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Source: Joseph A. Aistrup, 785-532-6900,
Pronouncer: Flentje sounds like FLEN-gee
Photo available. Contact or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, 785-532-6415,

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Hierarchy and individualism may seem like strange bedfellows, but a Kansas State University political scientist and his colleague argue that such unlikely pairings have been a recurring theme in Kansas politics since the state's beginning.

Joseph A. Aistrup is a Kansas politics expert who is a professor of political science and interim associate dean of K-State's College of Arts and Sciences. He and H. Edward Flentje of Wichita State University wrote "Kansas Politics and Government: The Clash of Political Cultures," published by the University of Nebraska Press.

"We want readers to understand how coalitions of cultural-based groups define the ebb and flow of politics and government in Kansas, whether it's 1861 or 2010," Aistrup said. "We think the clash of political cultures is a constant and will continue to define Kansas politics for many years to come."

The book examines Kansas politics from a historical and social science perspective and looks at periods of conflict and change since the state's founding.

"We think that the patterns of politics today line up with historical patterns," Aistrup said.

At the state's creation during the Civil War and for nearly 60 years afterward, Aistrup said Kansas was seen as being on the forefront of change. Groups supporting the use of government power to promote moral order, particularly the prohibitionists of the late 1800s and early 1900s, flourished in Kansas.

The populists, who supported using government to enforce equality, also made a significant impact on the state and nation during the depression of the 1890s.

"There was an expression that if it happens, it happens first in Kansas," Aistrup said. "During the 20th century, we lost much of that."

Then in the 1990s, Kansas was again on the forefront of national change, as so-called polar alliance
Republicans emerged to favor the use of government power to promote social order, even though they support individualism in almost all other matters. 

"You can see this in today's politics with Republicans who are pro-life but who also are opposed to most forms of government regulation and taxes," Aistrup said.

Although these coalitions can be seen across the United States, Aistrup said that what's unique to Kansas is that the state was on the forefront of developing these coalitions.

Aistrup said that he and Flentje argue that the clash of political cultures has occurred throughout Kansas history and explain why in the state's early years Kansas was seen as being on the forefront of politics just as it is now.  Aistrup said leaders often look to Kansas to see how politics play out here and how these politics may reverberate throughout the rest of the country.

"The types of issues we've been addressing over the past 15 years and how we're addressing them -- whether it's evolution or abortion or sex education -- these social issues are in the forefront of American politics," he said. "Kansas tends to be the state that is dealing with these matters first. This is why Kansas politics is so fascinating to study."

More information about the book is available at