It All Comes Together In Kansas

If you are one of those people who think the contemporary conservative movement is divided among “economic” or “fiscal” and “social” wings, with the first two in charge; or you think the moneyed elements will play the Christian Right for fools but in the end will insist on protecting their own liberties–then you need to take a look at what’s been going on inside the Kansas Republican Party, notably in its August 7 primary. Salon‘s Irin Carmon has the story:

Aug. 7 was a very good night for people who want to drive safe abortion out of Kansas. Republican primary voters ousted relative moderates from the state Senate, laying the groundwork for Gov. Sam Brownback to push through his right-wing agenda, both economic and social.

The former got more attention. The election was evidence of “America’s grass-roots voter rebellion,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal opinion page, or it was, in the words of one ousted state senator, an example of Kansas-based Koch Industries, which threw a lot of money at the race, being “just a terrible, terrible citizen as far as I’m concerned.”

But it was also about abortion, in a state that is arguably more obsessed with it than any other. And abortion foes want proper credit.

“These elections were characterized as a referendum on pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback’s conservative agenda, with the media repeatedly identifying economic conservative groups as major players,” Kansans for Life said in a blog post. “But the GOP rout depended on the candidates’ pro-life credentials and is a reflection of Kansas pro-life persistence, hard work and prayer.”

It was also a reflection of a concerted alliance between groups like the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which received more than half of its war chest from the Koch brothers, and the state’s famous antiabortion hard-liners. The result is a purge not only of centrist Republicans, but even consistently antiabortion politicians who had nevertheless angered Kansans for Life.

This is the kind of politics the Editors of National Review were talking about when they praised Paul Ryan as a “full-spectrum conservative.”

AT RH Reality Check, Kari Ann Rinker of the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, went even further than Carmon in noting the close cooperation of the Christian Right and “pro-business” groups in getting rid of any Kansas Republican legislators who stood in the way of Brownback’s regressive agenda:

Voter turnout was 23 percent in this primary election. It appears that the independents stayed home or cast their votes in favor of the conservative candidates, but more significantly, the anti-choice and tea-publican factions of the party turned out in droves. They nearly trampled over each other in their haste to cast their votes. The Christian right arrived at their polling places with their pro-life voting guides clutched in hand and the tea-publicans with their Chamber endorsement guide in their brief case. It was as if Mike Huckabee rang the Chick-Fil-A dinner bell.

And it worked. Maybe the purge of the moderates in Kansas will eventually help the state’s Democratic Party regain the mojo it had when Kathleen Sebelius–you know, the Obama administration official who is now regarded by most elements of the conservative movement as the America’s preeminent baby-killer and God-hater–was governor. But for the time being, the Kochs and the full-quiver Christian Nationalist folk are working hand in glove, and there’s hell to pay.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.