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We had a vigorous public question-and-answer session Friday evening when I spoke to Benton County Democrats in Rogers.

But the best question came privately afterward from a man whose hand had been raised when time was called.

He asked: Considering the raging public resentment against political insiders generally, did I believe it was time for the Democrats to give up "super-delegates?" Those are their elected officials who get to cast direct votes for presidential nominees that count as much as those earned by candidates winning thousands of retail votes from regular voters in primaries and caucuses.

Why, yes, I did, now that he mentioned it.

The practice is precisely backward. Political parties don't drive politics. Elected officeholders don't, either. They never have. The parties are mere cliques, receptacles and funnels. Elected officeholders are cautious poll-watchers. They are self-restricted by whatever message discipline the political consultants, probably hired by the parties, design.

Political office-holders and parties are in the business of reacting--and only after proactive people have prevailed in their passion. In time, politicians come to feel safe acquiescing to what are, for them, default stances.

The anti-Vietnam movement? The people drove that. The courts helped. The politicians cowered.

Civil rights? The people did that. The courts helped. The politicians cowered until they felt safe in obliging.

Gay rights? Same thing. The movement was raging, and the Democrats were saying ... let's look at civil unions for gay people. A half-decade later, Barack Obama was saying that his thinking had "evolved" and that he now favored same-sex marriage.

He said "evolved" when he meant "reacted."

Consider, then, what we can now plainly see as the bitter irony of Democratic Party behavior in 2016. From the top down, the party fretted that a man who hadn't formerly even been a member, Bernie Sanders, was delivering a passionate message across the country that was drawing enthusiastic crowds filling spacious arenas.

Oh, no. Not that.

Democratic regulars couldn't bear it. They said this man couldn't possibly win the general election, being old and scruffy and kind of a socialist, advancing single-payer government health care that people would never accept. He had to be stopped because, otherwise, the Republicans would win. So, the super-delegates helped stop him by overwhelmingly casting their votes for Hillary Clinton.

She then proceeded to accomplish the unfathomable--losing the general election to Donald Trump.

She had no passion. She had no enthusiastic crowds. Her message was simply that she had earned the nomination through conventional political behavior and was the political insiders' only remaining option. As she herself told a rich fundraising audience in the Hamptons, she was their last defense against anarchy.

Her essence--self-expressed--was defense. Her venue was not a filled arena. It was a tightly constructed fortress, a deep bunker.

Clinton managed to turn her historic first-woman-to-be-president candidacy into the last-politician-as-usual candidacy. She went into a prevent defense in the first quarter against a two-minute offense.

Trump won a freely divisive primary, one far more hostile than Hillary's with Bernie. Then he tapped into and stirred real passions already present in real people about how America, supposedly, was on a hell-in-a-handbasket plunge, mainly because of liberal thought and political correctness and immigration and multiculturalism and a media too obliging of, if not an active conspirator in, all that.

Now for local application: It's fine by me if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited Clarke Tucker to run for Congress in the Second District. I suppose it believed as I do that he's a strong general election candidate. But the party had best not try to tip the scales against more evidently passionate opposing candidates like Paul Spencer, Gwen Combs and Jonathan Dunkley. If Tucker can't beat them on his own, he might not be all that against French Hill, either.

The state Democratic chairman, Michael John Gray, is a fine fellow who works hard. He told me he is getting undue credit for what has happened spontaneously with energetic female candidacies on the Democratic ticket in Northwest Arkansas.

The key words are "spontaneously" and "energetic." The bogus concept is party "credit."

So let Bernie run free. If you don't like him, fight him with your own passion. If he wins, buck up and take the government single-payer health-care message to the people. Republicans call the Blue Cross partnership that is Obamacare socialized medicine already, anyway.

Medicare succeeds for seniors. At age 64, self-employed and buying individual insurance, I can hardly wait to get a year older and begin paying less for better insurance, though I'll need a relatively inexpensive supplement. It's hardly nuts to argue passionately that such a setup would work for all ages.

People's passions are raging--about health care, guns and the rise of women. If Democratic insiders were smart, they'd get out of the way.

If those passions prove strong enough, they'll be the default positions of the parties and officeholders eventually, anyway.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 03/20/2018

Print Headline: The argument for passion

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  • BoudinMan
    March 20, 2018 at 6:43 a.m.

    We need to decide on which of these candidates to support. Then we nned to invest in that person with sweat equity and treasure. Then we need to get like-minded voters to the polls. Then we must vote French Hill out of office. 11.6.18

  • mozarky2
    March 20, 2018 at 7:08 a.m.

    Vote French Hill out?
    Never happen, BUT, I love it when dims piss away other people's money.

  • PopMom
    March 20, 2018 at 7:50 a.m.

