Matthew Teague finds a house in Carroll County with a Confederate flag for a little local color for the Guardian in a spotlight on Arkansas, part of a series called “the new South,” looking at the six Southern states voting a week from today (along with Arkansas that’s Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia).
The Guardian’s visit to Arkansas didn’t hit on all the clichés of Natural State political stories but follows familiar ground: Arkansas once was blue, now is red, even if many voters claim to be independent. Northwest Arkansas isn’t really the first place you’d pick if you want to document the flip, as Teague seems to figure out midway through the story.
University of Arkansas political science professor Janine Parry is quoted at length:
Parry’s current project, she said, is to try to quantify the shift in Arkansas power from blue to red. She thinks it’s the fastest in the country’s history. It happened suddenly, starting with the rise of President Barack Obama to the White House. Along with his arrival came a new style of political campaigning, in which powerful national organizations focused their might and money in previously unaddressed corners of the nation, including Arkansas. One of them was Citizens United, a non-profit advocacy group that saturated Arkansas with advertising that accomplished what the southern strategy had never been able to do: in a relative instant, Arkansas flipped its party allegiance to Republican.
It happened so fast, Parry said, that there’s a sense of something like embarrassment among people who have swapped. “When we make polling calls, people will say: ‘Yep, I’m a member of the Democratic party,’” she said. “But if you really push with second and third questions, they’ll say they plan to vote for the conservative candidate. And I always want to ask: ‘Why don’t you just call yourself a Republican?’”
I think Teague means Americans for Prosperity when he refers to an advocacy group (Citizens United was the group involved in the Supreme Court ruling that helped open the floodgates, although outside money would have been flowing heavily regardless). In any case, Arkansas may have been late to switch, but the stark polarization and nationalization of partisan politics was coming no matter what. They get cable news in Carroll County.
Here’s a photo essay from the Guardian’s trip to Fayetteville and surrounding areas.