Dave Helling | Kansas GOP stampedes to the right

12/12/2012 7:20 PM

05/16/2014 8:32 PM

The last time we looked, Kansas Republicans were engaged in a dash to the right side of the political spectrum. That dash turned into a stampede last week, as party leaders wrestled over who could get farthest to the right, fastest.

In the U.S. Senate, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran voted against a U.N. treaty designed to help the disabled in other countries. Roberts’ motives seem fairly clear: He’ll be 78 in 2014, when he plans to run for re-election, and is likely worried about a conservative primary challenge from pesky Kris Kobach.

Moran’s flip-flop on the treaty also wasn’t a surprise. Sure, he endorsed the U.N. treaty last May, but he has changed his mind before. In 2003, Moran was for a prescription drug benefit in Medicare before he was against it, some party leaders said.

On the other side of the Capitol, freshman U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp was booted from the Agriculture Committee because he was too conservative for House Speaker John Boehner.

Closer to home, incoming Kansas Senate president Susan Wagle said the Legislature might want to reopen the redistricting mess. Wagle apparently wants even more legislative control than veto-proof conservative majorities in both houses provide.

In the middle of all of this, Gov. Sam Brownback seemed the epitome of moderation. He said he’d protect public school funding and hinted he’ll push to keep all of a 1-cent state sales tax, part of which is supposed to go away next year.

Sure, sales taxes are regressive, and sure, the Kansas tax structure has grown more regressive since last spring’s tax deal. But Kansas needs to keep the lights on, and the sales tax might help accomplish that.

Still, Brownback may have decided his conservative

bona fides

needed a booster shot. So he issued a proclamation supporting a Topeka rally by ReignDown USA, a revivalist Christian group.

“Many of our families have slid into poverty,” the proclamation said. “Our lands are parched by drought, our quality jobs are scarce, business and industry are struggling to expand, and many of our people have fallen into despair.”

Wow. Was the governor describing the state over which he has presided for almost two years?

Most Democrats and even some Republicans are wringing their hands over conservative hegemony in Kansas, but I’m not among them.

One-party control can be a deeply clarifying reality: Kansas conservatives now fully own the state’s government, its economy, its schools, its tax structure, perhaps eventually its courts. Most conservatives welcome that fact.

If their theories work, they’ll govern Kansas for a generation. If they don’t, it’s likely even prayer won’t make much of a difference.

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