Did 2010 create change in Kansas' elected Republicans? - Column from "The Monitor"

The following is my article in The Monitor.  The Monitor is the re-branded name for The Citizen, and it’s the Kansas City Metro’s premier center-right print and online publication.  Make sure and bookmark KCMonitor.com for regular updates on news from Kansas, Missouri, and the Kansas City area.  Click here to learn where to find one of the 200 locations distributing this free print newspaper.

This article is re-published with permission.

Did 2010 Create Real – Or Just Expedient – Change Among Elected Republicans?

Independent voters – who are largely conservative, particularly on fiscal issues – will throw out either political party when it says one thing and does another


— Koch brothers (the wrong ones) receive a death threat;
— Major school choice progress nation-wde

May 4, 2011

by Benjamin Hodge

In 1994, Republicans captured both Houses of Congress for the first time in four decades.  Those Republicans were sent to change Washington, but Washington soon changed the Republicans, who by 2006 were functioning as a pro-life, somewhat-less socialist version of the Democratic party.

When Republicans spend like Democrats, the result is both bad policy and bad politics.  Independent voters – who are largely conservative, particularly on fiscal issues – will throw out either political party when it says one thing and does another.

Elections results are created from two things – the direction of independent voters, and the level of passion in the bases of the major parties.  And those two things are directly linked to the policy successes or failures of the party in power.

Right now, the excitement factor looks good for Republicans. Neil Stevens, a writer at RedState.com, looked at a recent poll commissioned by the left-wing site DailyKos.com and the international labor union SEIU.  Stevens concluded, “…what appeared to some to be a revival of unionism in America is not shaping up to be a left-wing counterweight to the right-wing TEA party. Republicans have more intense excitement about defeating Barack Obama than do Democrats have in re-electing him, and the trend is in the wrong direction for Democrats.”

But no evidence I’ve seen suggests that Independents are any more loyal to Republicans than to Democrats.  2010 wasn’t pro-Republican; it was anti-Democratic.  Independents aren’t party-focused.  They simply want competence and consistency from Republicans.

Today, Independents still don’t like Republicans.  Rather, Independents only dislike Republicans less than they dislike Democrats – and only barely.  Rasmussen frequently runs a “generic ballot test,” whereby it asks likely voters if they would support the Republican or Democratic candidate.  On April 25, the national result was 42% Republican, 40% Democrat.  Compare that to October 31, 2010, when the Republican lead was 51-39%.  The current two-point Republican lead is the smallest since October 2009.

Also on April 25, Rasmussen reported that a plurality (43%) of likely voters assume that most members of Congress are corrupt.  Remember: Republicans control a huge majority in the House, and have almost half of the Senate.  Yet independents, at 51%, are more likely than partisan voters to believe that most Congressmen are corrupt.

If Republicans want to continue to see electoral success, it all goes back to policy – they’ve got to not only talk like Republicans, but act like Republicans. That will keep the base fired up, and it will create loyalty among Independents.

Is 2010 merely a repeat of 1994, or will today’s Republicans create true fiscal reform?  And what about the Kansas government – did we elect conservatives, or merely pro-life moderates in 2010?  To help answer these questions, I think we can look to this month’s debt ceiling votes in Washington, and to the upcoming final budget votes in Topeka.  I’m less-than-confident with these votes, and elected Republicans everywhere need to not only feel “pressure,” but feel certain that they risk primary challengers if they don’t fight the good fight.

As Erick Erickson, editor of RedState, put it, “If the Republican Party does not perceive and understand that it is under threat from within by its own base, it will continue surrendering when it should be fighting.”  Every elected Republicans must perceive a threat to his or her own incumbency.
The debt ceiling and Kansas‘ congressional delegation

This month, Congress is expected to vote on raising the federal debt ceiling, currently at $14.3 trillion.

national debt

Club for Growth opposes raising the debt ceilingunless Congress successfully passes a constitutional balanced budget amendment (BBA).  All 47 Republican Senators are on record supporting the BBA.  South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, and Utah Senator Mike Lee have made similar line-in-the-sand statements against supporting the debt ceiling increase.

I don’t know what Kansas‘ congressional delegation will do on the debt limit.  Leaders at the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, and Club for Growth all opposed (a recent temporary spending package (as opposed to a full budget, something that has never occurred under President Obama), yet Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts supported the bill, as did Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins and Congressman Mike Pompeo.  Only Congressmen Huelskamp and Yoder voted against the continuing resolution on spending.  The Pompeo vote surprised me the most, as he was one of the few candidates anywhere supported by the Club for Growth PAC in 2010.

Polling is on the conservative side on the debt ceiling fight.  CBS News found, “Just 27 percent of Americans support raising the debt limit, while 63 percent oppose raising it. Eighty-three percent of Republicans oppose raising the limit, along with 64 percent of independents and 48 percent of Democrats.”

President Obama wants to increase the debt ceiling, no questions asked.  This is the same Obama who joined every single Senate Democrat in 2006 in voting against raising the debt ceiling.  A poll by Resurgent Republic found only “11 percent who want to raise it without preconditions.” A plurality (47%), support raising the debt ceiling, “but only in exchange for substantial spending cuts and a commitment to reduce the deficit,” and 35% absolutely oppose increasing it.

