KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The year started with the insurrection at the Capitol and a political shift in Washington, D.C. As 2021 comes to a close, the U.S. is still fighting record hospitalizations from COVID-19 and a political divide that’s impacting every part of our country.

Steve Kraske from KCUR’s “Up To Date” joins FOX4’s John Holt and Dave Helling from the Kansas City Star to reflect on 2021 in this episode of 4Star Politics.

COVID-19

Many are surprised that COVID-19, vaccines, and mask mandates are still being talked about as we head into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re all in some ways really tired of this topic,” Kraske said. “As we sit here and talk today, this thing is roaring out of control again.”

Support for mask mandates, the possibility of another shutdown, and vaccinations has waned.

“We have really walked away from that, there is no question about that. What that means for us in the weeks to come, we’re about to find out,” Kraske said.

Many local health experts have said one of the biggest problems is that everyone is so tired of hearing about COVID-19, even though doctors say they know what needs to be done to bend the curve and slow the spread.

“We can’t come to any kind of consensus about how to deal with this thing,” Kraske said. “We remain as split today as we were a year ago.”

Even after 800,000 Americans have lost their lives because of COVID-19, many political leaders aren’t listening to medical experts to heal reach an agreement about what needs to be done to prevent additional illness and deaths.

“We haven’t come together on it and we’re paying an enormous price,” Kraske said.

The Biden Administration is also changing it’s message. Instead of a heavy-handed approach, it’s softening a little.

“They’re realizing now that the vaccine mandated approach, the heavy-handed approach isn’t working. It’s time to soften the approach,” Holt said. “We’re reached a point where folks who are going to get vaccinated are gonna get vaccinated. The rest you’re gonna have to softly persuade or figure it out another way.

D.C. Doings

President Biden’s approval ratings have taken a nosedive in the past months, and are now below 50%, partially due to how his administration has handled COVID-19.

“Donald Trump’s handling of COVID has some under immense criticism, he’s very unpopular for that. Joe Biden who approached it much differently in terms of mandates and masks and closings, he’s also unpopular,” Helling said. “You get the sense that it sort of balances out, that one side or the other is mad but there’s no real overarching sense of failure for either president.”

There’s also a possibility that lawmakers in Washington may try to pass another stimulus package in 2022. Small businesses say they need more money.

Kansas

Gov. Laura Kelly proposed reducing revenue in 2022 by $1 billion in an election year. Her idea is that half of that money would come through rebates to individual taxpayers and the other half by eliminating the state sales tax on food.

“What’s interesting is that both of our states, Missouri and Kansas, are flush with cash. We’re talking tens of hundreds of millions of dollars here. Tax cut fever very much in play here,” Kraske said.

Missouri

Both Kansas and Missouri face fights over redistricting that will impact how people are represented in Congress.

There is also an interesting race shaping up for the Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt (R).

“The primary isn’t until August. In some states it’s in March or April, but in Missouri it won’t be until August, so we have a lot of time for this race to continue to unfold, and other Republicans to get into it,” Helling said.

State lawmakers have hundreds of bills to shift through when they return to Jefferson City next month, including how to spend record amounts of revenue. Education, abortion, and redistricting will also dominate the session.

Kansas City Metro

Mayor Quinton Lucas handled a lot of issues and controversy in 2021, including the police budget. Plus the Kansas City Police Department will have a new leader after Chief Rick Smith retires sometime next year.

“As we head into 2022 the big question will be what will the Board of Police Commissioners do here. Will we go to an outside candidate to come in here and make some fundamental changes to the department? Do you go with an insider?” Kraske said.

There’s a lot to decide and a lot that will happen in 2022. 4Star Politics will join you to break it down and explain how it will impact you.

FOX4 and The Kansas City Star are partnering to bring you 4Star Politics, a special digital venture with new episodes released Wednesdays at 5 p.m.