Sunday, August 07, 2016

What's not the matter with Kansas?

"Why Toto, is that the governor getting swept up in this thing?"
The Kansas Republican primary last week didn't get as much attention as it deserved, I think. And not just because of the defeat of Tea Party congressman Tim Huelskamp, after, as the Times was pointing out,

spending most of his six years in Washington feuding with his own leaders. He was so difficult to work with and troublesome that he was kicked off the Agriculture Committee.
Kansas voters like representatives who are good at working with the Agriculture Committee! So the pattern Thomas Frank was complaining back was complaining about in 2004 is over? They've decided to start voting in favor of their own economic interests?

Not necessarily; Huelskamp's victorious opponent, obstetrician and political newcomer Roger Marshall, comes with the backing of the Ending Spending Action superPAC, founded by Joe Ricketts of TD Ameritrade, and though it calls for legislators to stop grandstanding and start doing something, the something it wants them to do is government-shrinking through budget balancing. (Huelskamp had the Club for Growth and the Kochs, Marshall had the US Chambers of Commerce.)

The really interesting development was in the state legislature primaries, though, for which there's a final report in The Atlantic:
Moderate Republican candidates ousted 14 conservative state legislators allied with the governor in primary elections across the state, while anti-Brownback contenders won nominations for open seats in another seven races. The results were widely seen as a repudiation of a second-term governor whose popularity has plummeted amid sustained budget gaps and ensuing sharp cuts in state spending. And they likely mean that the staunchly conservative state legislature in Topeka will move back toward the center in 2017, increasing the chances that lawmakers could roll back deep income-tax cuts that Brownback successfully enacted in his first years in office.
That really counts as a vote against the supply-side Republican orthodoxy and Brownback's colossal economic mismanagement, which has left the state unable to pay its bills and cutting the programs people care about (schools, roads, jobs). And apparently, according to the Times report, a vote for Republicans who think they can find something in common with local Democrats. It's as if they really want to try having some government again. And besides, it's Kansas!

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


neoconstantine said...

The Kansas Experiment should be one of the major lines of attack for Democratic advertising in state elections. The great, right-wing, economic experiment that would prove once and for all that conservative economic policy, properly applied, would lead to endless prosperity. It was all nonsens of course, and juggling budgets and other sleazy tactics ain't gonna fix it.

I hope Art Laffer has a Lee Atwater deathbed confessional moment when he realizes how much pain he's caused with his stupid economic fantasy.

Ken_L said...

There's a real danger in personalising this kind of commentary. It's almost as if the economic mismanagement was all Brownback's fault, just like the Iraq catastrophe was all down to that George what's-his-name fella. And once they've been swept out of office (and history), we can all go back to normal.

We should constantly reiterate that the REPUBLICAN PARTY wrecked Kansas, and Louisiana, and brought on the GFC, and destabilised the Middle East so badly it will take at least a generation to undo the damage. Bush, Cheney, Jindal and Brownback weren't brutal dictators riding roughshod over massive protests inside their own party; they were nothing more than the agents of that party implementing party orthodoxy.

And what the Republican Party has done before, it will try to do again. The identity of the person who happens to be holding executive office when they win power is fairly irrelevant.

Ten Bears said...

A dust bowl within a generation, may well look like the Sahara.

We, and our affairs, are but fleas agitating the hide of a far greater organism.


Yastreblyansky said...

Ken, I didn't mean to be writing about Brownback at all, but about Kansas voters, and the 14 legislators who got primaried from the left and beaten. I think the party as it was is in a state of real collapse, not just here and in their loss of Louisiana governorship but also what seems to be declining membership in ALEC from their high point in 2011.

Jindal and Brownback are important in that they have been more successful in implementing the party's worst ideas than anybody else and enabled voters to get a fix on what they are up to and what it will do. There's nothing wrong with telling voters in Indiana and North Carolina and other places with important gubernatorial races this year about that.