Brantley: The last, desperate days 

click to enlarge Doyle Webb image
  • Doyle Webb

The clock rolls toward election day next Tuesday. For more than 200,000 early voters, it's already over.

The posture of the dominant political parties doesn't forecast a pretty outcome.

Democrats are still trying to circulate research that demonstrates the personal failings of individual Republican candidates.

Republicans are so confident in their one-note message (President Obama bad) that Party Chair Doyle Webb happily defends the indefensible. He describes statements by legislative candidates soft on slavery and strong on execution of stubborn children as matters of conscience — free expression that isn't ground for eviction from the Republican fold.

Doyle Webb knows his voters and their faith-based outlook. Facts don't matter.

Democrats have unearthed embarrassing stuff about several Republican legislative candidates. There's the pastor (his degree from an unaccredited on-line seminary) who's been late or inaccurate in public record filings and a slow pay on credit card bills.

There's another counselor, who pronounced from the pulpit on women's need to devote more time to their husband than their children, who also has a challenged record on business license payments.

There's a candidate with an inflated educational resume. There's another suspected of, but not charged with, reporting a false property theft to make an insurance claim.

There's some unhappy domestic court stuff.

I've resisted exploring these cases for various reasons, including age of some cases and trivial nature of others. But I also don't think the voters who'll decide this election — swing voters tilting Republican — are likely to let allegations of personal shortcomings (be they indisputable or not) distract them from the big message the Republican Party has sold so well:

1) Government is too big and too expensive. (Forget for a minute it's expensive because of all the benefits it bestows on the working poor in the growing Republican base.) 2) The president isn't like us — in color, name, parental background, education or outlook; 3) Universal health care is a bad thing.

That jackleg preacher with the sketchy financial record? He's like us. The Harvard-educated son of a Kenyan most certainly is not. And besides, many will say, that preacher sure did say a nice prayer over my sick momma when she was in the hospital. Doubt my pessimism? In 2010, at least two Republicans with criminal records were the choice of district voters.

I've said from the start that the Democrats — if they were to be saddled with Obamacare anyway — might as well defend it to the hilt. The facts are on their side about the people it will help.

A late-arriving Democratic campaign initiative highlights, with cold facts, the damaging result of the red political tide in other Southern states. Prisons are being closed. States are reneging on educational adequacy spending. Health services are being slashed. Child care for working parents is eroding. College tuition is increasing by up to 10 percent.

This record is the certain outcome, plus bonanza tax cuts for billionaires, if Republicans gain the Arkansas majority. Factual though it is to say this, it's still a negative message, always hard to prove. The Republicans promise change and better times ahead (sound familiar?). This positive premise is also hard to prove, but it is so much more enticing, even if built on faith and smoke.

Who, after all, is an Arkansas voter most likely to believe? A neo-Confederate who compares Abraham Lincoln with Nazis? A mail-order preacher with an iffy credit record? Or that black man in the White House?

Doyle Webb believes Arkansas voters will pull the lever for a Johnny Reb or a deadbeat over that B. Hussein Obama fellow or anybody affiliated by party with him. I'm afraid he may be right more often than not.


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