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December 30, 2006

The GOP In Microcosm

by Doug Mataconis

The Washington Post writes today about the troubles of the Republican Party in Kansas, which seem to be only a smaller version of the GOP’s problems nationwide:

Republicans lost their U.S. House and Senate majorities and 350 seats in state legislatures across the country. The early post-election Kansas experiences show that a recovery could be difficult because the splits inside the party between social conservatives and moderates will not be easily healed.

Given the defeats in Kansas of religious conservatives such as [former Republican Governor Phill] Kline, U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun (R) and some members of the State Board of Education, one Kansas political analyst expected the GOP “would be ready to mend fences and move forward.”

But that has not yet happened.

“I think the divide between the moderates and conservatives is deepening rather than closing,” said Kansas State University professor Joseph Aistrup. “This type of politics is continuing into our future, at least another four years.”

Kline was the leader of that faction of the Kansas GOP that aligned itself with the evangelical far-right, emphasizing opposition to abortion under nearly all circumstances and attempting to insert religious views about the origin of man in to science classrooms. While this may have made the far-right in the party happy, it alienated Democrats who might have otherwise voted Republican, as well as members of Kline’s own party:

Kansas Democrats and moderate Republicans fought back this year. In the midterm elections, Democrat Nancy Boyda stunned five-term incumbent Ryun, while moderate Republicans Morrison and his friend Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas GOP, changed parties and easily won statewide office.

Kline is not alone, of course. Another Kansas politician is running for President on the theory that appealing to the Pat Robertson crowd is the key to success:

More recently, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a social conservative thought to be considering running for president, drew notice for holding up a federal judicial nomination when he learned the nominee had attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple. He said he wanted to know whether she had presided.

What that has to do with her being a judge I still haven’t figured out.

The lesson from Kansas isn’t all that much different from the lesson the Republican Party should have learned from across the nation. By abandoning its belief in limited government ideas and aligning itself with forces that want to use the government as a tool for their own agendas, the GOP is sowing the seeds of its own irrelevance.


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