Thursday’s New York Times got a kick out of conservative defeats in Kansas at the local and national level. That’s when it wasn’t from relishing Donald Trump controversies and prematurely crowning Hillary Clinton the winner of the election.
The paper’s National section led with Mitch Smith’s story of state voters ousting conservative candidates in several state legislative primary races.
And congressional reporter Carl Hulse, always on the look-out for signs of conservative weakness or Democratic triumph, found a pattern in a defeat of “rabble rousing...hard-right” Kansas congressman and Tea Party “firebrand” Tim Huelskamp: “Voters Send a Message in Tossing a Tea Party Firebrand From the House.”
Frustrated voters in a sprawling Kansas congressional district sent a blunt message on Tuesday that might yet break through the din of this election: At some point the government needs to do something for them.
In case you missed “firebrand” in the headline, it’s in paragraph two as well.
That sentiment was delivered in the harshest possible terms to Representative Tim Huelskamp, a firebrand Tea Party conservative who lost in a primary landslide after spending most of his six years in Washington feuding with his own leaders. He was so difficult to work with and troublesome that he was kicked off the Agriculture Committee.
Farm groups joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and another deep-pocketed advocacy group to get behind Roger Marshall, a political novice who promised to work on behalf of Kansas rather than rabble rouse. Mr. Huelskamp (pronounced HYULES-camp) had the backing of the Koch brothers political network as well as the conservative group Club for Growth, but it was not enough.
Mr. Huelskamp’s loss to Mr. Marshall, an obstetrician, is not a sign of a run on congressional incumbents or hard-right conservatives. The vast majority of them will return next year.
But it did show that even residents of one of the nation’s most conservative states favored the idea of action in Washington rather than the paralysis that has set in.
(In 2010, Hulse slimily used Bill Clinton to suggest the then-burgeoning Tea Party movement could be lighting the fuse for the next Oklahoma City bombing.)
Hulse defended the moderate Republicans from accusations of big-spending.
Clearly, Mr. Baker’s group and other Republican-leaning interests that lined up behind Mr. Marshall do not see Mr. Huelskamp’s defeat as an invitation to open the spending spigots, merely claiming they “put governance over obstruction.”
But they do want to see a more constructive atmosphere than the current one, where the fundamental budget and appropriations processes are in such a shambles that it is questionable each year whether the government is going to be funded or not. They want lawmakers to put governance over obstruction.
Mr. Huelskamp was a leader of an uncompromising group of House Republicans who have made it their job to tie up spending measures, industry subsidies and other business-friendly measures as well as immigration legislation. They have perfected the art of saying no.
Hulse concluded with the necessity of Republicans saying “yes” to government spending sometimes.
A veteran Republican House member told me years ago that the safest vote was always “no,” that it was hard to get in trouble by opposing things. Mr. Huelskamp’s defeat may be a sign that lawmakers need to again begin saying “yes” once in a while.