What’s No Longer The Matter With Kansas

Today’s WaPo reports on at the defection of high-profile GOP moderates in Kansas to the Democratic ticket in this year’s election season:

Paul Morrison, a career prosecutor who specializes in putting killers behind bars, has the bulletproof résumé and the rugged looks of a law-and-order Republican, which is what he was until last year. That was when he announced he would run for attorney general — as a Democrat.

He is now running neck-and-neck with Republican Phill Kline, an iconic social conservative who made headlines by seeking the names of abortion-clinic patients and vowing to defend science-teaching standards that challenge Darwinian evolution. What’s more, Morrison is raising money faster than Kline and pulling more cash from Republicans than Democrats.

Nor is Morrison alone. In a state that voted nearly 2 to 1 for President Bush in 2004, nine former Republicans will be on the November ballot as Democrats. Among them is Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, who changed parties to run for lieutenant governor with the popular Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

Kansas–despite being a solidly Republican state–may nonetheless be the place where the GOP’s social conservative wing has most overplayed its hand, perhaps most notoriously in recent years during the fight over the composition of the state school board. The ethical issues dogging the House GOP and profligate spending in Washington aren’t doing a lot to hold together the post-Goldwater coalition of fiscal and social conservatives that brought the Republican majority to Congress in 1994, and in Kansas–and many other states–the cracks are definitely showing this year, Karl Rove’s optimism notwithstanding.

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Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. madmatt says:

    So what happened to that big tent you guys are always going on about?

  2. jpe says:

    That was bound to happen as the GOP grew more powerful, and as every group in the coalition wants their favors called in. The question isn’t the existence of disagreement, but the intensity of it and whether it leads to schism. So far, I think the coalition is holding up fairly well, especially given the vast differences between constitutive interests.

  3. I actually see a glimmer of hope in this. Imagine if the democratic party was taken over by the moderates of the GOP. I would be perfectly content to see the right and moderate wings of the GOP mark the boundaries between which we politically steer our country. Of course the fly in the ointment is that a moderate republican running as a democrat is an enabler of speaker Pelosi.

  4. Michael says:

    Imagine if the democratic party was taken over by the moderates of the GOP.

    Now, Imagine that the Democratic party IS the moderate GOP. Now open your eyes and tell me what you see.

  5. I find it amusing how many people want to fly with one wing.

  6. Wayne says:

    If the Democratic Party is the moderate GOP, then I am not for the moderate GOP and we are in deep trouble.

    Someone switching parties is not that unusual. 83% of Kansas Congressman are Republicans.

    Most Kansas Democrats are more conservative then New England Republicans.

  7. Tano says:

    It isnt just Kansas of course. Hello, people. The Democrats are about to become the MAJORITY party in this country, and that will inevitably attract new members. The revolution is over, and thoroughly discredited. The interesting question now is how deeply the Democrats can manage to integrate the middle-of-the-roaders who are joining up with them, or whether they scare them off the way the Republicans have.

    If the Congressional Dems play it smart (no guarantee of that of course) and the party nominates some interesting and well-grounded folks in 08 (Obama-Warner anyone?), the GOP may not sniff power for another generation.

  8. Josh says:

    This is why moderate Republicans should become Democrats.