Morrison affirms long-standing shift in political norm
Tuesday was an interesting day in Kansas politics and signaled the start of a political re-alignment that could take years to sort out.
For a decade, observers have said there are three political parties in Kansas: Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans. On Tuesday, an exclamation point was put on that trend when Johnson County Dist. Atty. Paul Morrison said he was abandoning the Republican Party to run against incumbent Phill Kline for the state attorney general.
Morrison paid some homage to the state Democrat party's commitment to safety and security but the move was clearly motivated more by political calculation than Morrison's comfort with Democratic political philosophy. Morrison understands he has a better shot to unseat Kline next November in the general election than he does in the August GOP primary.
One has only to look at the current governor to understand that in solidly Republican Kansas, running for state office as a Democrat is not a political death wish if the opponent is from the conservative side of the Republican Party. Conversely, moderate Republicans have had a tough time advancing out of GOP primaries because of a low turnout of moderates and participation of conservatives.
The political re-alignment Morrison made formal Tuesday has not only manifested itself with the election of odd Democrats and endless GOP internal sniping, but in movements of voting blocks. For example, conservative Republicans have tapped into the populist who were once dependable Democratic voters.
Few can successfully articulate or personify GOP populism better than Kline, who rose from humble roots and once famously made a budget deal with Democrats in the House on shared social welfare issues that cost him a leadership position and banishment to a remote office in the capitol.
Should Morrison's defection start a trend among ambitious Republicans otherwise facing a dead end, the response of both parties will be interesting.
Just how welcoming will Democrats be to converts who are likely open to ideas to the right of the party's core beliefs? Are Republicans really willing to risk its current dominate standing in the state that unity gained by subtraction might demand?
Those questions will make the next few years interesting and, it is hoped, motivate more voters to the polls, where the answers will ultimately be provided.