to pronounce Brownback's name (he offered Brown-bock). It also reflected the rather poor image Kansans must have elsewhere in the country. To outsiders, it might seem rational that residents of the Land of Oz who accept Laffler's Curve as gospel but reject the theory of evolution only could be expressing condemnation of the governor's T-shirt.
It was not the shirt. Such House Divided garments, bumper stickers and license plates are the norm in the Sunflower State. Most prevalent are the KU-Kansas State signs, but regional variations abound. Multiple loyalties are anything but uncommon in Kansas.
No, the basketball fans in attendance were expressing discontent with Brownback's policies. Wichita State and KU supporters alike voiced an impromptu thumbs down to the man boasting a stiff upper lip. To be sure, there were any number of people in attendance who did not join the chorus. Some must have been dumbstruck, others likely have a different sense of what passes for appropriate public behavior, still others continue stubbornly following partisan allegiance.
But the gloves apparently are off for a great number of Kansans. Teachers, of course, would be at the top of the list. The disrespect shown that profession by the current administration is incessant. What to teach, how to teach, whether to teach, and who can teach all are being legislated while ignoring the input of teachers.
School administrators and other education officials would not be far behind as budgets are cut, repackaged and returned from Topeka with cards boasting "new and improved." Members of the state's high court and appellate court likely wouldn't cheer, as their selection process is being turned into a political litmus test and their rulings are being ignored. Individuals who've been pushed out of state assistance programs in order to save money while corporations are given exponentially larger taxpayer assistance might be prone to a jeer or two. So would farmers, the latest industry targeted to make up lost revenues. Union members are under attack, while retired state employees nervously watch the state gamble with KPERS reserves. Law enforcement pleas for sane gun laws aren't being heard. Same-sex couples witness the legalization of discrimination.
In short, numerous groups and individuals are experiencing a reluctant buyer's remorse. Dissatisfaction with Brownback is not limited to those who voted for his opponent last fall. As more and more policies that sounded appealing in theory to many of the governor's supporters are fleshed out, the practical effects are being experienced on a personal level.
A majority of Kansans (read, those who actually have to pay taxes) are not happy with the governor. Spotting Brownback on the big screen monitor simply was too convenient a way to express that unhappiness.
The governor could have been wearing a tuxedo or a muumuu, the reaction would have been the same. The governor should take heed. When politics are that top of mind for basketball fans, when unfiltered disgust is so readily on display, when boo-birds howl at the mere sight of Brownback's mug or when mother-instilled good manners are easily discarded, it is time to develop a new game plan.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.