Is Kansas’ Primary A Harbinger Of This Fall?


In case you missed it, Kansas held primary elections for state and congressional offices last Tuesday. Kansas has always been a Republican mainstay. Even President Obama stated in his address to the Democratic Convention that his grandparents from Kansas were probably “Republicans – party of Lincoln.”

In recent years as corporate media, especially the right wing radio machine, has pushed the Republican party further and after to political territories never before explored in America. The result has been a narrower and narrower range of acceptable candidates and responses to issues. As the the range has gotten narrower it has gotten more extreme. The extremeness shows up both in social policies and fiscal policies.

As the Republicans have scampered to the right, Kansas has been one of the leaders in the country in embracing more and more extremist policies. The governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, has been a true adherent to the supply side economics of Ronald Reagan as proffered by Milton Friedman.

Brownback took over five years ago five years ago. That was the beginning of a downward spiral that led to Tuesday backlash against policies that have made Kansas a pauper among states. The key to their current situation is huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that the supply side economics of Milton Friedman claims will then lead to good times as the wealthy trickle down their savings to us unwashed masses. Such a trickle down is not happening in Kansas just as it has not happened anywhere else.

So Kansas has lurched from one constitutional crisis to another (read much more here) since Brownback and an extreme right wing legislature has put supply side economics into effect. Things seem to be coming to a head as these policies have even led to the potential of not opening schools this year.

Slowly it appears that citizens are finally getting totally fed up with these extreme policies that vastly favor the rich with the expectation that the rich will then, from the goodness of their hearts, take care of some of the social aspects of government as jobs proliferate. None of this happens as the rich get richer and sit on their money.

Last fall Louisiana elected a Democrat as governor which is unheard of. Tuesday in Kansas some of the most extreme of the tea party Republicans were sent packing when they lost their primaries to supposedly more moderate candidates. Most notable was congress member Tim Huelskamp who has been instrumental in making the US House into the totally dysfunctional body it is today. Along with Huelskamp, the extreme wing of the Republican party lost 10 of 16 state senate races including the senate majority leader. In the state house only six of 97 sitting republicans lost their seats. While Republicans will most likely win their races in Kansas, there seems to be a move to moderation.

While this is no revolution, it is a clear indication that the insanity of Republican policies is finally running its course. Every dam burst starts with a trickle.

Will this emerging trend have any effect in Iowa this fall? With a toxic candidate at the head of the party in Donald Trump there may be less ballots in Iowa voting straight party Republican. Given more more vote splitting, there is always the chance that voters will be doing more than just a cursory glance at the issues this fall.

Terry Branstad has not helped his party at the state level with his unilateral takeover of Iowa’s Medicaid system that seems to be fulfilling Iowans worst nightmares. Of course Branstad and his Republican colleagues will not back down on this issue. To them it is more important that corporations get a huge state payoff than that the services be the best possible.

Medicaid privatization coupled with the gradual dismantling of education in Iowa and water quality issues that Republicans refuse to address could lead to the beginning of the removal of some of the extremist elements of the Iowa legislature.

The Iowa senate has kept many of the extreme bills put forward by the Iowa House from becoming law. With a governor who is a founding member of ALEC, Iowa is but 2 seats in the senate from becoming another Kansas. We need to work to keep the senate Democratic and to turn the Iowa House this fall.

One factor that plays heavily in Kansas state elections is Koch brother money. Iowa races have been getting some of that Koch brother money filtering into races in previous years. Expect more this year as the Kochs are not spending at the presidential level and thus have much more money to inject into state races. It is a given that they will be sticking their noses into our business.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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