Thursday, October 19, 2006

What's The Matter with Kansas?

Here in Minnesota, former Republican Governor Arne Carlson has in recent years become a strident critic of the current right-wing controlled Republican Party that is all about waging cultural wars and decimating the social and economic infrastructure in the name of no new taxes. Carlson has recently endorsed Democratic candidate Rebbeca Otto for State Auditor. Colleen Rowley, Democratic candidate for the US Congress in my 2nd Congressional District, is a life-long Republican who has had it with what has become of the Republican Party.

Carlson and Rowley are not the only moderate Republicans who have had it with their party. The Washington Post reports on developments in Kansas, where right-wing Republicans have made cultural-war issues their top agenda for many years:
Paul Morrison, a career prosecutor who specializes in putting killers behind bars, has the bulletproof résumé and the rugged looks of a law-and-order Republican, which is what he was until last year. That was when he announced he would run for attorney general -- as a Democrat.

He is now running neck-and-neck with Republican Phill Kline, an iconic social conservative who made headlines by seeking the names of abortion-clinic patients and vowing to defend science-teaching standards that challenge Darwinian evolution. What's more, Morrison is raising money faster than Kline and pulling more cash from Republicans than Democrats.

Nor is Morrison alone. In a state that voted nearly 2 to 1 for President Bush in 2004, nine former Republicans will be on the November ballot as Democrats. Among them is Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, who changed parties to run for lieutenant governor with the popular Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

"I'd reached a breaking point," Parkinson said, preparing for a rally in Wichita alongside Sebelius. "I want to work on relevant issues and not on a lot of things that don't matter."

Parkinson is a fiscal conservative, as is Democratic Governor Sebelius. Parker also supports the teaching of evolution as "settled scientific theory." It's these two issues that sets these Democratic converts apart.

The Republican Party once had a lock on a reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility. But in recent years the Republican Party has become a two-faced monster of fiscal irresponsibility. At the state level, where deficit spending is not legal, Republicans have adopted slash and burn economic policies under the mantra of "no new taxes," policies that have decimated transportation infrastructure and public education here in MN. While at the national level they have turned into out-of-control spenders and run the deficit through the roof. Gone is any semblance of a sensible fiscal center.

And then there is science. As illustrated by how they handled the Terri Schiavo tragedy and their constant battle against evolution, today's Republican Party has decided to turn the clock back on science in an attempt to pander to religious conservatives. It can't work as a long-term political strategy. Mainstream America is not that stupid. Or so I have hoped for many years now, and at long last it appears that my faith in the intelligence and common sense of my fellow citizens has been well-placed. The vast majority of Americans want their kids to learn the very best we know about science, and they don't want their legislators making faith-based diagnoses after watching video clips of sick individuals. They are growing weary of the cultural wars. Even in Kansas.

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