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Kansas: The New Tea Party Laboratory

Occupy Wall Street’s emergence last fall was billed as the Left’s answer to the Tea Party’s right-wing populism. Barely a year on, the former is dead and buried, while the latter, nearly two years older, is going strong. It’s doing particularly well in Kansas, where the Financial Times reports that its candidates are poised to push aside moderate Republicans and take over the state house in November’s elections. Along with governor Sam Brownback, these new candidates would give Kansas the most conservative government in the nation.

Conservative groups in the state are already preparing a host of radical changes:

Nine moderate Republicans were ousted from the ballot, replaced by conservative Republicans backed by the governor, Sam Brownback, a former US Senator and presidential candidate. Mr Brownback’s victory fused grassroots energy and the financial mass of David and Charles Koch, the heads of Wichita-based Koch Industries and big donors to rightwing causes.

The candidates are expected to clobber any Democratic opposition in November and take their senate seats in January. In contrast to the deposed nine, who contributed to a 22-strong moderate majority in the 40-member senate, the new group is expected to champion Mr Brownback’s proposals to eliminate the state income tax and introduce new restrictions on abortion.

If these elections turn out as observers expect, Kansas will become a laboratory for Tea Party policy. Tax cuts, government restructuring, and new education initiatives are already being discussed in Tea Party circles, and they are likely to be part of the new Kansas program. Other issues important to social conservatives like abortion will also be addressed.

Via Meadia will be watching Kansas after the election to get some idea where the Tea Party would like to take the United States. We will also be looking to see how well these first experimental policy steps really work. And we certainly won’t be the only ones; other states and governors will be paying close attention to what happens in Kansas. If these experiments work, many of these changes may soon go national.

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