Trumped in Arkansas 

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After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8.

I'd laugh. But the busy Russian hackers may yet turn up a nugget for Wikileaks that reverses the polling trend. And there's also this: Trump will carry Arkansas easily. What if Arkansas is more representative of voters nationally than polling indicates?

It's sad that a state that claims leaders like J.W. Fulbright, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker and Mike Beebe is about to vote for Donald Trump. Sadder still is that it won't be a surprise.

The black president opened the exit door to the residual traditional Democratic vote in Arkansas. It's not soon to return.

I was challenged on this the other day by a former Democratic office holder. He thinks there's a formula for a Democratic resurgence.

It needs about five big themes that would be popular with a broad cross-section of voters. The lottery, for example, had broad support as a ticket to more college education. Pre-K is hard to quarrel with, though some on the extreme right don't like it. Climate change is reality and voters are increasingly receptive to alternatives to fossil fuel — wind and solar, for example. An increase in the minimum wage enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Quick, think of a few more.

Now the hard part. Find a cadre of bright politicians capable of talking about issues such as these, but also willing to exhibit a little backbone. A guy named Bill Clinton, for example, endorsed gun control and stood up for a woman's right to have an abortion. He succeeded despite those positions, which were seen as contradictory to conventional Arkansas thinking. (In fact, Clinton knew that polls showed the majority of voters, even in Arkansas, favor gun safety and preservation of legal abortion. But it takes bravery to stand up to loud, well-organized and passionate opposition.)

The resurgence theory has a certain intellectual appeal. But emotion triumphs over IQ. See Trump's reflexive support in Arkansas.

Hard as I could, I tried to evaluate the town hall debate fairly. Trump avoided answers to direct questions when he wasn't going off in incoherent tangents. He glowered. He sniffed. He lurked over Clinton. He uttered falsehoods. He demonstrated little understanding of — or curiosity about — world affairs.

Clinton, on the other hand, spoke knowledgeably on all subjects. She made game stabs at explaining her weak spots on trade and email. She handled a challenge on the leak of a private speech in which she said a politician sometimes can't always say in public what she might say in private — not if she hopes to achieve political aims. She was unflustered by Trump's remark that he'd emulate a banana republic strongman and have her arrested if he became president.

Yet there remains a deep kinship to Trump and a loathing of Clinton in Arkansas. It doesn't bode well for a Democratic rebirth.

The debate weekend was marked, coincidentally, by worldwide attention to Yellville's perverse practice of cheering a local pharmacist (and dedicated Church of Christ member) who drops live domesticated turkeys out of his airplane from 500 feet as a lure to attendance at the Turkey Trot festival. Two of 10 turkeys plummeted to gruesome deaths this year. It's a "tradition," the locals bray. They complain bitterly about criticism.

Somehow, I don't think many of the faces in that bloodthirsty Turkey Trot crowd are destined to be Democratic voters — this year or for years to come.




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