The Future of Arkansas Democrats

14 Aug

arkdemsbannerIt’s one thing to duke it out and lose. It’s quite another to not even put up a fight when it comes to these important congressional races.

First, Arkansas progressives found themselves wondering what the heck happened to our Forrest Gump candidate in AR-03, now we’re supposed to come to the defense of ol’ sud-sippin’ Grandpa Herb in AR-02. We sent up a school bus driver against an impressive bunch of D.C. insiders in AR-04. Thank goodness for Scott Ellington in AR-01, who at least gives us a shot of not being shutout completely this fall. Seriously, is this the best Dems here can offer? Exactly what was it that the state party did to “regroup” following the historic GOP gains in 2010? No push to recruit top-notch candidates? Are we quietly just waiting it out until President Obama is off the top of the ticket before we even try again? If not, why does it feel that way right now?

Sadly, Governor Beebe does not use his broad popularity to push anything bold or progressive, or even to really push for other Democrats down-ticket. Historically popular politicians generally try to leave their mark on history . . . but I just don’t see a reduction in the grocery tax or a landslide re-election as having a lot of staying power in the minds of future generations. If he were maintaining his spot above the fray in anticipation of a run for federal office, perhaps that approach would make sense. Otherwise, it is just a big ol’ disappointment. Perhaps the Left’s biggest guns here, Bill Halter and Dustin McDaniel, are already setting the stage for a primary bloodbath in two years. And as we saw in the Halter v. Lincoln war, spending millions to tear down each other didn’t bode well in November with so many hard feelings still lingering. As much as I personally admire Halter and his ideas, this “secrecy” he maintains to what his next moves will be make it difficult on other progressives possibly considering runs of their own or wanting to build a movement behind his populist message.

It’s beyond time for progressives here to rebrand themselves (being champions of government ethics reform and protecting the environment in the era of fracking could be winning issues to start) and start developing a roster of young talent to run for office over the next decade. While there has been some movement on this front with progressive groups forming, it must go beyond occasional email list updates or get-togethers downtown to drink and socialize. Considering that seemingly everyone just looked around with shrugged shoulders when it came time to run against Congressman Griffin and his record – from the state’s most progressive and populated region in a seat long-held by someone like Congressman Snyder – just seems to prove that apathy has indeed settled in and that Democrats are subtly just allowing the complete GOP-takeover to occur.

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