Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Something's Happening in Kansas

All sorts of exciting political news this morning (and it's also Flag Day), but I forgot to write about this article last night and did want to comment on it at least briefly. It's from yesterday's LATimes, and discusses recent events in Kansas, where a former state Republican chairman is now the Democratic governor's running mate. Mark Parkinson's not alone, either; at least two other prominent state Republicans have switched parties in recent months, citing a growing chasm between centrists and conservatives which was becoming increasingly impossible to bridge.

"Moderates who emphasize economic development and religious conservatives concerned with limiting abortion and gay rights have battled for more than a decade for control of the Kansas Republican Party, which dominates the state with 48% of registered voters. The remaining voters are split evenly between Democratic and Independent registration.

... Today, websites for some county branches of the party instruct on how to identify RINOs - Republicans In Name Only - and keep them from gaining influence. Social conservatives have solidified their power over the party and are especially influential in low-turnout primaries and local elections. Increasing numbers of moderates like Parkinson are saying they've had enough."

I have a deep-seated suspicion (perhaps I should call it hope) that Kansas is only the beginning. There's an article in this month's Atlantic discussing the weakening Republican hold on the interior West (from Idaho to Colorado to Arizona), which seems to stem from the fact that the GOP has become obsessed with wedge issues (intelligent design, gay marriage, etc.), and the voters want something else. Author Ryan Sager (who has a very interesting-looking book coming out in September) quotes the Republican minority leader of the CO house: "Our party has basically made the party platform 'guns, God, and gays,' and that wasn’t a winning message."

From Kansas to Montana, voters and centrist political leaders are realizing that the big-government, wedge-issue style of the current national GOP just isn't working. If the party doesn't start to change, and quickly, it could find it's missed the boat.


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