Archive for Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Statehouse Live: Political observers say Kansas Democrats hurting bad

December 1, 2010


— Five longtime political observers said Wednesday the recent election in Kansas was a stunning setback for Democrats, social conservatives have taken over the Republican Party, and Gov.-elect Sam Brownback will be judged on how he governs in this politically charged atmosphere.

During a discussion at Washburn University, Kansas University professor Burdett Loomis, Kansas State University professor Joe Aistrup, Wichita State University professor Ed Flentje and Washburn professors Mark Peterson and Bob Beatty, dissected the last election and what the results may mean for Kansas.

Republicans easily won all statewide and congressional races and gained 16 seats in the Kansas House to take a 92-33 advantage in that chamber. The GOP already has a 31-9 margin in the Senate.

Loomis said the Democratic losses sent the party back to the 1950s. But Aistrup said it was worse for the Democrats. "I think they are back in the stone ages," he said.

The GOP wave, including Brownback, a Republican U.S. senator who has been in Congress the past 16 years, puts the party at center stage.

Flentje said despite Brownback's social conservative credentials, he will be judged in his new job on how he handles public school finance, higher education and Medicaid.

"He'll be judged on things that he has never been judged on before," Flentje said.

Peterson said social conservatives will get many of their issues passed through the Legislature, such as tighter abortion regulations. But he said conservatives shouldn't overplay their hand.

"You have a very unhappy, grumpy electorate," he said.

The group said Brownback, who has had presidential ambitions, and conservatives in the Legislature should be careful not to overreach.

Flentje said Brownback has had three political lives. When he was state agriculture commissioner he was considered a progressive, then he went to Congress as a fiscal conservative but found he couldn't stop federal spending. He then became a social conservative "wearing his faith in the public square and aligning himself with a series of congressional actions to essentially expand the role of faith in the public square," he said.

But Flentje said as governor, Brownback needs to focus on governing and administering.

"I think because he will have 92 Republicans (in the House), there is going to be a significant number of those folks that will start making Brownback look like a moderate," he said. Some House Republicans have called for repeal of the 1-cent sales tax increase that was approved by Democrats and moderate Republicans during the last legislative session. Brownback, however, has said he doesn't want to repeal the increase.

Loomis said Brownback cannot make Kansas a "social conservative paradise" if he has national aspirations. "I honestly think that he does want to be president and he has to be seen as a success," Loomis said. Brownback ran for president in the 2008 cycle but didn't get much traction and dropped out of the race.

The professors said Democrats were the victims of an energized Republican electorate. They pointed to State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, a conservative Democrat, as an example of a candidate who was steam-rolled by Kansas voters unhappy with national politics.

Aistrup said the Democrats had weak candidates at the top of the ticket. Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat who decided not to run, may not have won but he could have provided some help to the downballot statewide candidates, he said. "They needed a good old-fashioned Kansas windbreak at the top," he said.

Beatty said some of the Democratic candidates were too slow to respond to charges made in TV ads by outside groups.


Phillbert 7 years, 3 months ago

You don't need to be a political observer with a PhD to see that Kansas Democrats are hurting. Too bad Kansas is going to be hurting after the conservative Republicans have their run of things.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

If the policies put into place by the overwhelmingly Republican controlled KS legislature don't work, will you be able to see/acknowledge that fact?

olddognewtrix 7 years, 3 months ago

Brownback won't be able to resist the neanderthal wing of his party and there will be draconian "social " legislation passed and signed , along with serious and unconstitutional restrictions of funding for education. The result will be that Kansas will be the defendent in numerous Federal Court Cases on serious major constitutional issues. The cost of the litigation will be huge and the likely Federal Court holdings embarassing and hazardous to Republican hegeomonyThe new Attorney General wil be crying "Uncle"

kansastruthteller 7 years, 3 months ago

Yes, and "seroius" is actually spelled "serious."

Terry Sexton 7 years, 3 months ago

...and "come on dog" should read "come on, dog." I'm gonna go listen to the radio now. Siriusly.

bad_dog 7 years, 3 months ago

And "annointed" only has one "n". If you're going to use all the magic incantations and buzz words, at least spell them correctly.


notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

Actually, "anointed" has two "n"s. (He used three.) ;-)

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

The KS legislature is currently not meeting their obligation to fund the educational system adequately, as determined by studies by the legislature and the KS Supreme Court.

Most of the recent federal stimulus money in KS went to shore up that funding - once it's gone, if the state doesn't step up the funding, they'll be seriously and unconstitutionally underfunding education.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

You've got to be kidding.

This paper is owned by a conservative, and conservative viewpoints are more common than liberal ones.

For example, we have Cal Thomas, Charles Krauthammer, and George Will on the conservative side, but only Leonard Pitts on the liberal one.

JW editorials are clearly conservative as well.

Centerville 7 years, 3 months ago

That's what raising taxes will do for you.

kansastruthteller 7 years, 3 months ago

Dems recently criticized the Republicans for voting against Obama on a variety of legislative issues and negatively characterized them as the "party of no." So, I fully expect the dems to vote for everything Brownback proposes because to do otherwise would be hypocritical; they don't want to be the party of "no" do they?

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

The best in my opinion would be for both sides to work together, not for one side or the other to dominate.

So the minority party should neither go along with everything the majority wants, nor simply oppose it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I agree with Autie. The last few years have seen moderate Republicans align with Democrats as often as with conservative Republicans, forming what was very often the true governing majority.

This situation for Republicans could actually become more acute as the right wing of the Republican Party seeks to push their radical agenda, potentially furthering the split within the Republican Party. And Brownback will be caught smack in the middle of it, whether he likes it or not.

Jimo 7 years, 3 months ago

I see little long term change. As usual, if (a) the extremists in the GOP push too far and (2) Democrats can put forward a strong candidate, then the Republican-wing of the Republican Party will side with and elect the Democratic candidate. We've seen this repeated again and again. The prime limitation of this model isn't in a shortage of GOP extremism but rather strong Democratic candidates.

notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

"...Democrats can put forward a strong candidate, then the Republican-wing of the Republican Party will side with and elect the Democratic candidate. We've seen this repeated again and again."

In Kansas?

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 7 years, 3 months ago

It's pretty clear that the Obama administration has destroyed the Kansas Democrat Party (as well as others in other states) with his tone deaf political agenda. One can only hope that Hillary will challenge him in 2012 and bring the party back to a middle ground that's more acceptable to the majority of Americans.

wastewatcher 7 years, 3 months ago

This is the legacy of the ULTRA LEFT WINGERS = SEBELIUS AND HER CROWD. There is no room in this Sebelius led left wing party for the traditional Docking democrat. It is their way or the hiway. SEBELIUS< HENSLEY< DAVIS<GATES AND CROWD need to be gone and the sooner the better.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

Yet another example of how partisan the extreme right has become. They are completely incapable of recognizing centrist politicians. Anyone not on their "team" becomes a "marxist, leninist commie nazi," regardless of what their actual track record is.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.