The Extremist Agenda of Establishment Republicans

What Roger Marshall, the senate nominee from Kansas, reveals about the nature of the modern GOP.

Last Tuesday, Kansas held its Republican senate primary—a race that I suggested was the most bizarre of the season. In the end, the so-called “establishment” breathed a sign of relief that Kris Kobach lost to Representative Roger Marshall. That means that Kobach is now a two-time loser in state-wide races. In 2018, he lost the governorship to Democrat Laura Kelly, indicating that even for a deeply red state like Kansas, he is too extreme.

But with the current state of the Republican Party, it can be difficult to distinguish between candidates who are “establishment” and those who are “extreme.” For example, Marshall is touting the fact that he is “trusted by Trump” because he has voted for the president’s agenda 98 percent of the time. That includes support for the president’s wall and xenophobic immigration policies—a position that would make Kobach proud.

I’ve been to the border several times. I know it is a crisis, and President Trump is right: we must build a wall and fix our broken immigration system, and we have to turn off the magnets that attract, promote, encourage and allow migrants to enter our country under false pretenses.

One of the things that Marshall wants you to know about him is that he’s a doctor—going so far as to try and have his nickname “Doc” included on the primary ballot. Election officials said “no go.” But those credentials put him right in the center of efforts to repeal Obamacare and oppose Medicaid expansion in Kansas. Here’s how he explained his position on the latter.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’” he said. “There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Pressed on that point, Marshall shrugged.

“Just, like, homeless people. … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care,” he said. “The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are. So there’s a group of people that even with unlimited access to health care are only going to use the emergency room when their arm is chopped off or when their pneumonia is so bad they get brought [into] the ER.”

On access to health care, that is what passes for the “establishment” position in the GOP these days. Basically what Marshall is saying is that poor people are too lazy and slothful to take care of themselves and so they don’t deserve to have coverage.

To make matters even worse, Marshall quotes Jesus to back him up. I’ll forgo a sermon on that one and simply point out that the Bible contains over 300 verses on our responsibility to care for the poor and an additional 250 on the proper use of wealth.

There might have been a time when establishment Republicans would argue with Democrats over the role of government in making sure that Americans had access to health care. But Marshall demonstrates just how extremist the entire GOP has become. They’re no longer worried about denying health care to millions of Americans because poor people aren’t worthy of care. They also have no shame about misusing the Bible to justify that kind of soulless policy.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.