Favorite

Democrats in Arkansas down to one 

As recently as two decades ago, Democratic primaries remained tantamount to election in Arkansas, pretty much. As recently as one decade ago, Democratic primaries drew all the competition while Republicans anointed their nominees pre-emptively. Even now, Republicans can’t always come up with a respectable candidate for every position and Democrats use a slow, lazy inertia to elect old-timers to offices like secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and land commissioner. That makes the early formulation of the governor’s race for 2006 all the more noteworthy, even a sign of a new day. The heavyweight primary action will be on the Republican side where two well-known, well-financed and well-connected candidates — Lt. Gov. Win Paul Rockefeller and Asa Hutchinson — will pit conservative politics against really conservative politics. Meantime the Democrats have become the Republicans of two decades ago, saying they already have their lone and anointed candidate, Attorney General Mike Beebe. He’s a lawyer and moderate pragmatist who was the best state legislator of the modern era, a smart and personable insider and fixer. He’s been the Democrats’ governor-in-waiting since the mid-1980s, when as a sharp young state senator from Searcy he was first declared the logical successor to Bill Clinton. But he also is a man whose gifts as a retail politician connecting in the coffee shops in opposition to an actually breathing opponent — which he’s never encountered — are completely untested and undeterminable. Still unknown as Beebe nears his 60th birthday are his talents for thinking big ideas and articulating large messages. There once was a candidate who said, “This race is not about ideology; it’s about competence.” It was Mike Dukakis. If our politics hinged on competence, George W. Bush would have lost the last two presidential races. Ronald Reagan would never have become president. Blanche Lincoln wouldn’t have survived the 1998 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, against Nate Coulter, who was so competent that he ran last in a four-candidate field. Even so, all Democratic hopefuls other than Beebe apparently will be discouraged from applying. Jason Willett, the new state Democratic chairman, essentially nominated Beebe the other day in comments to The Associated Press. That means no youthful dazzler like Dale Bumpers will be welcomed should he come down from the hills with a smile, a shoeshine and a positive reform agenda. No Vic Snyder will be welcomed should he dare to rise from mere principle. I suppose I’d best give up any notion that some capable Democrat might run on a two-point platform: • Ethics reform, by which not one cup of coffee could be bought for a legislator or state official by a lobbyist, an area where Beebe is vulnerable, since his best friends and closest advisers are big-time corporate lobbyists like Morrill Harriman at the Poultry Federation. • A more strategic, deliberate, open and accountable use of the General Improvement Fund to apply that pot of cash balances and interest earnings to early childhood development and dire needs in fast-dying rural Arkansas, such as infrastructure and high-speed Internet. This is another area where Beebe is vulnerable since he used to divide up the pork in the General Improvement Fund all by himself. P. S. — What Beebe may lack in retail political experience, he counters with a compelling personal story. Born in a small town in Northeast Arkansas to an unmarried waitress who took him to myriad schools in multiple states as her unstable personal and employment life never weakened her commitment to her only child, he and she finally settled for his high school years near Newport, where families reached out to help the hard-pressed mom and her academically promising boy who would someday become the predetermined Democratic candidate for governor.
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

  • The two cities of Little Rock: East/west, black/white

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated this week a community divided over public schools, another blow to the Little Rock School District and another illustration of the need for ward elections to the board.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Arkansas Tech settles dispute with lawmakers riled by 'Sex on the Lawn'

    Legislators have dropped an effort to kill the Department of Diversity and Inclusion at Arkansas Tech in a dispute that arose over a student sex education program.
    • Mar 22, 2017
  • Another bill to stock the prisons

    The Senate today voted 20-9 to pass Sen. Bryan King's bill that says a fourth commitment to the Arkansas Department of Correction means the person sentenced must serve at least 80 percent of the sentence before parole eligibility.
    • Mar 22, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Worse than N.C.'s bathroom bill

    SB 774 extends birth certificate requirement to bathrooms in all public facilities, and that's an original birth certificate, too.
  • Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Attack the poor

    If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for the poor.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: City Board discovers LRSD

    • You reap what you sow, the seeds were planted when the Max Brantley's of LR,…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Diane, as noted above, this is a *column* not a news piece. So yes, it's…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • It's just amazing being told by a college professor that an editorial column is, um,…

    • on March 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation