An early look at the Republicans in Kansas running for the U.S. Senate underscores how far the party has strayed on some issues.
Not all of the GOP’s values have changed. The party still opposes legal abortions, for example. But under President Donald Trump, it no longer supports free trade or reducing federal debt.
Most Republican candidates seem happy to pay homage to the president in exchange for possible endorsements. In many races, Trump’s support has helped push Republicans to victory. But not everywhere. Here in Kansas, former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly, despite Trump’s support.
Based on their comments, it seems most Republicans in the Senate race – including Kobach, First District Rep. Roger Marshall and state Senate leader Susan Wagle — support Trump and his policies.
But it’s not clear that Trump’s policies are the best policies for Kansas. And it’s not clear whether Kansas voters will place as much importance on loyalty to the president as on issues important to Kansas. Here are issues where the state’s interests differ from presidential policy.
1. Trade and agriculture policies
Republicans long championed free trade. They supported multinational pacts that helped American businesses and farmers develop new markets overseas. No more.
The GOP now supports tariffs, threats and uneven rules for who gets exemptions from the White House.
U.S. farmers have been among the big losers under this new strategy. Farm exports are down, as are the prices farmers get for their crops.
And because of tariffs, consumers are paying higher prices for goods, wiping out most of the savings from the GOP tax cut, according to a Federal Reserve report.
Republicans tended to be more supportive of immigration than Democrats over the past 30 or 40 years. That has changed. In the last three years, the GOP has worked to put new restrictions on legal immigration, block refugees fleeing violence, and attack DACA, which provides protections to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Immigrants have been a major source of economic growth throughout U.S. history. And a look at Kansas shrinking labor pool and the nation’s demographics show why immigration is needed to secure our future.
3. Deficits and debt
Sixty years ago, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower argued that the nation’s financial stability depended on sound fiscal policy. Despite pressure from his party, Eisenhower refused to support tax breaks until Congress could deliver a balanced budget.
Today’s Republicans support trillion-dollar-plus deficits and mountainous federal debt. Sure, they still talk about fiscal restraint, but their actions speak far louder.
Eisenhower had the courage to do the hard thing.
4. Health care
So far, neither Trump nor the GOP has proposed a health-care plan, instead focusing mostly on attacking the Affordable Care Act.
Most Americans don’t expect free health care. But there is an expectation among voters that they and their families should have access to quality health care at prices they can afford.
Voters should expect more from candidates than criticism of Democrats and obscure promises.
Decent highways, clean water and internet access are among Kansas’ basic infrastructure needs.
Infrastructure is often overlooked during campaigns, but it has been vital to Kansas’ development and will determine whether rural communities thrive or fail.
Voters need to look beyond political loyalties in 2020. They ought to require answers about where candidates stand on issues important to Kansas.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.