Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has had a fair amount of success in his first two years implementing a very conservative agenda. Most notably, Brownback's tax "reform" plan, which sharply cut income taxes on Kansas' wealthy while punishing the poor, was signed into law in May.
But it apparently wasn't quite enough to satisfy the right. We talked earlier this week about a group of congressional Republican moderates -- an endangered and ineffectual contingent -- feeling increasingly frustrated, but reader R.P. flagged an item out of Kansas, where the GOP is actively purging centrists from their midst.
Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP. [...]
The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Gov. Sam Brownback's move to slash state income taxes.
Greg Smith, a Kansas state representative who's running for the state Senate, told the AP, "If you don't believe in that playbook, then why are you on the team?"
What an illustrative quote. The far right is drawing up the plays, and those who disagree, even a little, ought to be replaced with loyal, almost robotic, teammates who will do what they're told.
In Kansas, this translates into a series of contentious GOP primaries, which will be held early next week, in which right-wing activists try to replace the moderates (or at least those who seem moderate by 2012 standards) in their midst. This includes, the Republican Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, and several key committee chairs whose fealty to the far-right cause has disappointed the party's base. The Koch brothers and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are providing the financial resources to fuel the purge.
For his part, Brownback has already turned on many Republican incumbents, throwing his support to primary challengers because the moderates, in his words, help "promote a Democrat [sic] agenda."
A traditional poli-sci model might suggest this is risky. Most voters consider themselves mainstream and "somewhere in the middle," and traditionally punish parties that become too extreme.
But in states like Kansas, Republicans figure they have nothing to worry about -- the GOP dominates, and winning the primary means winning the seat.
For the activist right, this means there's very little risk in fighting to replace more reasonable Republicans with ones who'll mindlessly toe the party line.
In the post-Bush, post-financial-crisis, post-war era, the Republican Party has slowly been confronted with questions about what kind of party it wants to be in the 21st century. It appears the decision has been made: the GOP wants a small, rigid, right-wing party that tolerates very little dissent and even fewer moderates.