In 2010, the Kansas Republican Party adopted a state platform that included: “The Republican Party supports the right of all individuals and groups to express their political views freely and openly without government regulation or interference. We cherish the opportunity to engage with others and to advance our philosophy of freedom and responsibility in a free and vibrant political debate, secure in the knowledge that the logic of freedom and responsibility will always prevail in a free and thinking electorate.”

In 2012, the mood is a little different. Party officials are asking all GOP candidates for House and Senate seats to sign a loyalty pledge.

“Republican solutions require Republican legislative leadership supported by Republican legislators,” said Amanda Adkins, chairwoman of the state GOP.

So much for free thought without interference. The Grand Old Party in Kansas apparently seeks only those who embrace rigidly conservative positions, and willing to shed those who do not.

The party long has had two wings, the aforementioned conservatives and the moderates. In today’s climate, even those in the latter category realize “moderate” suddenly has negative connotations and is eschewed in favor of “traditional” Republicans.

Call them what you will, the party doesn’t want them any longer. Buoyed by the tea party faction’s success in the last election and the influx of money from outside groups, traditional Republicans all the way up to Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, are facing primary battles this year. Conservatives are seeking a complete stranglehold on the Statehouse. And if they can’t beat moderates who continue holding onto their “free and thinking” ways at the polls, they’re hoping a loyalty pledge will bring them in line. The Kansas Chamber’s political action committee stands ready to back financially candidates who sign the oath.

We would be more wary of any candidates who do sign the pledge. After all, they’d simply be promising to rubber-stamp any and all bills Gov. Sam Brownback claims are good for the state. Not all of them are.

State powers are separated by design. And by the state Constitution. Legislators are supposed to represent the people who elect them, not a political party that cleanses free-thinking members from its ranks. This is one political experiment that threatens to blow up the laboratory.

Unfortunately, it will be the people of Kansas who suffer the injuries.

— The Hays Daily News