New York Times examines turning of the political tides in Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New York Times examines turning of the political tides in Arkansas

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge RED AND REDDER: Graphic from the New York Times piece on the changing political landscape in Arkansas.
  • RED AND REDDER: Graphic from the New York Times piece on the changing political landscape in Arkansas.


The New York Times does a well-written and probing deep dive into Arkansas politics. The story is familiar — how Arkansas has gone, slowly but surely, from one-party domination by Democrats to dead red. In the wake of the Civil Rights movement, Dixie flipped, but Arkansas lagged behind for years. 

One popular theory for Arkansas holding off the GOP wave is that the state has been blessed with unusually strong Democratic talent — Bumpers, Clinton, David Pryor. The Times pays particular attention to Gov. Mike Beebe, the most popular governor in the nation. His "skills are such that he has been able to ward off the extinction of Democrats in this increasingly conservative state," the Times writes. But now he's term-limited, and, the Times writes, "many in the state say that Mr. Beebe, a long-serving Democrat, is the last of his kind."

Of course, Arkansans have been talking about "last of a kind" Democrats for years. Still, if Republicans manage a big sweep in November, it will have the ring of truth this time around. The Times notes another change in the political landscape: that Beebe's style of retail of politics — his gift for backslapping at the fish fry — may be less important than it once was, with uncountable millions in outside money pouring in to the state. Ubiquitous ads may pack more punch than handshakes these days. We'll see.

Here's the Times on Beebe's wide range of support: 
  
Mr. Beebe has won votes among the Walmart millionaires in the northwest part of the state around Bentonville and among the poor row-crop farmers in the southeast corner. He has won among those who hunt elk or alligator, and Arkansans like to brag that they can do both thanks to the state’s biodiversity. And he has won among those for whom President Obama’s name is an epithet.

The paper's account of Beebe is rapturous — "tall and gray-haired with bright blue eyes and weathered skin ... a roll-up-your sleeves pragmatist." (Tall?) The best line on Beebe, though: 

 As one female political operative here put it, “He talks like molasses, and I want to have his babies.” 

Even Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb managed a compliment, albeit a calculated attempt to score talking points against Democrats now running for office. “He’s a pragmatic Arkansas Democrat, and he is the last of them,” he said. Heh. Republicans always like Democrats better when they're fixing to retire. 

Here's the Times' gloss on what makes Arkansas unusual: 

Ask people here why Arkansas has remained nominally competitive for Democrats, and most point to an odd race in 1968. That was when the state voted for Winthrop Rockefeller, a Republican and millionaire son of John D. Rockefeller Jr., for governor; George C. Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor who ran as an independent, for president; and Mr. Fulbright, a Democrat, for senator.

“We’re a fiercely independent state,” said Mike Ross, the Democrat running to replace Mr. Beebe.

Arkansans did not follow their neighbors’ lead as white rural voters in the Deep South abandoned the Democratic Party en masse. Just under 16 percent of the state’s population are African-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Unlike other battleground states in play this midterm year, Arkansas has not experienced a vast demographic shift with newcomers who tend to skew liberal. That means the partisan battle is largely waged among the many poor and working-class white residents, a group that is culturally varied.

“If people know anything at all about Arkansas, they think of it as some Anglo-Saxon bastion of Southernness, but it really isn’t,” said Richard W. Davies, the executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, who pointed to Arkansas Indians and settlers from Germany, Italy and Serbia, among others. “We’re a little bit of a schizophrenic state as far as geography and hence culture,” he added.

Carlton Saffa, a Republican donor and tireless Twitter troll, told the Times, “We’re the last of the South to change, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t going to. We weren’t going to stay weird forever.”

Tags: ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

  • Abuse again at Arkansas juvenile lockup

    A guard was fired after choking a child at the Alexander Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center. It’s the latest in a long history of mistreatment at the facility.
    • May 26, 2017
  • Health care policy FAQ

    What proposed state and federal changes mean for the future of health care policy in Arkansas.
    • May 25, 2017
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
    • May 25, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Saturday's open line

    Got any thoughts? Put them here.
    • May 21, 2016
  • Police identify two women found fatally shot on Chicot Road

    Little Rock police have identified two women found dead of gunshot wounds in an SUV parked next to a vacant trailer in a mobile home park at 11500 Chicot Road.
    • May 16, 2017
  • Kenneth Starr: A comment from Betsey Wright

    Betsey Wright, former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff when he was Arkansas governor, responds bitterly to a New York Times article today quoting Whitewater Prosecutor Kenneth Starr's warm words about Clinton. She can't forget the lives Starr ruined in Arkansas.
    • May 24, 2016

Most Shared

Most Viewed

  • Troubles mount for Sen. Jake Files. Maybe others, too

    Sen. Jakes Files has serious problems, based on an FBI affidavit filed Monday in Fort Smith. One new question is how many other legislators have problems based on spending of state surplus money?
  • Democratic Party calls for resignation of Jake Files

    The Arkansas Democratic Party says Republican Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith should resign over news about handling of state General Improvement Fund money that wound up with him, not the project for which it was intended.
  • Womack gets questions. He doesn't answer

    The resistance mustered a turnout for a rare public appearance by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, which meant a ferry ride from Peel, Ark., and a drive almost to Missouri. He didn't seem happy to see them.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

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