Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Brownback's Decision Already Paying Off in Substance

A week ago, this blog posted a defense of Sam Brownback's decision to vote to confirm Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary.

In comparing the two options for Sam, we laid out the following scenario if he voted yes:

Vote Yes, which ensures her confirmation. She leaves Kansas and though she is a liberal HHS Secretary and conservatives are mad, she is no longer a legislative roadblock and less of a political force than before, and the deck is largely cleared for either Tiahrt or Moran to hold the Senate seat, and Democrats have no motivational force to drive turnout in 2010.

As expected, since last week's vote, e-mails have been going back and forth between conservatives defending and criticizing Sam's decision. Other blogs have written pieces on it and comment sections have included quite a bit of cynical reactions. The general theme in the criticism is that Sam sold his principles down the river for a pure political calculation, implying that he only did what he did to benefit himself.

The argument we at Kaw & Border made was that Senator Brownback's decision was not exclusively a political one -- that there were solid policy/principled decisions for voting to confirm Sebelius. Sure, part of it was politics -- but not all political moves are inherently bad as some seem to imply. Principled politicians use the political system to achieve policy goals, and that's exactly what Sam did.

Essentially, by Brownback agreeing to confirm Sebelius, it removed not only her as a political force, but as a policy force as well -- by taking away her veto pen. Now she is merely just another one of Obama's many cabinet officers, while we are allowed to hit "reset" and try again on important policy goals.

And, in the first week, the move has already paid off. Yesterday, new Governor Mark Parkinson, a former Republican signed compromise legislation that allows one of the Holcomb coal plants to be built. His move finally put the issue to rest and allows the state to move forward economically as well as focusing the legislature on other issues. However, the move has already drawn the ire of liberals and even Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks in this piece.

Kathleen Sebelius would have never agreed to build any coal plants, as she is in the pocket of the left and liberal environmental groups. Mark Parkinson, while certainly no conservative, has still only been a Democrat for about three years and does not have those deep ties to liberal interest groups. Basically, one might make an argument that while Parkinson is a center-left Democrat, he's not a far left liberal in the mold of his predecessor. His interest, and this is to his credit, was to get the issue off the table and achieve compromise, and that is what he did.

Of course, Mark Parkinson is now a lonely soul. The Democratic base is fuming and the media is already on his case. The Republican Party is certainly not going to welcome him back, not that he would or could switch back anyway. Because see, unlike Sam Brownback, back in 2006 Mark Parkinson did make a move purely for personal political gain. Now, just 3 years later, he's Governor, but with no friends or base within either party in which to mount a bid for other office. Not exactly smart for him personally (though it did make him Governor for about 20 months), and now he's handed Republicans a huge legislative and policy victory. Right now, he's a man without an army, and that's something Republicans can take advantage of by working with the Governor on certain items where he is open minded.

When it comes to Mark Parkinson, the term "useful idiot" comes to mind.

When it comes to Sam Brownback, in one move, he set off a series of events that rid a red state of a left wing Governor, cleared the slate for conservative gains in 2010, created internal strife within the Democratic Party, and enacted one of the Republicans' chief policy goals in the past two years, furthering two of the key principles (economic growth and a sound energy policy) that conservatives hold dear -- all the while benefiting the state in the process.

Somewhere in Lawrence, a liberal environmentalist is fuming.

Somewhere in Topeka, Democratic leaders are fighting.

Somewhere in Johnson County, a new "Memo" is being written.

Somewhere in western Kansas, the engines of the economy are once again churning.

And somewhere, a Senator named Sam is smiling.