Favorite

Disturbing trends 

We went to press this week while polls were still open for Tuesday's primary and judicial elections.

One thing seemed likely at that point — an unusual number of run-off elections. Three congressional nominations and the nominations for U.S. Senate all seemed possibilities to be undecided after voting ended.

I have two larger observations about this year's primary and judicial elections, neither positive:

• Voter interest. Secretary of State Charlie Daniels was predicting a turnout of about 35 percent of registered voters. This would be the best since 1994, he said.

Forgetting population growth, this is still lackluster. Even if the state produces 150,000 more voters compared with 2008, it doesn't say a great deal. In 2008, there were no statewide races on the primary ballot. No member of Congress faced primary opposition. This year, the mood was said to be ugly about the political status quo. There were contested primaries for one or both established parties in all four congressional districts and for both U.S. Senate primaries. There were two races for state Supreme Court.

If such an abundance of important choices can't inspire more than one in three voters to cast a ballot, you could conclude that the races were uninspiring. In the case of the Senate race, with an eight-figure expenditure on mostly negative advertising, it may have even been off-putting.

Hours before the election, amid politically active liberal Democrats, I heard person after person saying they couldn't decide whether to vote for Bill Halter or Blanche Lincoln. They were uninspired by both.

When you sell people on the notion that all politicians are corrupt and the system virtually unfixable, it doesn't inspire enthusiasm for anybody who'd want the job.

• Then there was the rise of partisanship in judicial elections, made non-partisan by vote of the people in 2000.

Thanks to rigid party discipline, the Republican label is a clear brand and some seem to be yearning to employ it.

The Republican Party of Arkansas circulated a committee's list on recommended judicial choices. Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood of Conway (“A Republican!” the party crowed) used a recorded message from former Gov. Mike Huckabee to tout her GOP recommendation. Appeals Court Judge Karen Baker made the rounds of Republican groups and used surrogates to promote her candidacy to religious conservatives (read Republican). In Facebook page discussions, her supporters noted that opponent Tim Fox's signs had appeared in yards that also displayed Blanche Lincoln signs, a political mark of the beast. (Ironically, Fox won favor from the Republican committee, apparently for ruling several years ago against a residency challenge filed against Republican dauphin Tim Hutchinson Jr. in a legislative race.)

Courtney Henry, another Supreme Court candidate, was anointed with an endorsement by Republican talk show host Bill Vickery on the final Sunday of the campaign. During his show, they engaged in the popular Republican sport of decrying judges who legislate from the bench. Henry herself earned favor with the Family Council (Republican) crowd by expressing her admiration of Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican who, in case you haven't noticed, has been busy legislating from the bench.

All this was enough to prompt one learned contributor to our Arkansas Blog to say that if the spirit and letter of non-partisan judicial elections were not going to be followed, why not go back to the old system rather than handcuff the ethical candidates?

I'd rather we appoint judges. That's not going to happen. But if this year's political branding works out, non-partisanship is going to become an empty designation.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • An Arkansan sees Sarah. Detects True Grit.

    Kyle Brazzel, a former Arkie writer who now lives in Brooklyn, beholds White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an article in The Awl. He finds Mattie Ross and a little True Grit. Her mother's daughter, too.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Trump voter panel renews request for information

    The hotly controversial request for voter information from an ad hoc panel working for Donald Trump has been renewed. No word yet if Arkansas will again be among the first to comply.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Boy Scout executive posts 'apology' for Trump's political remarks at jamboree

    Mike Surbaugh, the chief executive of Boy Scouts of America, has posted a letter of apologize on the group's Facebook page for the political tenor of Donald Trump's remarks earlier this week at the National Jamboree.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • 'Cemetery angel' Ruth Coker Burks featured in new short film

    Ruth Coker Burks, the AIDS caregiver and activist memorably profiled by David Koon as the cemetery angel in Arkansas Times in 2015, is now the subject of a short film made by actress Rose McGowan.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

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

  • Narrow opening for Arkansas Democrats

    "Somebody in this room — it's time to go big or go home." At the Democratic Party of Arkansas's Clinton Dinner last weekend, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana used his platform as keynote speaker to embolden a candidate to step up to run for governor against incumbent Republican Governor Hutchinson.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Most Recent Comments

 

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