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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Lost in Trumpland

by John Brummett | May 6, 2021 at 2:59 a.m.

A liberal group called the Southern Progress Fund conducted a poll of more than 1,300 people in Arkansas late last month.

The findings on voter attitudes on topical Arkansas legislative issues were influenced--pushed, I'd say--by the phrasing of the questions. That's a common practice that can be instructive to partisan interest, providing tactically helpful data rather than a snapshot's accuracy.

But I didn't write about them.

Now, though, I see from the Arkansas Times blog that the poll also sought basic favorable-unfavorable ratings for assorted state and national politicians and groups. A simple like or dislike reaction from voters based simply on the presentation of a name--that's a different, credible and relevant number.

It's even more significant that findings showing the utterly overpowering popularity of Trump and Trumpism in Arkansas would be produced in a poll ordered up by a group leaning to liberals and Democrats.

So, I'm going to tell you about those favorable-unfavorable ratings.

They support what I've been telling you--that Arkansas is lost to Trumpland, totally given over to the mad insurrectionist; that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be your next governor, taking control of the state to operate it as an outpost for the next insurrection; that standing in opposition to Trumpism is harmful to the Republican politicians who dare even a little; that the "D" for Democrat is toxic in the state no matter the individual, and that no movement is evident yet toward an independent gubernatorial option that gets between Trump extremism and national Democratic liberalism.

Basically, Arkansas is with the criminals who invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, in spirit if not method.

A plain truth is made no less true by the tragedy and sadness of it.

Let's begin here: The most popular politicians in Arkansas right now according to this liberal group's survey are Sanders and her creator and puppeteer, Donald Trump.

Sanders has a 57 percent favorable rating and 34 percent unfavorable one. Trump has a 60 percent approval rating--again, please note that's 60 percent appreciation for a man who assaulted our national democratic republic--and 37 percent unfavorable.

More interesting are some of the other ratings, such as Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's.

No one has worked harder than Rutledge to align with Trump and Trump positions. Yet she shows up at 29-33 in her favorable-to-unfavorable rating, reflecting both that using public money to build her name identification with public- service announcements didn't much work and that her position as the Republican gubernatorial opponent of Sanders is no safe place to be.

She needs to drop out of the governor's race--get out of the way of Sanders' coronation--and run for lieutenant governor in a field in which she might not be the worst candidate. That's because state Sen. Jason Rapert and former state GOP chairman Doyle Webb are in the race.

Consider now the ratings of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, long blessed with solidly good numbers in Arkansas but lately fashioning a national reputation for resistance to Trump. In this poll, Hutchinson's favorability rating is but 31 percent and his unfavorable 52.

Maybe his pandemic management and legislative battles contributed to that. But you have to think he's paying a price for daring to cross the Arkansas-exalted madman. Asa had best not be counting on the Arkansas primary if he runs for the Republican presidential nomination.

For that matter, neither should U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a raging hard-right conservative and solid Trump attachment, except for that one time--a mere one time--when he accepted his constitutional responsibility to confirm the certified results of the presidential race. His positive-negative rating is 41-47.

And poor Mitch McConnell is at 15-56, not entirely because the Senate majority leader spoke critically of Trump's insurrectionist deportment, but surely partly.

The Republican Party's rating is 50-39. The Democratic Party's rating is 28-63. And that goes for all Democrats. Joe Biden's rating is 31-63. And get this: Bill Clinton's is 24-63. Our favorite son is not anymore.

The poll also threw in state Sen. Jim Hendren, who notably switched this winter from the republicanism of his lifetime to being an independent. He also founded a group, Common Ground Arkansas, interested in advancing independent-minded candidates devoted to civil problem-solving. He also has pondered running as an independent for governor.

It turns out he's not known except to a few and most of those don't like him. His favorable rating is 7 and his unfavorable 12.

The conclusion is simple and clear: The extremist unconstitutional legislating of the recent session and the oddity of a candidate for governor of Arkansas campaigning not in Arkansas but nationally, saying nothing of Arkansas issues and everything about national ones--that's what Arkansas voters want and like.

Arkansas is a little spot on the map snugly in the hip pocket of an insurrectionist. And likes it there.


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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