A more interesting and honest op-ed than the one Sen. Dinah Sykes of Lenexa wrote for the Washington Post might have been headlined, “Why I joined the Republican Party.” The Post preferred the more click-worthy headline, given its audience, “Why I left the Kansas Republican Party.”
Before dissecting Sykes’s given reasons for departing, one fact needs to be established up front.
To date, Sykes has proved to be the single most liberal senator, Republican or Democrat, in the Senate. Ever.
The Kansas Policy Institute calculates a Lifetime Freedom Index score for each legislator. The score reflects the legislator’s “propensity to vote for legislative actions that positively affect economic freedom, education freedom and the constitutional principles of limited government and personal freedom.”
KPI considers 50 percent to be neutral. In 2018, the highest 57 scorers were Republicans which makes sense. What makes no obvious sense is that the six lowest scores in the Senate were also Republican. At 21 percent for her two-year career, Sykes had the lowest score of the six. In fact, she had the lowest score of any senator of either party since KPI started the index.
When former Gov. Bill Graves endorsed Sykes he called her a “fiscal conservative.” If truth in advertising laws extended to politics, Graves would have to pay a hefty fine. Sykes proved to be no kind of conservative at all. In fairness, she did not run as one. She did use the Republican “elephant” logo on her yard signs, but it was hard to win in Lenexa without it. She positioned herself as an anti-Brownback moderate.
What is most disturbing about the Sykes and the five other senators at the bottom of the lifetime KPI list is that all are Republican, and all were elected for the the first time in 2016. One has to ask the question of just how intentional was their subversion of traditional Republican values.
Sykes and her allies prevailed during her two years in the Senate. They passed the single greatest tax increase in Kansas history. Sykes’s complaints are too banal and disingenuous to list, but they come down to the fact that conservatives are not willing to compromise on core principles, although, to be sure, Sykes does not use the word “principles.”
Here is how Sykes phrases her discontent: “If Kobach embodied the direction the state and national party were headed and ultraconservatives continued to dominate the platform, I knew my values no longer aligned with the Republican Party, and I no longer wanted to be a part of it.”
This is version 2109 of the opportunistic bi-annual riff, “I am not leaving the party, the party left me.” Did not Sykes read the quote from her fellow moderate Melissa Rooker on the campaign trail, “I’m in the midst of a fairly ugly campaign being waged by the very far left. 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.”
To believe today that the Republican Party is the party moving to the extremes, as Sykes does, defines the believer as either delusional or deceptive.