Think Progress, a liberal news/opinion source, takes a long look here at the Democratic primary race for 2nd District Congress and paints it as others have —  an establishment v. insurgent contest for the soul of the Democratic Party.

But Tuesday’s primary in the second district epitomizes the questions facing the Democratic party as they look to make legislative gains in the Trump era: Is it time to go all in on Medicare for all? Should a pro-choice stance be a litmus test for Democrats? Has House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s time come to an end?

As Think Progress pitches it, state Rep. Clarke Tucker is the establishment. Paul Spencer is the  progressive upstart. Two other candidates, equally progressive — Gwen Combs and Jonathan Dunkley — get glancing mention.


I’m not enamored — in this race or many others — of the effort by national media to paint a binary depiction of Democratic primary voters. Nothing is that simple. Different issues have a different resonance in different places and cultural and demographic markers play a role. I don’t think you can get more liberal than I am. I’m solidly for a single-payer insurance system. But I’m no Bernie Bro. I’m not going to vote strictly on a checklist of litmus test items. I’m comfortable with Tucker’s pragmatic approach to health care. I’m also comfortable with Spencer’s calibrated position on abortion — a pro-life Catholic who nonetheless supports funding for Planned Parenthood’s other health programs. I agree with both of them that it’s probably time for Nancy Pelosi to give up her leadership position, though I think she’s unfairly demonized in part because of old-fashioned sexism.

To depict Clarke Tucker, who hasn’t been on earth for four decades yet, as some crusty establishmentarian is to ignore his record. But I admit.  I’m influenced by long personal associations with him and his family.


I like all the candidates in this race, but I’ll vote with comfort for Clarke. I’m confident he’ll be as conscientious and deliberative in Congress as he has been in the Arkansas legislature, where he achieved some small successes despite Republican Party resistance to a clear rising star. He won’t provide cover for Donald Trump as incumbent Republican Rep. French Hill is doing (but Tucker is also not going to make a lot of noise about Arkansas-popular Trump either). Tucker will trounce Hill in Pulaski County and if an appearance of moderation can help him narrow margins in outlying counties sufficiently to win, well good. You can’t govern if you can’t get elected.

And speaking of crusty and the supposed Democratic Party divide: Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders 76-22 in the Democratic primary in Pulaski County in 2016. She beat Donald Trump 56-38 in the general election. An unfunded unknown black Democrat beat Hill in the state’s largest county.


UPDATE: In a semi-related development Mike Beebe and David Pryor endorsed Tucker today.