Like more and more people every day, I am a political independent. I always have been. I've never registered to vote as either a Democrat or Republican and have always voted for the person, not the party.
Given the current state of politics in America and Arkansas, this is becoming more and more important with every election.
This year, in 2022, I will be voting in the Republican primary because that is where the vast majority of important decisions will be made. And this is the primary reason I got involved with the new group Common Ground Arkansas.
Common Ground is a local organization, founded last year by state Sen. Jim Hendren, that is trying to encourage and support the election of more reasonable individuals, willing to reach compromise on the important issues impacting Arkansans.
I lent my support to Common Ground, and became a board member, because I believe strongly that what it is trying to accomplish is very important to the future of our state.
I believe hyperpartisanship and a refusal to try and find common ground, from both ends of the political spectrum, is destroying democracy in America. Continuing to have people run either as far to the left to get the Democrat nomination or as hard to the right to get the Republican nomination must stop.
I have been involved in Arkansas politics one way or another for 50-plus years, much of that time working for my uncle, the late Dale Bumpers, whom I would personally describe as a moderate.
But I have never registered by party and, in fact, in 1966 got my start in politics working for John Paul Hammerschmidt, a Republican, in his first race for Congress. Back in those days, politics was much more civilized, and defined as "the art of compromise."
What happened? Unfortunately, politics became so mean and nasty that most politicians these days, after being elected, won't even talk to each other, much less try to work together to solve problems that will benefit their constituents.
We all must do whatever we can to try and get back to electing problem-solvers who will work across the aisle, forge compromises and get things done.
That is what Common Ground is trying to accomplish. Compromise should not be a dirty word. And politics should, once again, become the art of compromise.
Because Arkansas has become such a "red state" in the past decade, most of the important decisions about who will end up representing us in the state Legislature will be made in the Republican primary on May 24, less than two weeks away. This year, I will vote in that primary, and I encourage everyone reading this to do so.
Just to remind everyone, Arkansas is an "open primary state." Both parties hold their primary elections at the same time and at the same polling locations in each county. When you walk in, they ask you if you want a Republican ballot or a Democrat ballot, and you get to choose.
Arkansas does not require party registration, so regardless of whether you have registered as a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or none of the above, if you are a registered voter, you get to choose the ballot you want.
As I said, I will vote this year in the Republican primary and I hope others will, too. I will be trying to choose the person I think is the most reasonable individual, who will put problem-solving above party loyalty, and I hope other Arkansans will do the same thing.
Both the Republican and Democrat parties hate this idea because it diminishes the importance of parties, but it will help benefit the state and its people, not either party. After all, isn't that what we should all be interested in?
For the next 10 days or so, please listen carefully to what the candidates are saying, read everything you can about where they stand on the issues, and vote for the person you think will most likely put problem-solving over support for either party and instead try to find the common ground that will benefit our state and all its people.
Archie Schaffer III of Fayetteville is a lifelong Arkansan, former chief of staff to Dale Bumpers when he was governor and senator and a member of the Board of Directors of Common Ground Arkansas.