Following the 2000 presidential election, author Thomas Frank detailed the turn from populism to conservatism in the American Midwest in his book “What’s Wrong with Kansas?” One of the subjects of the book was the rise of moral conservatism in the “fly over” states that make up large parts of the Republican constituency. The leading moral conservative in the Midwest, and a rising star within the Republican Party, is Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback’s ultra conservative stances on social and economic issues promises to make him a popular presidential candidate among the growing arch conservative movement within the party.
Sam Brownback was born on September 12, 1956 in Garnett Kansas. Brownback attended Kansas State University and graduated in 1979 with a BS in Agricultural Economics. He later received a degree in law at the University of Kansas in 1982. After a brief turn as an attorney and teacher, Brownback was named Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and had a year (1992-1993) as a White House Fellow with the United States Trade Representative. Brownback won a House seat in 1994 and soon ran for the open Senate seat in 1998 left by Bob Dole’s presidential run in 1996. Brownback defeated Democrat Jill Docking to win the seat and retained the seat easily in 2004 with 69% of the vote.
Brownback’s popularity comes with his mixture of conservative stands on social issues and a promotion of a more interventionist foreign policy. Brownback has led the charge against abortion rights, teaching evolution in classrooms, a stronger right to privacy, and gay marriage. He was especially integral to the post-9/11 attempts to strengthen American borders and increase border security. While Brownback’s agenda for America is conservative, his Catholic beliefs in charity and service have led to a growing portfolio of progressive foreign policy acts including promotion of intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan.
In the 2008 presidential election, Brownback will more than likely play the role of key caucus member rather than presidential aspirant. True conservatives, aching from years of mixed conservatism from George W. Bush as president, may look to someone like Bill Frist or Mitt Romney to take back the Republican Party leadership. However, Brownback’s grasp of social conservative issues and his activism in favor of moral intervention in the Third World will make him vital to whomever gets the Republican nomination in 2008. Even with this leadership, however, if Brownback doesn’t get the nomination at the top of the Republican ticket, it is unlikely that he would take a cabinet position unless it was as Secretary of State. More than likely, he would finish his Senate term through 2010 and run for governor of Kansas or remain active in organizing the party in the Midwest.