Last Monday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wrote a column for the conservative website Breitbart defending his request for voter data from all 50 states. It’s part of an investigation into alleged voter fraud in 2016.
Naturally, Kobach turned the column into a partisan broadside. “The hyperventilating on the Left about this request is particularly strange,” he wrote.
Yet the most interesting opposition to Kobach’s overreach didn’t come from liberals or Democrats. It came from Republican governors and secretaries of state, who told the Kansan to take a hike.
“We do not want any federal intervention in our state’s right and responsibility to conduct elections,” said Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican.
Delbert Hosemann of Mississippi suggested Kobach take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico. In Arkansas, GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “I would be hesitant to send out voter data that’s available here.”
In the end, those states and others will likely send Kobach some voter information, which is largely in the public domain. The data won’t mean much — it won’t be complete enough to draw fact-based conclusions, and Kobach already knows what he’s going to write.
But the GOP pushback against his request is significant. It reflects a growing desire among mainstream Republicans to reclaim their party from its most extreme elements.
Kansas is ground-zero in that story, of course. Moderate Republicans and Democrats joined together to override Gov. Sam Brownback and rescue the state from his tax cut experiment. That same coalition almost expanded Medicaid in the state, an extraordinary rebuke to the conservative governor.
But it isn’t just Kansas. This month, moderate GOP legislators in Illinois helped pass a budget overriding the conservative governor. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ biggest headache isn’t Democrats — it’s mainstream Republicans.
Republican governors who expanded Medicaid are now defending it against cuts. The Obamacare ambivalence of GOP senators such as Jerry Moran and Susan Collins is a clear message to green-eggs-and-ham Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
To be sure, the GOP is still home for a healthy dose of crazy. Republican state lawmakers like telling city councils and mayors what they can and cannot do. Guns and abortion, those perennial favorites, never go away.
But there are signs that mainstream Republicans have had enough.
It’s a welcome development. There was a time when the Democratic Party was the place for loopy ideas and my-way-or-the-highway thinking. Republican governance meant a sober, adult approach to public service.
Politicians like Kobach and Greitens don’t see governance as a calling. They see it as a talk show — a way to lob accusations and half-truths into the air without responsibility.
Regular Republicans and GOP voters seem tired of that approach. Increasingly, they’re looking for politicians who will pay the bills, do their jobs and go home.
Over the next months, Kobach will get his voter information, and he’ll insist he’s found massive voter fraud, and he’ll pop up on Fox News to talk about it. His biggest critics won’t be Democrats, but other Republicans.