Social-media sites exploded with posts last week declaring that the national Republican selection of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders to deliver the response to President Biden's State of the Union address tonight would be ennobling or embarrassing for Arkansas.
Posts argued that it clearly would go one way or the other. In fact, though, it will go neither. Arkansas will wake to sameness Wednesday and remain so indefinitely. It's deeply provincial and laughably partisan to think otherwise.
No state in modern time has been identified or affected in reputation or economic performance by a single political figure of personal national profile or ambition happening to be from there.
Otherwise, George McGovern would have rendered South Dakota more frigidly desolate than it was already; Jimmy Carter would have dried up suburban and exurban expansion around Atlanta, and Arkansas would be seen as a giant trailer park where everyone is uncommonly horny, which either isn't so or was the case long before Bill Clinton's drawers dropped in the Oval Office.
We had this argument in 1992 in Arkansas as Clinton rose toward the American presidency. People in the state were saying that it would enhance Arkansas' reputation--and deliver us more federal-program money for a super-colliding super-conductor, or something--if Clinton won.
I said poppycock, and I was right.
Clinton went on to distinguish himself for all of history for competence largely squandered to sexual overdrive and a famous pronouncement that he hadn't had sex with a young thong-clad woman whose name briefly evaded him but with whom it turned out he'd had some physical entangling quite clearly approximating sex.
Thirty years later, he's a New York-based citizen of the world and Arkansas has turned upside down in a Fox News takeover and utter rejection of the politics with which he was and is associated. It's like he never existed.
As president, he propounded a new "third way" of politics, produced a budget surplus and declared the era of big government over. Now we're mired in unprecedented two-way polarization and dysfunction and more deeply in debt and awash in centralized federal governance and dependence than ever.
As governor, he said he was making generational reforms in our schools. Now, tonight's nationally televised Republican responder to Biden says those schools have failed and that we must winnow them out by paying taxpayer money to send our kids to unregulated private and church schools.
Then, and even more now, politics is of the moment and only about the ambition of the individual politician as it relates to the prevailing political mood of the moment. Tonight's moment will matter mostly to Sanders, not at all to Arkansans who probably won't be watching, and be widely forgotten in a matter of hours.
Somebody help me here: Who gave the Republican response to Biden's State of the Union address last year and what kind of reputational and economic advancement or embarrassment has taken place since in the state that that person happened to sleep in most nights? Anybody?
Let's look it up. Here it is: Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa gave that response. You remember it well, don't you? And she's now nationally famous and Iowa is forever transformed. Right?
Well, let's check that. Here it is, the first thing showing up on Google is a headline that Iowa is expected to experience "a shallow economic downturn" in 2023.
Oh, dear. Was Governor Reynolds' speech that bad? Let's look that up.
Here it is: She said Biden painted a falsely rosy picture and that he had failed as president. She griped about mask mandates and said Republicans were showing the nation real leadership that would be reflected in the 2022 midterms, which would explain U.S. Sens. Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz, and Gov. Kari Lake.
May I hazard a safe prediction? It is that Sanders will say tonight that Biden had just painted a falsely rosy picture and failed the country and that Republicans were showing leadership that would be reflected in the presidential election in 2024. She might also make reference to "radical liberal agenda." I'm also pre-hearing something about a crisis at an open border.
States aren't much identified anymore for anything other than being red, blue or purple. Fox ratings define places, and places are identified mostly by their membership in regions of established and overwhelming political predilection.
In that culture, Sanders' remarks tonight will be popular in red chunks, unpopular in blue ones and dismissed as partisan claptrap in purple spots, but, more generally, unwatched and unremembered.
There is one momentary bit of relevant political analysis to be offered. It is favorable to Sanders' political deftness.
She was chosen for tonight's assignment because Republicans nationally are overwhelmingly moved to the resentment right and divided only by whether they will prefer Donald Trump's personal-ego resentment or Ron DeSantis' own-the-libs resentment.
And there is no one right now in national Republican politics as ambidextrous as Sanders in being both a Trump puppet and a DeSantis one.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.