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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: If that's the future ...

by John Brummett | July 7, 2021 at 3:01 a.m.

Speaking of gloom, a little item showed up last week on the Associated Press wire about Asa Hutchinson supposedly being a relic and Donald Trump the future.

It seemed to pit the Ronald Reagan conservatism from which Hutchinson came of age--smiling, business-friendly, evangelically religious, growth-oriented, tax-cutting, military-expanding and Tip O'Neill-fraternizing--against contemporary Trumpism's scowls, resentments, general mean-spiritedness and cultural hostility toward anything or anyone different.

The article, reported and written by local AP man Andrew DeMillo, was mainly about Hutchinson's growing national profile as a Republican in the Reagan mold daring to speak publicly of the party's need to cast Trump aside for a more moderate and pragmatic message that could re-engage voters inclined to conservatism but disinclined to Trump's persona.

You could argue that those were the very voters who decided the presidential race last year. They voted against Trump and against Nancy Pelosi. Victory in American politics rests with ticket-splitters.

Seeking a countering view to Hutchinson's in Arkansas Republicanism, DeMillo needed to look no further than state Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado, a Tom Cotton disciple and huffy scowler in the Trump-Cotton mold.

Garner told the reporter that what Hutchinson has done for the last 40 years "isn't how the party is going to succeed moving forward." He called Hutchinson "a relic of the past" and Trump "the bold new future of the Arkansas Republican Party."

The choice is as simple as Hutchinson's welcoming nature seeking economic growth within a generally conservative culture--a dynamic that's contributed to booming economies from Texas to greater Atlanta to greater Phoenix--versus Garner's grouchy old-man attitude standing its ground toward anybody coming up the front walk.

In Garner's conservatism, Walmart and Tyson Foods can stuff their support for a hate-crimes bill and their opposition to legislation denying transgender medical services to minors--indeed all their notions of "inclusivity" and "diversity" to adapt to the changing world.

In Garner's conservatism, it's good news that California has decreed that its state government officials may not travel in their official capacities to Arkansas as well as a few other states because of our discriminatory policies.

Garner posted on Twitter: "I'm personally thrilled that the California government won't be coming here. With rolling blackouts, an exploding crime rate and a massive homelessness problem, I don't think we should risk having people who are so terrible at governing in our state."

I'll let a commentator there in Garner's Lower Arkansas region--Mike MacNeil of the online advertising-supported news site called magnoliareporter.com--respond to Garner's good-riddance attitude regarding California.

He wrote last week in his column: "We'll point out that California is still at or near the top in almost every economic ranking that matters. Arkansas is near the bottom. Union County residents will back us when we claim that our neighbors lose power every time the wind blows, and for much longer than the impact of a rolling blackout. We encourage Trent to spend a day visiting circuit court if he believes South Arkansas' crime rate is steady or declining. He can talk with the Salvation Army in El Dorado for insight into homelessness. Nothing comes to mind that suggests leadership from the senator involving power grid infrastructure, crime or homelessness. Given the relative size of the economies, Arkansas needs visitors and guests from California a whole lot more than California needs Arkansans."

California's restricting official taxpayer-subsidized government travel to Arkansas because of Arkansas' mean-spirited politics is its own divisiveness. It's not a major development. California government officials weren't needing to come here much anyway.

But Garner's wanting to stoke that division for the jollies of resentment politics is typically pointless. It has nothing to do with improving Arkansas.

Arkansas conservatives need to decide fast which brand of conservatism better serves their interests--Hutchinson's pro-business moderation and pragmatism or Garner's yelling for anyone disagreeing with him to get off his Arkansas lawn.

Hutchinson is term-limited and the two Republican candidates to replace him--Sarah Sanders and Leslie Rutledge--are Garner-like Trumpers.

We're months away from a new state motto saying "keep out unless you love Trump."

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

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