The decision of Sen. Chris Koster, D-Harrisonville, to switch parties is the subject of an article in today's Los Angeles Times:
Political analysts don't expect a cascade of party-swappers in Missouri. As political scientist David Webber put it: "I'll be darned surprised if anyone follows [Koster's] example."
But they say the move does point at how effectively social and religious conservatives dominate the Republican Party across several Midwest states -- and how frustrating that can be to self-styled moderates who would prefer to focus on economic issues.
"That's been true for a decade," said Webber, a professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Missouri elder statesman and former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth last year wrote a book on the subject. "Faith in Politics" called on the GOP to shake free of the religious right. Danforth is now trying to translate those words into action by leading a national coalition of GOP moderates called the Republican Leadership Council.
Koster knows that many in Missouri would have preferred it if he, like Danforth, had stayed with the GOP despite his differences. "It's a disappointment to lose him," said former state Sen. Betty Sims, who had her own battles with the religious right but remained Republican.
But after three years of feeling out of sync with his own party, Koster, 42, said he couldn't take it any longer.
The final straw, he said, came this spring when his colleagues overturned a state law requiring public schools to give students comprehensive, medically accurate information on sexually transmitted diseases and birth control. Districts may now focus exclusively on abstinence.
"I knew at that moment," Koster said. "For me, leaving was the right, the moral thing to do."