Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke to the Arkansas Farm Bureau today about the direction of Arkansas under a Donald Trump administration. Hutchinson — who was no fan of Trump during the Republican primary — said he spoke to the president-elect by phone last night and came away from the conversation optimistic about the future.
Hutchinson said he’s “delighted” with Trump’s cabinet picks so far, and with outreach efforts. The new administration is “not going to treat mid-America as flyover region,” Hutchinson said — an applause line.
“I expect from this administration more flexibility to the states in terms of carrying out education policy … [and] health care policy,” the governor added later. He also expects to see a “greater appreciation for our values, for our culture, for the Second Amendment, and for our agriculture.”
About those values: Recall that Hutchinson, who endorsed Marco Rubio, expressed concern during the Republican primary that Trump wouldn’t represent conservative principles. “The next generation of conservatives cannot allow Donald Trump to take everything we stand for and throw it away,” the governor said. He was right, of course: Trump’s ideologically inconsistent record suggests his values are limited to self-promotion and opportunism. (Then again, perhaps the governor and other conservatives have quietly come to terms with the reality that most of the electorate just isn’t terribly interested in conservative values — nor liberal ones, either, which is a fact that liberals need to quickly come to terms with themselves.)
Values aside, the biggest division between Trump and most other Republican leaders is the issue of trade. Trump cruised to victory with promises of higher tariffs, renegotiated trade deals and economic penalties for Chinese currency manipulation. He’s agnostic on lifting the embargo on Cuba. Hutchinson, meanwhile, has made it a point to seek investment from Chinese companies in Arkansas and Chinese markets for Arkansan goods, including agricultural commodities. In his two years in office, he’s been on multiple trade trips to China. He also wants trade with Cuba, which would benefit Arkansas growers.
“The global market is important,” Hutchinson said. “I stressed to President-elect Trump the importance of a global market to Arkansas’s economy.” The governor said he wants to “shape it [the new administration] in the right direction for Arkansas agriculture and the Arkansas economy.” He told the Farm Bureau audience that there is a “responsibility for us to educate him, a New Yorker, about agricultural policy.”
The governor joked that when Trump called him back around 10:30 p.m., “it was the allotted time, I think, that he could call before he started doing his tweets.” The crowd chuckled and Hutchinson chuckled, and (to me at least) it didn’t sound entirely buoyant. “Donald Trump is going to redefine the presidency,” he said. “Stay tuned.”
The governor also used the speaking opportunity to outline his agenda for the upcoming session, including Medicaid, higher education reform and more. His remarks start around the 23:30 mark.