Now what? 

The Arkansas Times goes to press Tuesday afternoon, an awkward time in an election week. You’ll receive this paper after the votes have been counted, but, at this week’s deadline, we can only guess at the results.

I’m guessing that the near-universal poll trends will be borne out and Democrats will sweep statewide offices in Arkansas. Republicans may make a few gains in the House of Representatives, but it will remain overwhelmingly Democratic, as will the Senate.

If this is indeed the future of Arkansas politics, it is not necessarily reason for great joy, even for a voter who typically votes Democratic. It is a time, even, for words of caution.

Gov. Mike Beebe will be as qualified as any predecessor to govern. We have no fear of him on technical or intellectual grounds. He’s a centrist and a consensus builder. He’ll be no comfort to either extreme. But he’ll be cheered into office by good friends who now make up the lobbying elite of Arkansas, notably in the energy and poultry sectors.

Beebe’s lobbyist friendships have roots in his legislative service. A couple of them began their political careers as colleagues in the legislature. So these lobbyists are not strictly — as is often the case — friends simply because they are paid to make friends with elected officials.

But they represent interests that don’t put taxpayer, ratepayer or, notably, environmental interests first. Their employers’ interests come first and they will have great access.

Elsewhere among the Democrats you have to look hard for effective counterweights to a government dominated by special interests, particularly with the toll that term limits exact on veteran legislators. Old-school pols who believe and practice nepotism dominate the state constitutional offices. Even the fresh faces, such as Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, bring unsettlingly close connections with power brokers. (His political godfather is Jonesboro real estate developer Bruce Burrow.)

You need a magnifying glass to find hope in the legislature. The Senate is headed by Jack Critcher of Batesville or, more specifically, by the graspy Brotherhood, the Deltic Timber-loving pork barrelers who regularly put parochial interests ahead of the common good. In the House, Rep. Benny Petrus will be in charge, he who provided his Capitol Hill apartment to the Deltic/Oaklawn lobbying combine at the last session of the legislature. He’s likely to install many cut from his cloth in key positions of committee power.

The Democratic Party — with Rep. Marion Berry and operatives of his persuasion in control of the party apparatus — further reflects the ascendancy of East Arkansas interests to 19th-century levels.

One-party dominance is something of an oversimplification. The Arkansas Democratic Party has never been a monolith. Many run for office under its banner for habitual or technical reasons. They vote like national Republicans on social issues. They are just as irresponsible when it comes to pork barrel spending and just as slavishly devoted to corporate interests.

But one-party rule is not a healthy thing, even so. There is no better illustration of this than six years of national Republican domination. Mike Beebe has more respect for law and Constitution than George Bush, but that’s scant comfort when I consider some of the opportunists soon to be riding high in the Arkansas Capitol. I expect, before it’s over, to have days when Mike Huckabee looks good by comparison.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

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

  • Guest Playlist: Flap Jones of "Not Necessarily Nashville" schools us on real country music

    "Not Necessarily Nashville," which airs on KUAR-FM 89.1 every Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrates three decades of the "best of the rest of country music" Saturday, October 21 at the White Water Tavern with Brad Williams of The Salty Dogs & The Creek Rocks, and we asked host Flap Jones to curate a playlist for us ahead of that anniversary celebration.
  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Caution: government at work

    I have several government targets this week.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Pork barrel III

    Mike Wilson, the Jacksonville lawyer and former state representative, for the third time last week won a victory for the Arkansas Constitution and taxpayers and set back pork barreling.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Fishy lawmaking

    Last week, the legislature decided not to press a fight that could have further upended a balance of power in Arkansas already tilted too far in favor of the legislative branch.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


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 Recent Comments

  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • The people of Arkansas need to keep demanding that our state government be accountable to…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Watching C-Span last week, they were talking about Cotton for the head of the FBI…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • sigh............ I would argue that the idea of 'freedom from fear' is part of the…

    • on October 19, 2017

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