The Republican party used to be the default party of choice for conservatives. What is happening in Kansas is showing that to no longer be the case.
Paul Davis, the Democratic nominee for US Congress from the Kansas 2nd district, just picked up a raft of endorsements from Kansas Republicans.
Three dozen republicans explained why they crossed party lines in a Monday news conference.
Among those on the list are Former Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and Former Lt. Gov. Garry Sherrer.
“Our support of Paul may not come as a surprise, but these extreme polarized times make our announcement today even more important,” Praeger said.
The Democratic nominee for Kansas Governor, Laura Kelly, has also been picking up endorsements from Kansas Republicans, first from a former Governor:
In a rather stunning development, Bill Graves, a former Republican Governor of Kansas, has decided to endorse Laura Kelly, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Kansas.
A former Republican governor of Kansas is endorsing a Democrat in the gubernatorial race.
Bill Graves, who served from 1995 to 2003, announced he’s endorsing Laura Kelly. Graves said in a video posted on Kelly’s Twitter page that this is the first time he has ever endorsed a Democrat for public office.
“The reason I am doing that now is because I believe so much is at stake in the state of Kansas, and it’s going to take someone with some very capable leadership skills, someone who is willing to work across the aisle and be part of solutions to problems with education, problems with our health care system, problems with the state’s infrastructure, problems with public safety,” Graves said.
Democratic nominee for Governor Laura Kelly has since picked up additional endorsements from Kansas Republicans, including a former U.S. Senator, who did not mince words.
Democratic candidate for governor Laura Kelly targeted her pitch to moderate Republicans Thursday, saying she has the support of more than two dozen Republicans who have held prominent elected office.
Among them are Sheila Frahm, a former U.S. senator and lieutenant governor in Kansas, and former Kansas Senate President Dick Bond. Frahm held the Senate seat vacated by Bob Dole for only a matter of months before losing it to Sam Brownback in 1996.
“(Kelly) will bring Kansans together to rebuild our state,” Frahm said in a statement. “Not only that, she will slam the door on the failed policies of Sam Brownback and stop Kris Kobach.”
So, why is this happening in Kansas? Part of it has to do with the fact that the former Republican Governor Sam Brownback, of which the current Republican nominee Kris Kobach was a strong ally, enacted policies that proved to be a complete disaster for Kansas, decimating the State’s budget and causing harmful cuts to education, health care, and infrastructure spending.
Republicans have long sung the praises of trickle-down economics: Just cut taxes, and the economy will flourish as companies and individuals use the windfall to boost investment and create jobs. But a grand experiment in implementing those policies at the state level has revealed a far less rosy reality—and the consequences are threatening to spark a civil war among Republicans.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, launched an “experiment” in conservative policy after he was elected in 2010, drastically slashing the state’s income taxes under the assumption that the move would kick-start Kansas’ economy and rev up job creation. With help from Arthur Laffer, Ronald Reagan’s mastermind of trickle-down economics, Brownback convinced lawmakers in the state to cut personal income tax rates across the board and eliminate the top tax bracket, with further reductions to come. Kansas also completely erased the income tax bills for the owners of certain “small” businesses, totaling 330,000 by this year and including a host of subsidiaries of Wichita-based Koch Industries. The Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity helped Brownback push the bill and has remained a staunch defender of the changes. The tax cuts were sold by Brownback with the idea that they would pay for themselves when a renewed economy boosted state revenues despite the lower rates.
Four years after those tax cuts first went into effect, the opposite has occurred. The promised explosion of private-sector growth hasn’t come to pass, as the state’s economy has generally lagged the rest of the nation. In March, the Kansas Department of Labor reported, the state had only 800 more private-sector jobs than a year prior. The loss of tax revenue has decimated the state budget, creating a fiscal crisis necessitating drastic cuts, since the state, unlike the federal government, can’t run a deficit. As the Kansas City Star‘s editorial board recently highlighted, so far this fiscal year, Kansas is $420 million short of the revenue it had the year Brownback’s tax cuts first went into effect.
But, it isn’t just conservatives in Kansas who should be questioning their loyalty to the current Republican party. Much of the current Republican party throughout the country has abandoned conservative principles. Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan recently opined on the abandonment of conservative principles by the modern Republican party.
But conservatism is more deeply besieged by the Republican Party, its alleged harbor. If you consider the themes I’ve emphasized above, it becomes clearer that the GOP is not only not conservative, but actually dedicated to destroying that tradition. Republicans pursue the ideology of free markets and lower and lower taxation, regardless of its brutal assault on fiscal solvency, human dignity, social cohesion, and community life. They have nominated and protected a president who assaults the norms that conservatives revere, has contempt for existing institutions and sees the rule of law as a means to advance his own interests, rather than that of the society as a whole.
This is a man and a party that has such disdain for conserving anything that it is actively despoiling our landscape, enabling a climate catastrophe. It is a party that has generated crippling and everlasting debt — even in good economic times — in a way that makes a mockery of any compact between generations. It is a party that actively endorses cruelty as a policy tool, deploys fear as its prime political weapon, and insists that the opposite party has no legitimate right to govern at all. It is the party of torture, the absolute nemesis of the liberal inheritance, the party of corruption, propaganda, vote suppression, and barely masked bigotry.
Republicans used to be in favor of environmental protection. What could be more conservative than protecting our earth, after all? It was Richard Nixon, a Republican, who formed the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, the Republican party argues against the scientific consensus that warns about the danger of climate change, while it also works to eliminate any and all types of environmental regulations that could possibly decrease corporate profits, even if those regulations are keeping our air from being choked with smog and our water from being leeched with chemicals.
Republicans used to be in favor of balancing budgets and restraining defense spending, the essence of fiscal conservatism. It was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, who famously warned the country of an out of control military industrial complex, and who said about taxes “The fact is there must be balanced budgets before we are again on a safe and sound system in our economy. That means, to my mind, that we cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income, until we have in sight a program of expenditures that shows that the factors of income and of outgo will be balanced. Now that is just to my mind sheer necessity.” Now, the Republican party passes tax cut after tax cut without any worry about what effect they will have on budgets, while showering defense contractors with billions upon billions of new and often unnecessary federal spending.
Republicans used to support a system of government that provided checks and balances against possible tyranny, this rejection of tyranny being the very basis of the term republicanism. Now, the Republican party has thrown itself at the feet of a President who enriches himself and his family through his public office, obstructs investigations, and rails against the free press.
Republicans used to support small communities against encroaching threats. Now, the Republican party bends over backwards to multi-national corporations that besiege small communities with anti-competitive business models and low wages.
Conservatives should feel abandoned by the current Republican party. It is no longer a conservative party. There is but one party left that agrees with conservative values such as protecting the environment, balancing budgets, supporting checks and balances in government, and protecting communities from multi-national corporations, and that party is the Democratic party.
Kansas conservatives are on the leading edge of realizing the changed dynamic of our current political climate, and in rejecting party tribalism in favor of better governance. Conservatives in other states should follow their lead.