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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Cynical, or simply realistic?

by John Brummett | November 9, 2022 at 4:05 a.m.

The best Democratic candidate imaginable for Arkansas, where a Democratic candidate is hardly a thing, asked me mid-campaign how I got so cynical. I said I was realistic.

Chris Jones--smart, accomplished, personable, hardworking, a preacher talking love, faith and positivity--said we simply would have to disagree on terms.

I got it. He and his base had to keep their spirits up to make the noble try. A newspaperman knowing better and saying so was a drag.

The answer to his question, definition of terms aside, is the simple matter of a decade's consistent election returns in suburban and rural Arkansas. I watch these returns every two years, and they say the same thing, with incrementally more force.

And I say each election evening, as if I hadn't said it before: Wow. My heavens. They sure do hate Democrats out there. National ones, to be precise, but the local ones pay the price of association.

It's like the case of the nice woman in rural Arkansas who got creamed as a Democratic state legislative candidate. Her good friend assailed her willingly associating with Satan by running on that banner.

A strong state or local Democratic candidate can win again in Arkansas only if and when there is a national Democratic Party with different leadership, more savvy and a more moderate and strategic focus. And the national Democratic Party is going the other way. And Arkansas is going the other-other way.

So, the scenario is rote by now: Last evening, the early voting totals from Pulaski County, the state's Democratic hotbed, were released just past 7:30, as usual. And they showed Jones leading Sarah Huckabee Sanders by 21,000 votes, by a 63-35 margin.

Big whoop.

Take a walk with me through the counties immediately abutting Pulaski.

Within minutes, with enough votes cast to establish the trend, Sanders was getting 68 percent over toward Benton and Bryant; 62 percent up toward Conway; 75 percent up the way to Searcy, and 80 percent down toward Sheridan.

Now venture with me north. Sanders was getting 75 percent on up to Batesville; 77 percent in the Melbourne area, and the same in Marion County, and even 74 east to Wynne where there is significant Black vote.

It's the same in Lower Arkansas. It's different only in a few eastern Delta counties with heavy Black votes, and it's competitive in Washington County because of Fayetteville.

A couple of lessons that shouldn't ever have been unlearned were re-learned this election: Yard signs don't make a darn. Jones had a bunch. Yard signs don't take Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi off your back.

And a few missives to me from conservative friends reporting that they rather resent Sanders' haughtiness and think they'll vote for Jones ... they don't make a darn either.

This is not a micro political situation in Arkansas. It's macro.

But then there is the exception. There is always an exception, especially in Arkansas. It is that, if you take the national Democratic burden out of the debate and let people think independently and specifically on an issue, they can do all right.

At this writing Tuesday evening, with nothing yet clinched, it appeared possible that Arkansas voters would adjudge all four proposed constitutional amendments the affronts that they were.

Voters were speaking fairly clearly against the proposal for the Legislature to be able to call itself into special session, as well as the one to say the people couldn't amend the state Constitution except by a 60 percent majority.

They even at this point were voting against a supposed advancement in freedom of religion, though that lead was dwindling to iffy status.

Either way, many voters apparently were aware that the proposal was a grandstand move to impose supposedly super-duper religious liberty in Arkansas plugging the holes the U.S. Constitution supposedly leaves.

And the proposed legalization of marijuana was trailing significantly, which would be too bad except that the amendment was a self-interest scheme of medical marijuana insiders and would have expunged no criminal records for simple possession.

One other thing: I went on record predicting that Jones would get to 41 percent. At this writing he's at 36 percent, maybe to rise a bit when Pulaski's election-day vote gets added.

I got caught up in the enthusiasm of a Democratic candidate who wasn't cynical, and that of supporters who weren't realistic.

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

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