A final note on the debt ceiling battle – it’s absolutely not true that America will soon suffer, if Congress does not increase the limit.

Erick Erickson notes: “The lie is very simple: a failure to raise the debt ceiling will cause a default on American debt.  This is utterly and categorically a lie. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.”

Veronique de Rugy and Jason Fichtner write in The Washington Times, “In 1985, Congress waited nearly three months after the debt limit was reached before authorizing a permanent increase. In 1995, 4 1/2 months passed between hitting the ceiling and congressional action. And in 2002, Congress delayed raising the debt ceiling for three months. In each case, the U.S. and the economy survived.”

In Kansas, the budget actually looks bleaker than in Washington.  Conservatives control the state House.  Governor Sam Brownback claims to be a fiscal conservative.  The Senate, while overwhelmingly Republican, is indeed far-left.  But that’s two out of three (the House and Governor’s office) that conservatives control, at least on paper.  Yet I’m told by a House Republican that Brownback’s proposed budget increased state spending by about six percent over last year.  The Senate’s preferred budget is only a little larger than Brownback’s.  Credit must be given to the Senate leaders for having principle – liberal principle, but principle.  The House’s frame of mind appears not to be, “How do we win budget negotiations,” but instead, “We’ve already lost, so how do we lose most impressively?”

Quite seriously, most any Kansas Republican who votes for the likely state budget, or to increase the federal debt limit (without serious conditions), deserves a primary challenge.
The peaceful Left’s death threat to the wrong “Koch brothers”

A California man intended to threaten Charles and David Koch, the libertarian-leaning billionaires who own the Wichita-based Koch Industries (pronounced like “Coke”), the world’s second largest privately-owned company.  This man is apparently among those on the political left who are intensely bothered by the idea that Charles and David Koch choose to spend some of their personal dollars trying to promote their personal beliefs.

Instead, the allegedly violent Californian left a death threat on the answering machine of Dutch Koch, president of an Iowa business called “Koch Brothers,” an office supply company.  The FBI traced the call back to California.

The Des Moines Register reported on April 18, “The Koch Brothers employ 65 employees in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Brothers George, William, and Frank Koch founded the company in 1889 as a spinoff from The Des Moines Register and Leader’s job printing shop.”
Positive update on school choice

Republicans constantly use phrases like “free market” and “limited government” and “we need to get government out of the way,” except when it comes to education.  Republicans are deathly afraid of the school establishment – the alliance of Democratic teachers unions with the locally-elected Republican who want to control the headlines (“Look what we’re doing for you…”) and the lucrative contracts.

school choice

As Americans, we choose our cell phone providers (despite the complicated technologies), we choose our doctors (despite our limited knowledge of the human body), and we choose where to go to college, but when children reach the age of five, parents are told that they are not capable of making educational decisions.  State governments spend half of their budgets – our budgets – on these K-12 services that most of us have no choice but to “purchase.”

That’s why last month, I wrote in this column that Republicans nation-wide should make sure that private donors fund the $15 million DC voucher program, if Congress isn’t able to bring back the 2004 legislation that Democrats recently refused to re-authorize. I didn’t come up with the private-funding idea – it was Erick Erickson’s a couple of years ago.  The DC school choice law gave true opportunity to low-income families in the nation’s capital, through a voucher worth $7,500 that could be spent at any private K-12 school.  These students, nearly all black or Hispanic, were no longer to attend the city’s failed $25,000-per-student “public” schools.

After I wrote the column, the Republican-led US House passed HR 471, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act, by a 225-195 margin.  It was a party-line vote, with all but nine Republicans supporting the bill, and only one Democrat supporting it.  All four Kansans in the US House supported the bill.  Surprisingly, Missouri 6th District Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican, opposed the freedom-expanding school voucher idea.

The Daily Caller reported: “Restoring the D.C. voucher system was a top priority for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who sponsored the bill. Boehner fought back tears in defending the measure on the House floor, as he recalled D.C. parents who were grateful for educational choice.”

The Club for Growth made the vote a part of its 2011 scorecard, writing, “Education, like any industry, should be subjected to vigorous competition to ensure the highest quality and innovation available.”

The legislation faces a large hurdle in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama would face the wrath of public teachers unions if he signed the law.  But the passage of the House bill is needed progress.

Since education is best a states’ issue, it’s great to point out that school choice does appear to be spreading.

Marc Thiessen writes in The Washington Post: “Despite the fact that students with D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program achieved graduation rates of 91 percent (more than 30 points higher than their D.C. public school peers), teachers unions and their allies in Congress were determined to smother the program in the cradle. They knew that if school choice was successful in our nation’s capital, it would strengthen those fighting to establish similar programs across the country, and demand could spread like a brush fire.  The Republican Revolution of 2010 upended their plans.”

Thiessen points to signs that Indiana — home to the man who may be our next president, Gov. Mitch Daniels — is on its way to creating the largest-ever school voucher program. Thiessen also highlights progress in OhioPennsylvaniaWisconsinArizona, and Florida.


Connect with Benjamin Hodge at FacebookTwitterLinkedInThe Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas.  He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011.  His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters,the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRAKansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).


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