Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Fish Gotta Swim. Birds Gotta Fly. I Have To Get This Off My Chest

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fish Gotta Swim. Birds Gotta Fly. I Have To Get This Off My Chest

It's shower time. Again. Sigh.

It's also 3:30 a.m. and I am having trouble sleeping. I want to regurgitate the things I know, but I can't and THAT my friends is one of the many reasons I once started an anonymous blog. 

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the sorry state of the Kansas Republican Party. The GOP holds a LOT of seats in the Kansas Legislature, the entire statewide delegation and every Congressional Kansas seat, but the brand itself is in tatters. (The same can probably be said for the national party.) What does "Republican" stand for? 

Right now, I think the answer is "not Democrat," but the party has a platform with specific things listed. A good third of our elected state legislators probably couldn't tell you anything that's in it, and they certainly don't vote as if they've ever read it. Here's a small taste:

"The judicial branch of our federal government, and that of our state, must recognize that it is a co-equal branch of government, not a super-legislative body...We believe judges should be arbiters of conflict and not policy makers."

How many of our current legislators believe that? Not enough. The Kansas Supreme Court doesn't have the power to appropriate funds, but lawmakers dance whenever the Court says "more." If "provide a suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state" can be translated to mean "give school attorneys all the money," it's only a matter of time before Justices find a phrase in the Kansas Constitution requiring that judicial branch employees receive raises equal to 10 percent of the state general fund each year.

The Kansas Republican Party platform also expressly opposes Medicaid expansion. It reads, "We ask that the Governor and/or legislators refrain from expanding Medicaid and other federal health care programs." About half of the Kansas Republican legislators didn't receive that memo. They're dying to expand Medicaid, even as many privately admit it's terrible policy that will bankrupt the state. 

The platform says Republicans "recognize that prosperity can only be achieved when economic resources remain in the hands of the people." It expressly supports the Fair Tax, which would eliminate individual and corporate income taxes in Kansas. 

"Government should always seek first to constrain its expenditures to the least possible. Increasing the burden on its citizens should be a last resort, and any effort to do so beyond the rate of economic growth should be submitted by a vote of the citizenry."

Of course, we all know what happened last session: Every attempt at finding government efficiencies was scrapped, though many Republicans regurgitate the lie that there just wasn't a penny to be cut anywhere. Legislation to require school districts to use state procurement services for things like technology and to develop a statewide health plan for all school districts--rather than 286 different school district health plans -- were deemed ineffective, because change is scary. 

And then lawmakers dropped NEW spending into the budget. In one example, $2.7 million was drained from a special health plan reserve fund to create a state employee health clinic. That's new spending for something that will compete with the hospital down the street. You'll recall lawmakers spent hours and hours worrying about the fate of St. Francis Hospital and handwringing that they had no choice but to drop the largest tax increase in state history on hard working Kansans. It's revolting.

Here's what's kept me awake tonight: 

Last year about this time, I was in trouble with some party insiders, because a person I nominated for the Eisenhower Series wrote on her Facebook page that a Democratic candidate for state senate was looking for volunteers. She didn't say she was volunteering herself, but the candidate was a personal friend. I assume she was being helpful. I never asked, because I'm not a jerk. I don't think that if I nominate you for something or do something nice for you that I get to tell you what to write on your own Facebook page.

The whole thing caused what I thought was mild drama, which I learned recently a bigger deal than I thought. (Drama is super not my thing. I like to watch it, but I have zero interest in being a party to it.)

I was told I nominated someone who "wasn't a Republican," despite the fact that my nominee was once a sitting council member with a conservative voting record. She never voted for a tax increase, and a good half of the Republican Party can't say that.

Anyway, I was over it, I thought, until I started thinking about what it means to be a Republican. What exactly is our brand?

Does it mean absolute fealty to the party platform? Does it mean some weird sort of loyalty to individuals within the party? If you have a perfect Republican voting record, but say something nice about a Democrat, are you black balled forever? What are the standards? And are the standards different for one person than they are for another?

I don't know the answer to those questions, but I'd be happy to hear your take.


  1. Terrific outline of major issues with the Kansas GOP. Maybe we need to begin using the term "fake Republican". I've already been using the hashtag #NoRINOsAllowed on my reps page (Bollier).

  2. Great article and share your angst. Unfortunately, what has been missing for decades is real, visionary, conservative leadership in Topeka. I was never a Brownback fan -- not a bad man per se, but lacked core values on a whole host of important topics and was incapable of selling water to a dying man in a desert. We had the opportunity to do reform the state's underlying structural problems, but completely blew it when the "conservative" legistlature and Brownback devoted all their time and effort on special interest agendas.

    The most vexing question is how do you get good leaders to run for office at all levels of government. And perhaps equally vexing is how could such candidates go around the Kansas republican party swamp?