The message some Johnson County moderates seem to have pulled from the 2018 election is if you can’t stand the heat, get out out of the party.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dinah Sykes and Rep. Stephanie Clayton announced that they are joining fellow party switcher Sen. Barbara Bollier and leaving the Republican Party to become Democrats.
Jonathan Shorman, the State House reporter for the Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star, accepted at face value the reasons the two women gave for leaving. Clayton of Overland Park cited “recent moves to support chaos in public policy.”
Sykes described herself as a “moderate person who represents a moderate and pragmatic district.” She now sees the “Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country” and has opted out.
This is pure, political gobbledygook. Their defeated GOP colleague Melissa Rooker provides a clue as to what has really happened in Johnson County and soft suburban GOP counties throughout America.
Rooker told the Pitch before the November election, “I’m in the midst of a fairly ugly campaign being waged by the very far left.” Rooker continued, “Right now Democrats say compromise is bad. My opponent is being supported by a group of people pushing the narrative that the GOP is a party of fascists and anyone who’s part of the GOP is a fascist.”
Still fuming at their loss in 2016 to Donald Trump, Democrats took their wrath out on Republican candidates in the 2018 election, even so-called “moderates” like Bollier, Clayton, and Sykes. Serious Republicans welcome the combat. The party-switchers have never been serious.
There are 165 senator and representatives in the Kansas legislature. The highest 57 scores on the Kansas Policy Institute’s Freedom Index, all above 55, belong to Republicans.
Beyond that 57, there is no real distinction between parties. Sykes with a score of 35 out of 100 and Clayton with a score of 25 out of 100 score deep on the left end. Other than opportunism, it is hard to understand what would inspire a “moderate person” like Sykes to choose one party over another.
In Johnson County, it has long been comfortable and respectable to be a Republican. As Rooker discovered, that comfort factor is no longer there. It is not the Republicans who have become extreme and divisive, not the Republicans who have adopted radical new policies, it is the Democrats. Rather than confront the angry left, some moderates have found it easier to become Democrats.
KPI President Dave Trabert interprets the party switching not as “a negative comment about Republicans” but rather as a way for lawmakers “who traditionally support more government and higher taxes . . . to stay in office.”
The Kansas Third District just sent an avowed socialist to Congress. Says Trabert, “John F. Kennedy would even have a hard time getting elected as a Democrat today.”