Today’s print edition of the New York Times includes a Jonathan Martin page one report on politics in Arkansas.

It pitches Arkansas as a “test case” for the post-Trump Republican Party.


It contains nothing you didn’t already know. The state is firmly in control of Trumpistas. The Republican candidates for governor are vying to out-Trump each other. There’s a tiny band of Republicans who hope for a return to saner Republican conservatism.

It notes that extremist politics, as evidenced in the last legislative session, have made some businesses nervous (but crackpottery hasn’t deterred that their continuing financial support.) Governor Hutchinson, in the article, evinces sympathy for businesses.


“They’ve got to recruit people to this state, and this makes it harder for them,” said Mr. Hutchinson, alluding to transgender measures that he opposed in this year’s legislative session. “And there’s many in the base of the party that just don’t care,” he said. “They would rather fight the cultural war and pay the price in terms of growth.”

Problem: Hutchinson, identified along with Sen. Tom Cotton as potential presidential candidates in 2024, has endorsed or enabled or been steam-rollered by extremism on all the cultural battlefronts. His one veto of the transgender health care bill (overridden) was his only overt support of a despised minority amid years of enacting legislation designed to discriminate against LGBTQ people. His occasional reluctance to endorse vote suppression and pro-gun legislation (while allowing it to become law without much of a fight) and his extreme views on family planning organizations and stamping out abortion rights don’t exactly place him in the corporate Republican mainstream either, though he endeavors to play that role on cable TV.

Two kernels of truth in the article, one from an unlikely source:


One came from Sen. Jim Hendren, the governor’s nephew and former Republican, now an independent who’s formed a group aimed at attracting centrist voters:

Mr. Hendren, who represents a swath of the region in the State Senate, said the business community would have to do far more to slow Arkansas’s sprint right.

“Continuing to do the same thing is going to lead to the same results,” he said, dismissing the companies’ strategy of sending the maximum allowable donations to candidates “and thinking that’s going buy you any loyalty.”

Yet still, they give money to the looniest, such as Sen. Trent Garner. I can’t quarrel with what he told the Times:


“Arkansas Republicanism is defined by President Trump right now.”

Nobody knows it better than the emasculated governor and the voters of Arkansas. The marginalized are left hoping that lack of competition and the vagaries of legislative districts mean that the legislature may not necessarily be an accurate representation of the voters at large. The next gubernatorial election seems likely to dash those slim hopes just as the vote for Trump did in 2020.

Sad to say that legislative politics work something like the electoral college, in a very bad way. Trump got 62 percent of the vote in Arkansas. Imagine how much better the legislature might have been if Democrats held 38 percent of the legislative seats, rather than less than 25 percent.






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