NYTimes Report on Kansas GOP Infighting Contains Staggering 36 'Conservative' Labels

August 6th, 2012 2:25 PM

New York Times reporter John Eligon filed a "conservative"-loaded story from Topeka on Monday on the battle between conservatives and moderates in the Midwest: "In Kansas, Conservatives Vilify Fellow Republicans."

Eligon's story could be the paper's all-time winner as far as labeling density, with a staggering 33 uses of the word "conservative" in non-quoted material within the 1,367-word article, plus two labels in photo captions, plus the one in the headline. By contrast, the common conjunction "and" appeared a mere 27 times under the same parameters. (Yet the Times find it very hard to locate liberals.)

Here's a taste:

Kansas politics have been tilting more to the right for at least the last two decades. And now that shift is prompting a bitter clash within the state’s Republican Party. Conservatives are feverishly working to win the Senate and drive out the last remnants of what they see as moderate Republicanism in a state with a deep-rooted history of centrist Republicans in the mold of Bob Dole, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nancy Kassebaum.

The divisive primary campaign reflects the ambivalence gripping Republicans across the country, yet the situation here is more complicated than the typical conservative-versus-establishment disputes.

What sets the battle in Kansas apart is the distance between the factions. Conservative and moderate Republicans essentially operate as separate parties, and so far, no one -- including Mr. Brownback -- has stepped forward to try to bridge that gap in the popular tradition of moderation. Instead, each side claims to represent the soul of the party.

“We don’t even know what it means to be a Republican in the state of Kansas,” said Casey W. Moore, a conservative Senate candidate from the Topeka area.

Nationally, conservatives have been defining the party in their image. Last week, they scored a big victory in Texas when a Tea Party favorite defeated Gov. Rick Perry’s favored candidate in the primary for an open United States Senate seat. That outcome followed conservative victories this year over established Republicans in Senate primary races in Indiana and Nebraska.

Kansas conservatives are optimistic that they can do the same on the state level and upend long-held assumptions that the people of their state prefer moderate lawmakers.


Conservatives continued to gain seats in the Legislature, and the rest of the country began to take notice of their brand of politics. “What’s The Matter With Kansas?,” Thomas Frank’s 2004 book, which was made into a film, documented that rise.

Now that conservatives are closer than ever to full control of the state’s government, fighting between the two factions of the Republican Party has become more overt, and nastier.

In typical Times fashion, Eligon suggested the "moderate" wing of the party was the responsible one.

Moderates said conservatives were too preoccupied with ideology and purity tests, which they called an all-or-nothing approach -- even when it is impractical. This year, for instance, conservatives pushed through the largest tax cut in Kansas history, one that is expected to shave state revenue by more than a billion dollars over two years, at a time the state can ill afford to lose money, moderates say.

During a recent political forum here, candidates took turns flexing their conservative muscles. They described themselves as advocates for business and increased state sovereignty, and as opponents of abortion and Shariah law.