MRL wanted to ban the procedure conservatives call partial-birth abortion. Then they wanted parental consent, and worked to make it so cumbersome for abortion clinics to operate that nearly every one in the state had to close. Missouri soon had some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. Still not satisfied, MRL sought to criminalize scientific research on stem cells.
No hot-button cultural issue escaped attention. Laws prohibiting gay marriage were now deemed insufficient, so Republicans demanded a redundant constitutional amendment (which garnered 72 percent of the vote). It wasn't enough to crack down on undocumented immigrants in the workplace. Republicans demanded a constitutional amendment making English the state's official language, though there was no evidence anyone had ever conducted state business in any other language (until, of course, the day I filibustered that proposed amendment in French).
Jetton, who became speaker in 2007, could not always meet these insatiable interest group demands, thanks to a few recalcitrant liberal senators (of whom I was one). But after a couple years I realized that by filibustering issues like English-only, I was playing right into his hands: The longer newspapers featured liberal Democrats fighting for the right to speak French, the better Republicans would do. Jetton didn't really care whether it passed or not. (Ultimately it did, with 86 percent of the vote -- not exactly a state welcome mat for Latinos and other immigrants.)
Each of these laws accomplished two things, politically speaking: (1) they repelled gays and LGBT allies, immigrants and those who appreciate diversity, scientific researchers and young, mobile progressives, and discouraged new ones from coming to the state; and (2) helped retain and attract people with conservative world-views. It was a vicious cycle: The more retrograde the political debate, the more progressives left Missouri or decided against coming there in the first place. And the more progressives left or stayed away, the more conservative the electorate became, and the more reactionary the debate.
And therein lay the problem for Missouri, a former bellwether state which is now so conservative that a guy who believes women who are raped can "shut that whole thing down" to prevent pregnancy is polling even with a centrist incumbent U.S. senator. The more progressives heard the state's often-nutty political debates, the more they voted with their feet. For instance, after a fierce debate that led the state in 2006 to narrowly (51-49) uphold the right to perform embryonic stem cell research, research institutes in St. Louis lost top-flight researchers and began to struggle to attract new ones from other states thanks to the "persistent negative political climate," as the Stowers Institute for Medical Research put it when deciding against expanding research in the state.