The line is open.
EARLY READ: Posted on NY Times site for tomorrow’s paper is a piece on the expected surge of the Arkansas Republican brand in the November election. Pretty much the same theories trotted out that have been advanced locally.
There were murmurings of racial distrust by a few of the white men here [Blytheville], those remaining after years of white flight to neighboring counties. But the complaints were mainly fiscal, about the “giveaway money” that the Democrats — and Republicans, and anybody in Washington for that matter — seemed to be handing out.
While many of the farmers bristled defensively when the topic of agricultural subsidies was raised in this context, one even suggested heretically that he would be open to a reduction in subsidies — farms in the district received nearly $6 billion in subsidies after the past 15 years — just to get spending under control. Other farmers said they would vote against Ms. Lincoln because of her vote for the health care bill, even though she is in a position to help them as the chairwoman of the Senate agriculture committee.
The frustration — and it is more frustration than Tea Party-style anger — runs that deep.
What’s missing in the unhappiness quoted is much rational thinking, of course. Fiscal distress was put in motion by eight years of George W. Bush. The favorite for Senate voted for the big TARP bailout. These good Arkies hate health care reform, because they’ve been inundated by scare commercials. I still go with Dumas’ theory. Arkansas is particularly vulnerable to a campaign aimed at every level at the otherness of the president. Let’s be generous and include religion, education, philosopy and elitism along with race in what defines that otherness, but let’s not argue that race is NO factor. Combine that with hard times, political poison to the ruling party any year, and you have kerosene.
Turn the Rubik’s Cube this other way to consider brand strength. Is there an incumbent Democrat after Blanche Lincoln who is in trouble? The problem for the party is that some strong figures — think Reps. Vic Snyder and Marion Berry — decided to retire and others at lower levels were term limited, leaving a huge crop of open races with little by way of Democratic Party recruitment to show for them. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written before that the loss of a reflexive Democratic vote for would-be successors this year can be expected and amounts to a sea change in Arkansas politics. But its durability will rest on its foundation. Passing frustration isn’t much for the long haul.