The surprising Republican revolt against Governor Sam Brownback may have roots in Kansas’s unique political culture. Politico carries the most detailed account we’ve seen yet of the 100 Republican leaders who have endorsed Brownback’s Democratic opponent. This bit from the story jumped out at us:
Across conservative states in the Great Plains and the South, the last vestiges of Democratic power are at risk of being washed away in the fall elections by the tides of President Barack Obama’s unpopularity. In the Jayhawk State, where Obama was trounced twice and is reviled by conservatives despite his own Kansas roots, Democrats are looking to buck that trend: Davis is presenting himself as part of a proud tradition of centrists from both parties […]“Sam Brownback has not only not been able to work with Democrats, he hasn’t been able to work with a lot of the people in his own party,” Davis said in a recent interview during a campaign stop at a technical college in Wichita. “He essentially declared war with moderate Republicans during the last state Senate election. Many moderate Republicans saw that, and they are coming to support my campaign.”
Reader Joel Ryan from Kansas wrote in with a very similar perspective. According to him, politics in Kansas isn’t really about parties but coalitions. The battle lines don’t pit Republicans against Democrats, but rather conservatives against moderates. The moderates span both parties, and suffered a major defeat when Brownback was elected. Now that his perceived policy failures have weakened him, Brownback’s enemies in the moderate coalition are hoping to roll back his earlier political victories. If that’s true, what we are seeing in Kansas might not be a canary in the coal-mine for the national GOP, but rather a predictable result of some of the state’s unique dynamics and rivalries.