As we prepare ourselves to make political endorsements in subsequent issues, I can tell you unequivocally that this newspaper has never endorsed so many Democrats. Not even close.
In the 56 years we have been publishing in Johnson County, this basically has been a Republican newspaper. In the old days, before the Republican civil war that fractured the party, we were traditional Republicans. That is, we happily endorsed Jan Meyers for Congress, Bob Dole for U.S. Senate, Nancy Kassebaum for U.S. Senate; virtually every Republican state legislator from here, with a few rare exceptions; and most governors, although we did endorse the conservative Democrats George and Bob Docking and John Carlin.
The point is, I can name on two hands over a half century the number of Democrats we have endorsed for public office.
This year, we will do something different. You will read why we are endorsing Kathleen Sebelius for governor and Mark Parkinson for lieutenant governor; Dennis Moore to be re-elected to the U.S. Congress; Paul Morrison for Kansas attorney general; and a slew of local Democratic state legislative candidates. These are not liberal Democrats. They are what fairly can be described as conservative Democrats, and we can prove that in our forthcoming endorsements.
But I could not help but put in perspective a more global phenomenon that has led us to re-evaluate our traditional support for Republicans.
This change may come as no surprise to our most cynical conservative readers who would dismiss me (and others on the editorial board) as being a moderate Republican and, therefore, the same as a Democrat. To them, there is no difference.
But the shift, frankly, shocks me, because I have pulled the lever over and over since my first vote in 1968 for Republicans. If I was a closet Democrat, I must have hidden it well, especially from myself, since I always beat up on Democrats in my columns. I have called them leftists, socialists, and every other name in the book, because I thought they were flat-out wrong.
And, for the most part, I still do. I am opposed to big government. I have little use for unions. I never liked the welfare plans. I am opposed to weak-kneed defense policies. I have always been for fiscal prudence. I think back to the policies of most Democrats, and I cringe.
So, what in the world has happened?
The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.
You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.
To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.
What does to-the-right mean?
It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.
It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.
It means anti-stem cell research.
It means ridiculing global warming.
It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.
It means immigrant bashing. I’m talking about the viciousness.
It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.
It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.
It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.
Note, I did not say it means “anti-abortion,” because I do not find that position repugnant, at all. I respect that position.
But everything else adds up to priorities that have nothing to do with the Republican Party I once knew.
That’s why, in the absence of so-called traditional Republican candidates, the choice comes down to right-wing Republicans or conservative Democrats.
And now you know why we have been forced to move left.