Maybe we should have learned something last month when Kansas Democratic Chairman Larry Meeker, Lake Quivira, resigned his job at the top of the party’s political hierarchy.
Then we could have gotten our bets down on the resignation of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
The link between Meeker’s and Boehner’s resignations, while politically different, is philosophically identical.
Meeker wasn’t “Democrat enough” and Boehner wasn’t “Republican enough.”
Meeker, who is to be succeeded Saturday in Salina by former Kansas Democrat Vice Chair Lee Kinch, Wichita, wasn’t “Democrat enough” for the party’s old-timers and donors and members who are more interested in the party name than in actually running state government.
Meeker, recall, suggested renaming the Kansas Democratic Party “Red State Democrats,” which is a pretty accurate perception of Democrats in the Republican (red) stronghold of Kansas.
Not Democrat enough, and many Democrats don’t like the term “red” as it refers to the state’s voter registration and history.
For Boehner, well, pretty much the same story: Working, when necessary, with Democrats to keep the U.S. House of Representatives moving and getting the basic nuts-and-bolts work of running Congress done. It required some leadership compromises, some accommodation to keep things moving, and that isn’t something that some of the most right-wing Republicans will stand for. (For example, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who like many farmers, won’t give up an inch on the fence line.)
Can’t tell if Meeker had suggested maybe not changing the century-old party name but maybe making Red State Democrats a nickname or casting it as a source of pride — that even in Red Kansas there are Democrats who are busy and active and politically engaged — that he would have remained chair.
But the Republican- or Democrat-enough issue is likely to play out during next year’s legislative elections where both parties need to explain to their members, and if not members maybe just voters, where the center of each party is and why the far edges of those parties aren’t going to run things.
That’s a tough one, and the central ideas of both parties in terms of taxes, education, health care for the poor and such actually aren’t that far apart. The way to those centrist party goals might be different, the catch phrases different and the reasons for those positions different, but if you squint, both parties want the state to run well and hospitably.
You’ll not have to worry about individual candidates saying where they are: They’re after votes and will be as conservative or moderate as Kansans will allow them to be on their doorsteps.
The real battle for those votes will be in the Republican Party in the House, where maybe seven or eight votes there are the difference between the “hard right” and the moderates, who often side with Democrats to move legislation. Figure that a handful of House members out of the GOP’s 97-seat majority will move things to the center.
In the Senate, with a dozen moderate Republican/Democrat votes and 28 conservative Republicans, well, it will take something dramatic to move that chamber toward the center of either party’s ideals.
So, we’re down to the campaign not just along party lines, but about Kansas values that will move into high gear.
Just waiting, though, to see whether pictures of any Republican standing next to Boehner or any Democrat standing next to Larry Meeker kills a campaign.
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. www.hawvernews.com