Writer: House Special Election in Kansas Shows That Red States May Be ‘Souring’ on Conservative Economic Ideas

April 14th, 2017 5:06 PM

Whatever was the matter with Kansas when Thomas Frank wrote his book is now less daunting for the left, believes New York magazine’s Eric Levitz, who contended in a Wednesday piece that the closeness of this week’s House special election in the Wichita-centric 4th District appears to spell trouble for conservatives.

On Tuesday, Republican Ron Estes was elected by seven percentage points to represent the 4th, which five months ago Donald Trump won by 27 points and then-incumbent congressman Mike Pompeo, now director of the CIA, took by 31 points. Levitz noted that many Republicans are claiming that the main drag on support for Estes wasn’t Trump, but rather the state’s governor, Sam Brownback.

If that’s true, Levitz opined, the news is even worse for the GOP. “In the long run, a repudiation of Brownback is just as, if not more, threatening to the Republican Party than a repudiation of Trump would be,” he wrote. “Brownback isn’t unpopular for idiosyncratic, personal reasons; the governor didn’t decimate his state’s finances by spending public funds on sex workers. He did it by implementing the conservative movement’s blueprint for utopia.”

After recapping Brownback’s tax-and-budget-cutting agenda as well as his announced goal of creating a “red-state model” of governance, Levitz commented (bolding added):

Of course, the GOP’s “different way” didn’t work. Instead of providing national Republicans with a winning advertisement for fiscal conservatism, it provided Kansas’s government with giant revenue shortfalls, its economy with weaker job growth than in neighboring states, and Brownback himself with one of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in America…  

…To say that Kansas didn’t swing against the GOP because of Trump, but, rather, because of Brownback, is to say that red America isn’t souring on one particular Republican -- it’s souring on the party’s entire economic philosophy…

…[Trump’s] approval rating began sliding in early March, right after [Paul] Ryan unveiled his plan to finance a large tax cut for the rich by throwing millions of low-income people off their health insurance — an idea that enjoyed the backing of 17 percent of the electorate…

…The GOP’s fundamental weakness, the one they compensate for using gerrymandered districts, voting restrictions, fraudulent promises, defamatory conspiracy theories, and increasingly garish appeals to white racial resentment…[is that] Republican voters no longer want to buy what misanthropic billionaires pay their leaders to sell them. Not even in the Koch brothers’ backyard.