Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Opposition from all corners

From the Winfield Courier, an Editorial - GOP conservatives line up to jump, remembering the government shutdown of 1994, and that :
stubbornness led to Speaker Gingrich’s demise.

How much worse will it be if Kansas’ new conservatives get blamed for shutting down the state’s public schools?

They will get blamed — if the worst happens — because this drawn-out special session of the Legislature has told the public a story of an almost adolescent unwillingness to make government work.

The entire new conservative movement in Kansas is at risk here. So are Mays’ chances of being governor. He and his supporters should realize they are out of touch with a majority of Kansans in this mess, and may have already jumped from a high political cliff.
Politically, this is badly played. The Republicans want to spin a narrative of "activist judges," but I think it's clear that they're wrong. The public doesn't care about activist judges, but they don't want the schools shut down.

Governor Sebelius got elected on a (slightly pie-in-the-sky) platform of maintaining school spending without raising taxes. Her opponent ran on a platform of not raising taxes even if it meant slashing school funding. That's how the campaign was fought, and the public made it clear that they were interested in schools, though raising taxes would be bad.

So here we are, with too little money to raise school funding, and a mandate to do that. The Republicans have gone back to the failed strategy of demonizing schools as inefficient and complaining when courts force them to do their constitutional obligations.

I'm referring to Republicans broadly here, even though I know there are really two parties within the Kansas GOP. The moderates are trying to reach out, and I give them credit. But the fact that the party leadership is dominated by conservatives means that they can't move a compromise onto the floor. And any member who fights hard for a compromise has to worry about getting spiked in the primaries.

Kansas is blessed with a three-party system. A centrist coalition could run things very handily, except the moderates and the conservatives are still squabbling over who gets the name. The conservative wing has won in Kansas, and moderate voters and legislators need to figure that out and make some tough choices.

Moderate republicans elsewhere need to think seriously about where that party is going, and if they don't want the religious authoritarians to take over their party, they need to start on what Democrats are doing: build their own institutions to channel power and ideas. That's hard for moderates, because moderation doesn't sound ideological, but if it's a principle that matters, people need to stand up for it.