Gone are the statesmen, the orators and many of the people you could kind of reason with over scotch and cigars at the end of the day. Instead of figures like William F. Buckley, who may have been racist but not insane, the GOP is full of opportunists who scream talking points like carnival barkers on Fox News.
So at some point, what just happened in Kansas was bound to happen. From vox.com (probably my favorite new political site):
On Tuesday, a group of 104 Kansas Republicans announced that they would endorse Democrat Paul Davis for governor, rather than incumbent Republican Sam Brownback.
The group, Republicans for Kansas Values, released a list of 10 reasons they were endorsing Davis, most of which focused on Brownback’s tax and budget policies. “Brownback’s reckless tax ‘experiment’ resulted in (1) deficit spending, (2) increased debt, and (3) reduced credit rating,” the release reads. The group is mainly made up of former elected officials. It contains two former lieutenant governors, the current state insurance commissioner, and many former members of the state legislature. (Source)
Yes, you heard that right, Republicans just endorsed a Democrat for governor in one of the more conservative states in the country. How conservative is Kansas? For starters, women are subjected to an ultrasound and waiting period before abortion services can be provided. Earlier this year, moderate Republicans managed to stave off a bill which would have banned abortions at only 6 weeks of pregnancy. Had the bill managed to get to his desk, it would have almost certainly been signed by Governor Brownback, who has a history of supporting extremely restrictive abortion bills and has stated he would like to overturn Roe v. Wade. Governor Brownback, like many other conservative governors, has also refused to accept federal Medicaid expansion.
In the past, Governor Brownback was considered to be a conservative darling, even before the rise of the Koch-funded Tea Party’s grassroots movement and their sudden concern with fiscal conservatism, which just so happened to surprisingly coincide with the election of Barack Obama.
Fiscal conservatism is something some Democrats do agree with some Republicans on, and being able to properly balance a state’s budget shouldn’t be a huge partisan issue – but unfortunately it is in our current political climate. While screaming about spending during the Obama administration, many Republicans were completely silent about it during the Bush years, going so far as to sign off on tax cuts during two wars. Some even voted against a recent veteran’s bill, stating that it would be too costly, even though Iraq and Afghanistan cost far, far more.
In Kansas, Governor Brownback went too far with slashing taxes and ran up the debt, while continuing to push the hard-right policies that mirror those of people like Rick Santorum, who he has enlisted to campaign for him. In addition to promoting a far-right agenda, Brownback also is accused by moderate Republicans of coordinating with outside interests like the Koch PAC Americans For Prosperity to primary them with more extreme candidates.
Kansas is not a liberal state. In fact, it is quite conservative – and that’s why it is surprising that a Democrat is actually leading Brownback in the polls. Not only is Paul Davis, the current Kansas House minority leader, ahead in the polls, but he’s being endorsed by moderate Republicans. Here’s what Paul Davis had to say:
“Sam Brownback has not only not been able to work with Democrats, he hasn’t been able to work with a lot of the people in his own party,” Davis said in a recent interview during a campaign stop at a technical college in Wichita. “He essentially declared war with moderate Republicans during the last state Senate election. Many moderate Republicans saw that, and they are coming to support my campaign.” (Source)
Moderate Republicans have to know that the Tea Party and the religious right are pushing the party closer and closer toward political irrelevancy. Endorsing Paul Davis is certainly not something they’re happy to do, but it is part of a pragmatic decision in order to keep from going extinct.
Make no mistake, there is an outright war raging right now for the future of the Republican Party. Just take a look at the ongoing fallout from the Mississippi primary in which black Democrats went to vote for the establishment Republican because of just how radical the Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel was.
Over the next couple of election cycles, don’t be surprised to see Republicans with strategic sense endorse a centrist Democrat or independent candidate rather than allow a far-right/Tea Party candidate grab a seat, especially at the state level. The GOP knows deep down that they made a huge mistake allowing the extremists to take over in 2010, and only by starving the beast will they ever be able to regain control.
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