Why Kansas conservatives are voting for Democratic candidates

Much has been made of Montana’s shift leftward recently, as evidenced most noticeably in Jon Tester’s lead over Burns in this year’s Senate race. But Democrats are winning out in other traditionally “red” states, as well, most notably in Kansas where Kansas Demcoratic governor Karen Sebelius is leading her race for re-election.

Why are Kansas Republicans making the shift, abandoning the Republican party to vote for Democrats? Steve Rose, chairman of Kansas’ The Johnson County Sun made a very eloquent case for switching parties. First, Rose’s paper is hardly a bastion of liberalism:

In the 56 years we have been publishing in Johnson County, this basically has been a Republican newspaper. In the old days, before the Republican civil war that fractured the party, we were traditional Republicans. That is, we happily endorsed Jan Meyers for Congress, Bob Dole for U.S. Senate, Nancy Kassebaum for U.S. Senate; virtually every Republican state legislator from here, with a few rare exceptions; and most governors, although we did endorse the conservative Democrats George and Bob Docking and John Carlin.

Nor is Rose himself a “Democrat” in the traditional sense:

But the shift, frankly, shocks me, because I have pulled the lever over and over since my first vote in 1968 for Republicans. If I was a closet Democrat, I must have hidden it well, especially from myself, since I always beat up on Democrats in my columns. I have called them leftists, socialists, and every other name in the book, because I thought they were flat-out wrong.

And, for the most part, I still do. I am opposed to big government. I have little use for unions. I never liked the welfare plans. I am opposed to weak-kneed defense policies. I have always been for fiscal prudence. I think back to the policies of most Democrats, and I cringe.

Sure, hardly a ringing endorsement for the Democratic party, and (I’d argue) mostly flat-out wrong. But, hey! We’re talking about a Kansas conservative here. That he’d even publicly announce his support for Democrats is a minor miracle.

So…why’s he backing the Dems this year?

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

What does to-the-right mean?

It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.

It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.

It means anti-stem cell research.

It means ridiculing global warming.

It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.

It means immigrant bashing. I’m talking about the viciousness.

It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.

It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.

It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.


That’s why, in the absence of so-called traditional Republican candidates, the choice comes down to right-wing Republicans or conservative Democrats.

And now you know why we have been forced to move left.

Nice summary. And he doesn’t even mention the fiasco that’s become Iraq, the increasing calls from “old-school” conservatives to change our Middle East strategy and our diplomatic endeavors with Iran and North Korea.

“Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest,” [former George H. Bush speechwriter Curt] Smith said. “Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none.”

Some partisan zealots argue that voting for Democrats puts the Democratic party in charge, that the party will roll back gun rights or foist “liberal activists” into judges’ seats (never mind that the job of nominating judges belongs to the executive, which is still in Republican hands). That is, a vote for a Democrat is a vote for a Democratic government.

But considering the state of the contemporary GOP, I’d argue that’s not a bad thing at all.

This year you’ve got a clear choice. Either you vote for the status quo in foreign policy (lots of terrorists and North Korean nukes), the further radicalization of our government, an increasing federal debt, expansive executive power, and the erosion of the middle class; or you vote for change.

And here in Montana “change” means Jon Tester, who has a strong record working with small businesses and the middle class under a balanced budget, and who promises to do more than pay lip service to national security while protecting our American values of liberty and justice.

The choice is clear.

  1. jim

    The change of Tester replacing Conrad is not enough. Dennis Rehberg is one of the most radical social conservatives in Congress. And fiscal conservativatism is something found only in his rhetoric not in his record in congress.

    His net worth pushes 100 million and yet he had the audacity to declare in the debate in Bozeman that he too was struggling to put his kid through college. At the same time he voted to eliminate tax breaks for education savings accounts raising taxes on students.

    His biography indicates that he has never had a real job but has survived in the political patronage system since graduating from college.

    It’s time we sent this real estate developer back to his hobby farm to take care of his goats.

    It’s time for for real change. It’s time for Team Montana, Lindeen and Tester.

    Dump Denny and Fire Burns!!

    The choices are clear.

  2. Amen Jim. In Monica we have a candidate who embodies all the populist ideas that many of the ‘old school’ republicans hold dear: fiscal reposnsibility, honesty in government and a strength of charachter.

  3. Lutjic

    Nice catch,

    I am from Kansas and can say that this is right in line with moderate Rebs in the state. I voted for Sebilius the last time and were is still living in KS I would again. The shift in KS has nothing to do with national politics, believe me. I know that you want to believe its the war and the deficiet and whatever else may ail you, but there are much more pressing local problems there that moderates are concerned about.

  1. 1 Billings Outpost endorses Tester and…Rehberg? « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Seriously, if the Outpost couldn’t think of one negative quality for Monica Lindeen, why endorse her opponent who it already accused of endangering our civil liberties and contributing to the Iraq War mess? I wish they had the courage of Kansas’ The Johnson County Sun, who boldly claimed “the Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally,” and stood by its principles, appearances be d*mned. […]

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