Election results in Arkansas were discouraging for Democrats and progressive voters.
Republicans swept statewide offices with 60-plus percent votes. Energetic, well-informed and likable Democratic candidates for Congress were swamped, save Clarke Tucker in the 2nd District, by votes greater than Trump got against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Two Republicans were defeated in state legislative races, but those gains were offset by narrow defeats of two incumbent Democrats, including the state Democratic Party chair (!), Michael John Gray, in a Delta (!!) district.
For partisan good news, you could perhaps look at Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson’s decisive re-election victory. It’s a nonpartisan race, technically. But a Republican PAC spent more than $1 million in ads trashing Goodson and she faced a candidate, David Sterling, whose ads firmly linked him with Donald Trump and Governor Hutchinson. If he’d run with an “R” next to his name, I fear the outcome might have been different. There is no other way to explain the big votes for unknown statewide candidates, at least one demonstrably less qualified than his opponent for the office (secretary of state) being sought.
So it’s hopeless, right? Arkansas is bright red Republican, reflexively so. Yes, but … .
There’s no official count, but available evidence from county clerks who counted votes unofficially suggests Arkansas voters would have defeated the amendment to limit malpractice and negligence lawsuit judgments had it made the ballot. This was endorsed by the Republican legislature. Similarly, had the court not ditched the term limits amendment on a petition technicality, it would have been approved 3-1 by voters, though Republicans bellyached that it would have been the ruination of the fine government that gave us the Ecclesia scandal and other federal indictments. Voters also increased the minimum wage, something the corporate-controlled legislature would never do.
A state regularly proclaimed a bastion of Christianity and family values followed its 2016 approval of medical marijuana with an expansion of casino gambling. What’s next? Legalized dancing?
There’s still more evidence we may want Republican politicians, but not necessarily the reflexive agenda they declare as near Biblical GOP truth. See the University of Arkansas’s annual poll, released shortly before the election. Health care topped the list of concerns of those polled. The legislature is busy eating away at coverage, particularly for poor people.
Abortion? Only 38 percent want more restrictions. A majority thinks Roe v. Wade should not be overturned.
Same-sex marriage? Big change from past polls. Respondents now say, 49-46, such marriages should be recognized.
Gay rights? Eighty-eight percent say gays and lesbians should have equal rights. The Arkansas legislature has repudiated this by legalizing discrimination under the pretext of personal religious preference.
Guns? Only 10 percent want fewer gun controls. Forty-four percent want them stricter. Forty-three percent say existing controls are enough.
Climate change? Another big change, undoubtedly helped by abundant evidence. A plurality, 46-44, now thinks global warming or climate change poses a threat in their lifetimes.
Broad majorities think more needs to be done to achieve racial and gender equity.
Respondents identified 32-28 percent as Republicans, but among professed independents they leaned R 39-25 percent, a tendency reflected in vote results. Only 47 percent described themselves as “conservative,” however, with 20 percent liberal and 28 percent moderate.
I could live with a Republican legislature that reflected an acknowledgment of such nuanced attitudes. Alas … .
One final alas: Poll respondents gave Donald Trump a 50 percent approval rating.