This Isn't Kansas Anymore
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Politics and Activism

This Isn't Kansas Anymore

Governor Samuel Brownback And His Cronies Have Managed To Ruin What Was Once A Bastion Of Moderate Conservatism

This Isn't Kansas Anymore
The Atlantic

Once upon a time, Kansas was known for producing (gasp) moderate Republicans. From President Eisenhower to Senator Bob Dole, the state was relatively to the left for conservatives and produced a lot of great statesmen.

However, in 2010, all of that changed when Sam Brownback was elected to the governorship on a post-2008 tide of anti-Obama sentiment. An avowed ultraconservative whose aims included completely banning abortion, eliminating the state income tax, and privatizing education, Brownback, and his cronies have managed to almost completely wreck what was once a great state. Sadly, Kansas now serves as a ridiculous embarrassment highlighting just how much damage ultra-conservatism can do when allowed to run amok.

It all started with the state primaries, held soon after Brownback came to power. As Thomas Frank explains in "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Brownback systematically targeted the twenty-two moderate Republican state senators, using massive amounts of money from Karl Rove and the Koch Foundation to pit ultraconservative challengers against them. It was a near-total purge: Only five moderates were left standing.

With control of the legislature, Brownback proceeded to push one of the largest tax cuts in the state's history. Not only were the cuts so large and regressive that even persons with nearly $200,000 income had their tax burden eliminated, but the state's budget deficit became wildly unstable. Of course, Brownback's "solution" to this was to nearly eliminate education funding and create a school voucher system that diverted nearly 70 percent of the remaining education funding into private schools. Nevertheless, the state's budget deficits have ballooned, even though the State Supreme Court ruled the cuts unconstitutional.

Having successfully explored the state's budget, Brownback next sought out public sector employees. He reclassified thousands of jobs so that they were no longer eligible for collective bargaining rights, and the state legislature passed a bill preventing public employees from contributing to union PACs from their paychecks. Following that, more laws were passed that allowed school and public college employees to carry arms on public property and all but banned gun-free zones in public buildings. With his ultraconservative leadership, abortion has all but ceased in the state, as groups feel more empowered to harass and threaten abortion doctors and activists. Brownback has introduced more legislation that would close even the three clinics left in all of Kansas.

More than having turned Kansas into the laughingstock of the nation, Brownback has shown just how much damage ultraconservatives can do when in control of a state. No longer a moderate haven, Kansas has sadly become a sort of laboratory for carrying out the twisted policies of Brownback and his cronies. Let the fate of this state be a warning bell to anyone who would vote for someone as zealous as Samuel Brownback.

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