Thursday, June 01, 2006

One Kansan's political defection could signal the beginning of the end for the religious right

What happens when a Russ Limbaugh climbs into bed with a Michael Moore? Or, more accurately, what does it really mean when a top Republican jumps ship to the Democratic Party?
Those are the questions of the day in Kansas political circles. They are even burning up the national blogosphere at such illustrious web addresses as Daily Kos and AMERICAblog.

In other words, what does it mean that a man who served four years as the state GOP chairman has changed from red to blue in the iconic center of Republican Land? As you can see here, Mark Parkinson not only changed his party affiliation, but leaped aboard as the lieutenant governor running mate for Big D Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Pete Goering, the Topeka Capital-Journal's executive editor, says it's like Russ Limbaugh signing on to make a movie with Michael Moore, or Hillary Clinton naming Monica Lewinsky as her 2008 campaign manager.

At the very least, it looks like Parkinson's switch probably "can't hurt a candidate (like Sebelius) already considered independent and willing to reach out to moderate Republicans," Goering wrote. Steve Rose at the Johnson County Sun says Sebelius just forced the state Republicans into "checkmate."

Meanwhile, state Republicans are screaming in pain and outrage.

The Capital-Journal quotes ultra-right, religious radical U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback.

"The fact of the matter is Kansas is a center-right state, and that's where most people are most ideologically comfortable."

I think old Sam may be right, but not in the way he means.

If you read farther in that newspaper story, you'll see that Brownback is trying to argue that those center-right Kansans won't vote for such leftist horrors as Sebelius and Parkinson.

I agree that Kansas is at the very least a center-right state. I also think that's the core of the problem for the state Republican Party. (Kansas may well be nurturing the seeds of progressive politics, but because it's been ignored by liberals for so long those seeds have gone to rot. Things may be changing, though, but that's a story for another day.)

Ahem... I digress. Looking again at the issue of Kansas as a center-right state...

Except for lonely moderates like Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and a handful of legislators, the state Republican Party has swung so far to the right that most Kansans are either perplexed or furious.

That's why there' a huge push on to defeat ultra-wild Attorney General Phill Kline (and to do it with Republican turned Democrat Paul Morrison). That's why there are rallies all over the state aimed at defeating the anti-evolution Republican majority on the state Board of Education.

Meanwhile, some of my fellow liberals over at Daily Kos and AMERICAblog are having minor heart attacks over Parkinson's move. They see Sebelius' alliance with him as a sign that the Democrats have indeed gone soft and will sell out our beloved liberal values.

I don't see that happening. Actually, I think Democrats on the national stage have been soft for way too long and that no one could possibly push the majority of them farther to the right.

Again, I digress.

I think the nightmares of blue-state folks are based on a misunderstanding of Kansas politics. In Kansas, Republicans control everything and have done that for, gosh, decades. (A century?) Periodically, a Democrat is elected governor. Once, oh, what...about 10 years ago ago, the Democrats controlled the State House of Representatives for two whole years before it switched back to a Republican majority.

But within the last five or so years, something happened. The radical right took over the state GOP and ousted most of the moderates. Actually, the religious right waged holy war on moderate Republicans, and no, I'm not exaggerating when I say that.

But a funny thing happened on the way to theocracy. The majority of Kansans -- not flaming liberals but those center-right folks again -- have begun to understand what it means to live in a state where the religious right are in charge.

The average Kansan may not be very happy at all.

That's why Parkinson's move is significant for both Kansas and the nation.

The religious right can't win elections without the collusion of moderate Republicans. If Republicans in Kansas, of all places, are defecting, then it may well only be a matter of time before the national alliance between the moderates in the GOP and the religious right crumbles. And if that ever happens, we are gonna have a whole new political ballgame.

1 comment:

John the Movie Man! said...

This is a good post on the state of politics in Kansas.

Sebelius was already a lock for re-election before picking Parkinson. This is just icing on the cake for her.

The real question is what will Sebelius do with a second term? So far, she has been a minimalist governor who has great poll ratings. But to what purpose? Kansas has been lackluster for the past 20 years, with depopulation in the western part of the state and perennial problems of school funding.

We need to craft an agenda for Kansas that will improve the lives of our citizens. I don't view that as a Republican or Democrat issue.Take a look at Governor Terminator's proposal in CA to spend billions on infrastructure (as an example). Brownback is too busy running for president and achieving 1% of the vote. He is irrelevant. The key question is what path Sebelius will take?