Kansas Republicans will demand loyalty oath
By MIKE HENDRICKS
Over the weekend, Kansas Republican leaders formed what they’re calling a “loyalty committee,” a move that’s ticking off moderates and conservatives alike.
It is never a sign of strength when your group, country or otherwise starts imposing loyalty oaths, or so I told Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach over the phone on Tuesday.
“That’s probably a fair criticism,” he said.
Yet, beginning next January, the state GOP will begin purging its leadership — all the way down to the precinct level — of any party official who actively supports non-Republicans for office.
“One weakness we’ve had is that on game day, a few of our leaders have gone out and supported the other team,” Kobach said. “I’m trying to basically take in two years a team that got skunked in 2006 to a winning team in 2008.”
You can see why the Kansas GOP is heading this way.
Republican moderates and conservatives have been at each other for decades. But it’s getting worse, from Kobach’s point of view. Ronald Reagan’s commandment, “Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of a Fellow Republican,” gets no respect.
Every couple of years, for instance, a group calling itself Republicans for Moore buys ads in support of 3rd District Congressman Dennis Moore, a Democrat. Then Moore goes on to beat the Republican.
In 2004, the loser was Kobach, who couldn’t even win in heavily Republican Johnson County. But this sort of thing isn’t confined to JoCo. Cross-party endorsements have been flying in other parts of the state.
More worrisome for the GOP have been the high-profile defections we saw in 2006. First, the former head of the Kansas Republican Party, Mark Parkinson, left the party to become the running mate of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The pair won easily.
Then former Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison left the GOP to run for state attorney general, trouncing the Republican incumbent, Phill Kline.
There were others, and there are bound to be more now that moderate Republicans have learned the secret to beating their conservative adversaries: Avoid a losing battle in the primary, where the most-conservative voters hold sway. Switch parties and eke it out in the general, winning the support of Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans.
As the trend accelerates, so will the number of “loyal” Republicans eager to support their party-switching friends — or so goes the logic.
Hence, the new rule (to be enforced by a new committee) aimed at dissuading public displays of affection across party lines.
“We’re not compelling anyone to make a pledge to the GOP,” said Christian Morgan, executive director of the state party. “You’ve just got to not endorse a Democrat.”
Not everyone is happy about this. Some mods are squawking. The chairman of the Kansas Democrats smugly said his party had no plans to form its own loyalty committee.
But frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with the Republicans or any other group purging themselves of turncoats. As long as it doesn’t apply to the average party member, who can switch parties at will, I say let the cleansing begin.
Only here’s the most interesting wrinkle of all. Most upset by the new rule weren’t the Republican moderates. (Hey, they’re used to being pushed around, right?).
More angry were the pro-life conservatives, the very folks who turned the Republican Party into the lovefest it is today.
Among the loudest objections, Kobach said, was that from former Kansans for Life president Tim Golba.
Golba has proudly supported pro-life Democrats for office while continuing to vote on internal GOP matters, and he thinks he ought to be able to continue doing so.
“I helped lead tons of Bible-believing Christians into the Republican Party,” Golba told me. “And what they’re saying is they don’t want us in the party anymore.”
That’s not at all what they’re saying. But party loyalty comes first, Kobach said, adding, “I think it’s a long time coming,”