It didn’t rival the border wars in Kansas territory that culminated in John Brown’s deadly attack on the pro-slavery settlement at Pottawatomie Creek in 1856, but Tuesday’s Republican primaries for the Kansas state senate were bitter enough. When the votes were counted, the Tea Party candidates had shellacked the moderates, reducing the latter to a rump group with little clout. Such state and local elections are where the political map of America is being redrawn, largely out of sight because the national media aren’t paying much attention – another consequence of the collapse of the traditional press. And it takes a tiny fraction of eligible voters to make a big difference in these races. In March Rick Santorum’s 15,290 votes gave him 51% of the Kansas vote – crushing Mitt Romney by over 2-1.
This vitriolic infighting is happening across the country. It’s not clear what it will mean for this election, but the Republican right’s distrust of Romney has deep roots. Although it began in 1854 as the party of abolition, the GOP was from the beginning the party of big government and big business – and also of midwestern farmers who were deeply conservative on social issues. Nixon’s “southern strategy” enticed southern whites to the GOP over civil rights, and Reagan attracted working-class Democrats in big numbers. Those constituencies have long distrusted Wall Street and the eastern capitalists who run the national party. They now have the votes to remake the party in their own image. They also have the money. The Koch brothers are from Kansas, too.