The irrelevancy of the the GOP
He doesn't care about you
Democrats dare to dream of recapturing the Bush heartland
From Kansas to South Carolina, Republican moderates are turning their backs on the neocons and defecting to the enemy
Paul Harris in Topeka, Kansas
Sunday June 25, 2006
The squat, bunker-like building in a south Topeka suburb does not look like a place to turn American politics on its head. Nor does Mark Parkinson, a tall, affable man, look too much like a revolutionary. But here, deep in the American heartland, are the warning signs of a political earthquake.
The two-storey office block is Parkinson's campaign headquarters as he runs as Democrat candidate for deputy governor. So far, so normal. Except that only a few weeks ago Parkinson was a Republican. In fact, he was Kansas Republican party chairman.
His defection to the Democrats sent shockwaves through a state deeply associated with the national Republican cause and the evangelical conservatives at its base. Nor was it just Parkinson's leave-taking that left Republicans spluttering with rage and talking of betrayal. It was that as he left Parkinson lambasted his former party's obsession with conservative and religious issues such as gay marriage, evolution and abortion.
Sitting in his headquarters, the new Democrat is sticking to his guns. Republicans in Kansas, he says, have let down their own people. 'They were fixated on ideological issues that really don't matter to people's everyday lives. What matters is improving schools and creating jobs,' he said. 'I got tired of the theological debate over whether Charles Darwin was right.'
This is music to Democratic ears and has profound potential implications for November's mid-term elections. Kansas has been an iconic state for the Republican right, a symbol for issues such as teaching creationism in schools and fighting abortion rights. The modern Republican party, masterminded by political guru Karl Rove, has harnessed fury over such topics to allow the Republicans to dominate US politics since 2000. This was the topic of Thomas Frank's hit book of the 2004 presidential election campaign entitled: What's The Matter With Kansas? It used the state's falling under the spell of conservative Republicanism to explain national American politics.
But in a swath of heartland states such as Kansas, Democrats are seeing the first signs of their party's rebirth. Parkinson is not alone in switching sides. In Virginia, Jim Webb, a one-time Reagan official, is seeking to be a Democrat senator. In South Carolina, top Republican prosecutor Barney Giese has defected after a spat with conservatives. Back in Kansas another top Republican, Paul Morrison, also joined the Democrats and is challenging a Republican to be the state attorney-general.
Democrats are hoping that the Republican party of President George W Bush has passed its high-water mark. That, faced with disaster in Iraq, a host of domestic troubles and terrible opinion poll ratings, they can start to retake power in November. From there they can start to take aim at the White House itself. They hope the powerful conservative movement born in states such as Kansas will also die there.
There is an exhibit of Darwin in the American Museum of National History. I now own a Darwin mug and finger puppet because I'm sick of ignorance masquerading as science. PZ Myers I'm not, but I'm a college educated adult male. I've spent my life dealing with facts. When some wingnut talks about intelligent design, we're talking faith. I have no problem with faith, just don't call it science.
The GOP has gone to the bullshit well one too many times. While Americans die in Iraq,p they debate gay marriage. This isn't 2004, 2500 people are dead in Iraq, including many Kansans. People want their kids to come home. Alive, and without brain trauma. People want raises, real raises. They're tired of being scared. And all they hear from the GOP is catering to the crazy people from the church down the road.
Enough is enough. Even in Kansas.
posted by Steve @ 12:10:00 AM