Soon after getting elected in 2010, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) said he intended to launch an economic “experiment” built on massive tax breaks his state obviously couldn’t afford. The experiment failed miserably, and among Brownback’s disastrous results include debt downgrades, weak growth, and state finances in shambles.
The Kansas City Star reported over the weekend that the state’s voters appear to have noticed.
Lots of numbers in a new statewide survey of Kansas from Fort Hays State University, but here’s the stunner: Only 18 percent of state residents said they were “very” or “somewhat satisfied” with GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. Kansas, in case there’s any misunderstanding, is a heavily Republican state.President Barack Obama, long a punching bag for Republicans, rated higher. Some 28 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the Democratic chief executive.
You read that right: President Obama is woefully unpopular in one of the nation’s most heavily Republican states, but Kansas’ GOP governor is in even worse shape. (This is reminiscent of a Louisiana poll over the summer that found Obama more popular in the Pelican State than Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.)
The Topeka Capital-Journal quoted Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University, describing Brownback’s weak public support as “epic,” adding that Brownback may very well be the least popular governor in Kansas history.
At a certain level, this is fairly easy to understand – the scope of Brownback’s failures are simply breathtaking. Then again, the governor’s first term was a complete fiasco, too, and he nevertheless won re-election last year, despite running against a Democrat who enjoyed considerable GOP backing.
But there’s also a larger, national context to this.
I’m reminded of this John Judis piece from last fall, before Brownback inexplicably won a second term.
Other Midwestern Republican governors had attempted similar experiments, but they were hemmed in by reluctant legislatures and restive electorates. Brownback had Republican majorities in Topeka, which became more decidedly right-wing after the 2012 elections. This gave him near-complete freedom to create a conservative utopia.And Republicans cheered him on. “This is exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Brownback.
“At least for now,” of course, refers to the fact that there’s a Democrat in the White House.
In other words, Kansas’ “experiment” – massive tax breaks, coupled with drastic cuts to public investments – is “exactly” the model Republicans want to impose on the nation. They’re just waiting for a far-right president to work with a far-right Congress, just like Kansas’ far-right governor worked with a far-right legislature.