The accident of journalistic deadlines means that as I write this column, having just cast my vote at Dunbar Recreation Center, it’s hours before election results begin arriving from across the city, state and nation. Thus, there is much we don’t know that will be the basis of analysis in this column and elsewhere in the weeks ahead. That said, here are six things we do already know as a result of the events of a truly fascinating, all-consuming election cycle:
* For the moment, pragmatic conservatism remains alive in Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson easily dispatched a Trumpesque opponent in the primary, keeping the GOP establishment in control of the reins of Arkansas government. That pragmatic approach leads to compromises that do damage to the most vulnerable Arkansan (Exhibit A is the Arkansas Works program), but it also keeps alive some semblance of moderation in the state’s politics. As was shown by 2nd District Congressman French Hill’s re-election campaign, which appealed to the lesser angels of our nature, however, the immediate future of GOP politics in the state looks much more Trumpian than pragmatic.
* Trumpism continues to realign American politics and also shows signs of realigning the politics of Arkansas. Exurban and rural areas in America (and Arkansas) that lack diversity are locking in to a GOP politics where a nationalistic response to a changing world society dominates, while diversifying urban and (importantly) suburbs are moving in the opposite direction. In much of the country, the fact that most Americans personify or are attracted to a more inclusive politics means victories for Democrats. In places like Arkansas, it means defeats for the near future. However, quickly changing and growing Northwest Arkansas looks more and more like northern Virginia and provides a vision for a new progressive coalition even in a decidedly traditionalistic state.
* With their party decimated nationally and in Arkansas in the aftermath of a series of brutal election cycles, culminating in the 2016 Hillary Clinton defeat, the talent pool for Democratic candidates was, to be generous, shallow. It created an opening for a burst of new candidates — younger, optimistic and, most importantly, authentic — to take control of the Democratic Party across the nation, the South and the state. Many won’t win, but the arrival of “Obama’s children” as leaders suggests a path forward for the progressive movement.
* Since the Trump inauguration, women have shown they would define the conversation. From the rise of social nonpartisan organizations (like Moms Demand Action) that slowly moved their person power into partisan campaigns to running for office to forcing issues too long ignored into the national conversation, this “Year of the Woman” has all the promise to become the “Decade of the Woman.”
* This election cycle marked the moment when Obamacare crossed the line from political albatross to political advantage for Democrats. Across the nation, candidates who most fervently defended the core elements of the Affordable Care Act, especially protection for pre-existing conditions, were strongly advantaged. It’s not yet a political “third rail” along the lines of Social Security or Medicaid, but Obamacare shows it has won the war.
* The attraction of three high-quality candidates to the Little Rock mayor’s race and the most fulsome engagement of the citizenry of the state’s largest city in who would lead Little Rock showed there is both deep concern about the direction of the city as well as a sense that a place gorgeous in so many ways and troubled in so many others is worth fighting for.
Now, it’s time to ponder the good, bad, ugly and confusing of Election 2018.