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I may be sleeping in the doghouse for revealing this, but my wife has a medical fascination with grotesque pimples, boils, etc. She is not alone. "Dr. Pimple Popper" has 4.2 million subscribers on YouTube. Her videos commonly get more than 20 million views, and now she has her own TV show. I don't get it, but for my wife and millions of others, it is entertaining and informative.

This somewhat unpleasant topic does provide a useful illustration for the corruption we recently uncovered in our state government. A boil is a bacterial infection of the skin that if untreated will grow and fester over time. Boils are disgusting to behold (stay with me here, I'm going somewhere with this), but never more so than when they are treated and drained.

Our state was controlled by one political party for 138 years. Over time, accountability and transparency disappeared into a vacuum that reached its pinnacle during the Clinton administration in Arkansas. Corruption permeated the entire system. Without some adversarial tension, without oversight, the path of least resistance, succumbing to temptation, became the norm.

The stench we are now experiencing is evidence the system that created and sustained the boil of corruption has been lanced. Arkansans have responded with understandable revulsion. The healing process appears ugly, and it stinks, but it has begun. While perfection in unattainable, we would be fools not to learn from the painful experiences we have endured.

Unlike Dr. Popper's fans who find value in the information she provides; the citizens of Arkansas experienced the revulsion of corruption without any compensatory benefits. If there is to be an upside to our recent governmental moral failures, it must be in our individual and collective responses. We let our guard down once and suffered a regrettable but predictable consequence.

I am reminded of an incident years ago. I met the brother of a good friend who had warned me, as an attorney, that his brother had "no use" for lawyers and politicians. When we shook hands, this stranger I had just met wiped his hand on his jacket. It was done in jest, but the gesture was not lost on me.

We know that power and money invite abuse. The neighbors we serve know that politicians and lawyers are often around both. It's no mystery why constituents are angry, pundits are cynical, and partisans attack opportunistically with a broad brush. Dishonest players in state government stink up the whole system and make us all seem guilty by association.

Recently I opined that "no one was benefiting from being in Little Rock." It was my admittedly clumsy way of saying that in my experience, I have not found the legislators in Little Rock to be routinely corrupt. Most are simply decent people trying to make a difference. Sadly, the dishonest few cast a shadow over all the rest.

These recent scandals show us that honesty is not enough. The air of power and money that public servants breathe requires more than honesty. It requires a diligence that looks for signs of trouble. Politics is a minefield that can obliterate the most honest among us.

With the help of God, I am personally resolved to go beyond merely being an honest man. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. As public servants, we must be proactive. Civility and collegiality are important, but we must never forget that our first loyalty is not to fellow legislators. Our allegiance is to the standards we profess, the people we serve and the Constitutions we swear to uphold.

Rep. Bob Ballinger of Berryville is serving his third term in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Editorial on 09/23/2018

Print Headline: Corruption, politics, and healing


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Archived Comments

  • 23cal
    September 23, 2018 at 7:55 a.m.

    Typical. A bunch of Republicans get busted, and he blames Democrats for the systemic existing corruption. This is clearly dishonest, and when he follows it with "Dishonest players in state government stink up the whole system and make us all seem guilty by association", it is hypocrisy as well.

  • WilliamWoodford
    September 23, 2018 at 10:37 a.m.

    Too much hyperpartisanship that ignores ideology in favor of party labels as well as recent history. During the suspension of democracy during Reconstruction it was the Republicans who were corrupt. While Democrats became ascendant after democracy was restored theirs was not a monolithic party but one in which factional disputes were settled in the primary. The revolution in Arkansas politics took place in the 1960s when liberal Democrats used the formerly Republican black vote to make Winthrop Rockefeller governor. Rockefeller may have been a Republican, but more imporantly, he was a LIBERAL. Having secured the black vote, the liberal Democrats took control of the party with the election of Dale Bumpers as governor in 1970. Thus Rep. Ballinger errs in attributing the Clinton era corruption to the pre-Rockefeller Democrats. Prior to then liberals assured us that they could rid our political culture of corruption, one of their numerous false assurances. The political history of this state has shown that we have suffered corruption under both parties and regardless of political philosophies.

  • TuckerMax
    September 23, 2018 at 11:41 a.m.

    Corruption during the Clinton Administration? Give us an example. Don't just say it and think nobody is asking what you're talking about. Corruption now? We just have to open the paper. And the legislature wants to control our right to a jury trial? I shudder to think of the Micheal Mortons of this state buying a few legislators to make this possible.

  • Foghorn
    September 23, 2018 at 1:43 p.m.

    Speaking of pus...that’s exactly what Ballinger spewed here today.