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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Beware the scary liberals

by John Brummett | June 17, 2021 at 2:54 a.m.

It's a 30-second ad posted only on Facebook by a new super-PAC.

It looks like a cookie-cutter ad. It invokes the events of Jan. 6 and warns of Trumpists seeking offices around the country. Then it plugs in the specific context of Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas. It could be adapted to attack any agent of Donald Trump running anywhere.

Sanders responded to it--or her campaign did--by scoffing at this work of the extreme Democratic left. These people attacking her through this super-PAC, a Sanders' campaign spokesman said, are "allies" of Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris and Chuck Schumer.

The signal sent by Sanders' response is more interesting than the ad.

The spot attacks her for being an agent of Trump, her hero, the man who spawned her as a potent Arkansas gubernatorial candidate. Yet she responds not by defending or bragging about her full Trumpian immersion. She responds instead in code about fear of the liberals.

I am telling you: Sanders is a hardened political operative and she knows her campaign essence is invoking fear of national Democratic liberalism, not hip-attachment to Trump. They love her out there in the Arkansas hustings because they saw her on the TV standing up to the evil liberals and those mean old reporters.

So, there is more to be gained in Arkansas from stoking fear of Hillary, Kamala and Schumer than by invoking intimacy with Trump, which, actually, can reach a point of diminishing advantage.

That could happen if her local detractors successfully advance the case that she's non-meritorious in her own right, merely an agent using Arkansas for someone else's broader purpose. And that's precisely what this ad seeks to say.

The ad is an eye-twitch in an Arkansas Democratic Party long in a coma. It is an attempt to start early on the message of Sanders as a national Trumpian lieutenant, not a devoted Arkansas governor.

To the extent that Sanders is not fully defined already, the ad seeks to influence that definition by throwing a few body punches while the beleaguered Arkansas Democrats ponder how and with whom to oppose her.

Is this new super-PAC really the work of agents of that evil national Democratic trio?

Well, this is American politics in 2021. Pristine truth thus is not available.

The super-PAC, calling itself Liberty and Justice for Arkansas, is said to have presented the ad with a single Arkansas donor, identity undisclosed, and to now be interested in grass-roots fundraising exclusively within Arkansas.

But let's say an officer of the PAC once worked for the presidential campaign of Amy Klobuchar. And let's say Klobuchar is a Democratic U.S. senator. That means Klobuchar is allied with her majority leader, Schumer. She also once was in a Senate caucus with Harris, who remains the president of the Senate as vice president. And maybe Klobuchar once was at a reception with Hillary.

So, there you have it. This ad is the work of "allies" of hated national leftists.

That's true enough for political work, particularly when you'd rather say that than defend or embrace Trump or respond directly to the ad's images of the scruffy Trump insurrectionists smashing windows at the U.S. Capitol.

The poll from Talk Business and Politics and Hendrix College showing Sanders' approval-disapproval rating in the state to be 43-41 demonstrates there is ground to be plowed by the message of this Democratic ad.

Her response demonstrates that she knows she will grow that 43 percent less by hugging Trump than by attacking Hillary, Kamala, Chuck and, next time, surely, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and maybe even AOC.

This is Arkansas politics 2021. The state is deeply disconnected culturally and politically from the style and perceived substance of prominent national Democrats from California and New York. Republicans are running roughshod over Arkansas not on their own merit but by invoking that deep disconnection.

Trump merely inherited this fear-driven base. But he knew how to stoke its zealous resentments, and was not shy about it. Then he got the opportunity to impose a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

From that we get the Sanders juggernaut, reaping the benefit of the association more by stoking the fear than extolling the man ... unless she's at a fundraiser he's throwing for her.

I'm figuring Sanders will decline to debate her Democratic opponent next year and choose instead to square off with cardboard cutouts of those scary national Democrats.

And if that doesn't happen literally, it's already the whole game metaphorically.


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.

Print Headline: Beware the scary liberals

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