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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Our best, and only, hope

by John Brummett | September 7, 2022 at 3:51 a.m.

Once I was giving a talk to an Arkansas Democratic group and advised those listening simply to be righteous so that their partisan affiliation might actually mean something.

Maybe I was effectively urging them to be independents.

My example on that occasion years ago was that Democratic legislators had enough votes to block the necessary three-fourths majority vote to appropriate money to re-up the private-option form of Medicaid expansion as sought by then-newcomer Republican governor Asa Hutchinson.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's administration had improbably passed it in what were Beebe's final gubernatorial days.

Hutchinson was nobly trying to save the Obamacare program even more improbably, and had big challenges getting that done in his own party.

Vote for it, I urged of Democrats, because the point of public service is to do good things for people. Hutchinson was willing to do that on Medicaid expansion even if he was throwing in a small chunk or two of red meat for right-wingers to try to bring a few along.

If Arkansas Democratic legislators had played politics with the issue in the prevailing style of congressional politics--which, admirably, they didn't--then they would have objected to some change made by Hutchinson's bill and voted against Medicaid expansion on that basis, leaving it hanging.

By the prevailing Washington method, Democrats would have availed themselves of imperfection in Hutchinson's revised re-up as an excuse for opposition disguising the real purpose, which would have been partisan advantage in blaming the Republican governor and Legislature for failed enactment.

That would have threatened Republicans' political standing by restricting the state budget, forcing the closure of rural hospitals and, lest I forget, denying medical aid to poor people, though that probably would have been the least of it in terms of Arkansas political effect.

Speaking of righteousness and partisanship, there is the matter of Joe Biden's speech from Philadelphia the other evening.

Biden is a righteous man and highly partisan man. Needing on that occasion to give us only the former, he wrapped it up all in the latter.

Biden's widely televised speech was in one part a matter of presidential urgency. The loser in the last presidential race has defiled the American electoral process to say without shred of evidence that he was cheated out of victory. That loser defied the nation's treasured and vital rule of law by riling violent extremists against court rulings he lost time after time. He mobilized those extremists to attack the U.S. Capitol and try to stop the constitutional process of election certification.

Now he threatens to run again on the basis that he was cheated by a corrupt America, adding that he'll pardon those convicted of crimes in the attack on the Capitol. He is an outside threat to win because his base might deliver repeated pluralities in GOP presidential primaries and Republicans always hold an unfair advantage in the Electoral College by which, twice already this century, they have installed a president despite his getting fewer popular votes than the Democrat.

All of that presents a genuinely urgent threat to the nation that compels a president to deliver a televised address to try to rally the people to recognize and resist that real threat.

Biden did that in his address, and did it fairly well. He appropriately emphasized that he wasn't talking about all Republicans. He's managed to work with a handful of congressional Republicans to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a modest gun bill.

But Biden couldn't help himself. With the TV audience at his disposal, he shifted gears to the partisan section of his remarks. He delivered a convention-worthy litany of accomplishments by the White House and congressional Democrats, and a promise of better things to come from them.

Please understand that, no matter what Biden had said, Republicans would have faulted him for partisanship. But all he and Democrats could hope to do in the face of that rhetoric was make sure it wasn't true.

Truth, righteousness--somebody might begin to notice that kind of thing eventually. It's our best if not only hope.

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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