    Hillary lost because people know too much about the Clinton baggage. She appeared cold and unlikable. Bernie is as likable as can be, and I would love to have a beer with him. While I actually am in favor of healthcare for all, Bernie would not have been elected because his ideas of giving away free college etc. meant that everybody was going to have a stiff tax increase. Running on higher taxes doesn't work. I don't think that Spencer's ideas about expanding federal housing (which always has been the subject of graft and mismanagement) bode well for his candidacy. As much as everybody hates Trump, socialism isn't in vogue either except among extreme liberals. The reason Democrats won in Virginia and Pennsylvania is by putting up moderates. In fact, the strides Virginia has made in turning that state from red to a more bluish purple should be copied in Arkansas. One can be socially liberal and in favor of education without turning to socialism and higher taxes. While Virginia has become bluer, it also has turned itself from a sleepy Southern state into more of an economic powerhouse. Its high tech corridor in northern Virginia is extremely impressive. Tucker appears to be a more moderate candidate who would stand a better chance in November though I will give money to anybody who wins the Democratic nomination.

  • Rightside
    March 20, 2018 at 7:52 a.m.

    2016 look back: Hillary Clinton is ahead of Donald Trump by double digits with just over three weeks until Election Day, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted entirely after the second presidential debate. To put Clinton's current 11-point lead into perspective, Barack Obama beat John McCain by seven points nationally in 2008. And Obama's margin of victory over Mitt Romney in 2012 was four points. "Donald Trump's chances of winning this election have faded," says Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates, which conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his firm Public Opinion Strategies.

    New York Times: Hillary Clinton has an 85% chance to win. Last updated Tuesday, November 8.
    Trump's chances of winning in Pennsylvania 11%, in Michigan 6%, in Florida 33%. Times prediction were slightly wrong Trump won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida.

    Medicare taxes and Social Security taxes make up the FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax. Every worker in America is required by law to pay FICA taxes. Working People not on Medicare supplement people who are on Medicare.

  • RobertBolt
    March 20, 2018 at 7:54 a.m.

    Super delegates and the electoral college both serve to frustrate the popular will and should be eliminated.

  • hah406
    March 20, 2018 at 9:49 a.m.

    mozarky I think you underestimate the voters of Pulaski county, and are overestimating the turnout in Faulkner or Saline, for the man who has taken millions of dollars from the NRA and Wall Street.

  • GeneralMac
    March 20, 2018 at 9:52 a.m.

    ...." So the super delegates helped stop him by casting their votes for Hillary "...

    Not exactly !

    Long before Bernie Sanders gained traction Hillary had received assurances and donations $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ from nearly every super delegate.

    That is why from nearly a year out, pundits said Hillary had a lock on the nomination.
    She had the Super Delegates pledged to her nearly a year out.

  • drs01
    March 20, 2018 at 9:58 a.m.

    The 2016 presidential election came down to "the people versus the parties", both parties. Democrats were hell bent on Hillary despite her excessive baggage. Republican leading candidates represented "the establishment". Unfortunately this battle of party versus the will of the people continues today.
    If the Arkansas Heights liberals want to support Tucker, then once again they will be losing in the 2nd district. Voters in the surrounding counties will never accept this party insider any more than they did the "token" candidates who opposed Hill in the past.
    I believe there are four major issues facing us today: Guns, Drugs, Illegal Immigrants, and Healthcare. They all four pit the federal laws against what individual states want, or believe they need. The "will of the people" differs from state to state. The candidates who can effectively address these issues will prevail.

  • Packman
    March 20, 2018 at 10:03 a.m.

    ".....losing the general election to Donald Trump." "Then he (Donald Trump) tapped into and stirred real passions already present in real people...."
    QUICK, somebody notify the newspaper that John Brummett has been kidnapped and some sane and reasonable person is working in his place. This is surely an imposter because there is no way John Brummett would violate his contract and write something that acknowledged Donald Trump won the election by having real people (meaning ordinary, intelligent, sincere Americans) vote for him.
    Hey Boudin - Clarke Tucker will have the best chance against Hill if he follows the Connor Lamb template. But that would mean Tucker would have to embrace Trump's tax cuts, trade deals, environmental regulation rollbacks, and support the 2A. Regardless of how Tucker campaigns if people vote with their pocketbooks and blacks fail to turn out in big numbers because Tucker defeated the black candidate in the primary Hill will win regardless

  • GeneralMac
    March 20, 2018 at 10:12 a.m.

    PopMom says.........." Bernie Sanders would not have been elected "...

    TRUE !

    Also true what PopMom says about candidates who support raising taxes.

    I followed the early Democrat candidates in 1988 and watched a few Democrat debates.
    Every Democrat candidate was promising a lot and the moderator asked how they would pay for it. Dukakis and Gephart "beat around the bush" until the buzzer went off and then smiled. Bruce Babbitt, my candidate, said " taxes would have to be raised "
    The other candidates looked at him in mock horror knowing that statement had " cut his own throat".

    Even Barack HUSSEIN Obama, who blasted the Bush tax cuts, REFUSED to get rid of them and revert to the tax rates under Bill Clinton.

    Once the citizens get used to bigger paychecks $$$$$$$ due to the Trump tax cuts, no Democrat will suggest getting rid of the Trump tax cuts.

    They will preach what all they will give you but use that flimsy " tax the rich" like Barack HUSSEIN Obama uttered every day he was president.