Dave Seaton: GOP extremism in the name of conservatism

03/26/2013 12:00 AM

03/25/2013 5:59 PM

The power in the Republican Party today is all negative. This is especially true in Republican-dominated Kansas, where we are racing ahead to bring small government and libertarianism to the nation.

From abortion opponents to gun-rights activists, from income-tax eliminators to enemies of Obamacare, all we hear is “no, no, no, no.”

There is little talk these days of the Republican Party’s history as the private sector’s partner in building a strong middle class. We hear little lately of the party’s leadership in protecting national security.

Many Republican governors, including Sam Brownback, would curtail public-employee unions rather than let them compete in the political arena. Some of those governors and their allies would undermine public schools by reducing state aid and then telling teachers, by law, what they can and cannot teach.

These policies have gained traction primarily because single-issue groups have defeated good-government Republicans in primary elections. This sends a signal to incumbents – and to moderate challengers – that they dare not oppose the groups’ policies, no matter how outlandish they may be.

In the Kansas primaries last August, these groups joined together and swept most of their opponents away. After well-funded operatives finished whipping up sentiment against Obamacare, abortion, gun regulation and the income tax, only the strongest Democrats survived in the November general election.

The result was a government in Topeka that is trying to overturn everything from a woman’s right to choose to local government’s power to make its own decisions. No doubt the governor and his gurus are planning future legislative traps with phony issues to use in the next primary elections.

There is an alternative to this kind of trouble.

First we in the public have to call it what it is. This is not conservatism. This is an attempt to tear down what the Republican Party has stood for over a century and a half.

This is extremism.

Unfortunately, there is a sense today that nothing can be done to stop this extremism. Perhaps that is because the governor has moved so fast to have his way, trampling teachers, community arts activists, the disabled, the working poor, county government, Flint Hills ranchers and small hog farmers.

In the process, the governor and his backers – with their deep pockets, closed conferences and arbitrary executive actions – have alienated so many groups that his approval rating is down to a dangerously low 37 percent.

The end of the 2013 legislative session is in sight, and the concern of many Kansans is that much of the goofy, overly intrusive and economically unsound legislation being considered in the Capitol will, in fact, become law.

There has to be an alternative to this extremism.

With the lock that single-issue groups have on Republican primaries, and the trove of corporate contributions they benefit from, the only alternative lies with the people.

Neither the Senate nor the courts are any longer a bulwark against extremism in Topeka. The Senate has become a palace guard for the governor, and the courts are fighting for their independence.

We, the people in the middle – moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats and unaffiliated voters – are the only force that remains to turn our state back to a commonsense direction.

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