— StateRep David Meeks (@DavidMeeks) August 4, 2016
We’ve been tracking in this space whether any Arkansas Republican leaders will decide enough is enough and refuse to back Donald Trump for president.
The big names have already signed up as dutiful supplicants. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who once said “it is up to Arkansas to stop the Donald Trump show” changed his tune at the Republican National Convention and said that “Donald Trump is the right leader for our time.” Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. John Boozman, while offering occasional tepid tsk tsks of the candidate’s most outlandish moments, have likewise pledged allegiance to Trump.
And after the RNC, most Republican lawmakers and officials in the state were all aboard the Trump train, including past critics like Sen. Jason Rapert, Sen. Jim Hendren, and Sen. Bart Hester.
But some cracks are starting to show as the evidence rolls in that the GOP has nominated an unhinged and erratic authoritarian with no sense of decency, no knowledge of current events or foreign affairs, no respect for American norms and institutions, and no impulse control.
Rep. David Meeks became the first Republican lawmaker, to my knowledge, to publicly announce he is considering not voting for Trump. The tweet above, which Meeks made yesterday, references a message from Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who stated, “It’s time for Republicans to consider the Gary Johnson option.” I followed up with Meeks, who told me he was 99.9 percent sure that he would not vote for Trump. (Meeks also stated on social media that he did not think either Hillary Clinton or Trump were qualified to be president: “They are both dangerous to our country.”)
I also asked Rep. Charlie Collins, who has been highly critical of Trump on trade and other issues:
— Charlie Collins (@CollinsARK) August 4, 2016
Cotton, of course, is not on the ballot, but Collins subsequently confirmed to me that he is leaning toward writing in Cotton rather than voting for Trump or another option. ***UPDATE: In fact, write-in candidates are not allowed in presidential elections under Arkansas law.***
As far as I know, these are the only two Republican lawmakers who have publicly stated that they may not vote for Trump. (If there are others, I will update this post.)
I also asked Rep. Bob Ballinger, who chaired the Ted Cruz campaign in Arkansas and has expressed unhappiness with Trump for being an insufficiently hearty cultural warrior on social issues like gay rights. Ballinger politely declined to comment directly, although I think it’s a fair reading of his social media activity that he is probably in the Meeks/Collins camp and skeptical of pulling the lever for Trump.
*** UPDATE: Ballinger writes to say, “I am officially, and unequivocally, uncertain, and in doubt” about whether or not to vote for Trump. ***
The biggest anti-Trump crusader among Arkansas conservatives is Rep. Nate Bell, the sui generis right winger who left the Republican party and became an independent last year. Bell argues that Trump is a fascist, a racist, a misogynist, and a clown who threatens to destroy the Republican Party and the nation. Bell, who supported Marco Rubio during the GOP primary, doesn’t much like Hillary Clinton either. He plans to vote for Johnson or Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle.