Arkansas was no outlier in the national election after all.
Its voters, as expected, gave Donald Trump a 60-34 victory over Hillary Clinton (she was a couple of points lower than Barack Obama in 2012.) But the state ran with the winner, which the polls had said wasn’t likely.
Sen. John Boozman, the incumbent Republican, also got 60 percent in beating Conner Eldridge, who edged out Clinton’s showing with 36 percent. That appears to be the ceiling for Democrats statewide in Arkansas now. There’ll be no consolation prize for Eldridge’s effort in a political appointment from a Clinton administration.
The Republican legislature’s constitutional amendment slate — longer terms for county officials; removal of gubernatorial power change when out of state; and a massive corporate welfare amendment for unlimited public borrowing for private business and legal taxpayer handouts to corporate lobbyists — all passed easily. Corporate welfare got “only” 65 percent of the vote.
Medical marijuana passed. More about that later.
Republicans picked up two Senate seats. A Tea Party Republican with a fraught business record, Rep. David Wallace, badly beat Sen. David Burnett in Northeast Arkansas. Trent Garner, a Tom Cotton wannabe, ousted Democratic Sen. Bobby Pierce in South Arkansas.
If I count correctly, Republicans won 27 of 33 contested House races, tossing out several incumbent Democrats in the process. Democrats will be a marginal force of little consequence in coming legislative session.
Some promising candidates who did everything right for Democrats still lost by wide margins against extremist candidates — see Nate Looney in Jonesboro, for example. Irvin Camacho and Grimsley Graham made valiant efforts for House seats in Republican Northwest Arkansas, but nonetheless fell short, with 44 and 46 percent showings respectively.
Republicans lived in this wilderness for decades in Arkansas. There is no reason to expect a quick turnaround for Democrats.