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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Sarah at full speed

by John Brummett | January 17, 2023 at 4:19 a.m.


It only seems I'm obsessing on Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

What's happened is that she has hit the ground running at full speed as Arkansas governor. Backward, mostly. So, I'm merely hustling to try to keep up. Surely Sanders will soon decelerate, permitting me to write about other news.

For that matter, all that's happening otherwise is that Washington politicians are taking us to the brink again on agreeing to keep paying on what they've already borrowed; two strange old men have been found out having classified documents at their homes, and U.S. House Republicans are excited about pleasuring themselves with passage of resentment-born legislation that will go nowhere in the Senate much less achieve a presidential signature or overridden veto.

The latest in Sanders' newsmaking flurry is that she has fired five commissions Asa Hutchinson set up to advise him on covid policy. She said covid ain't all that.

It's not the worst thing she's done. Picking on the gays, slandering educators and diminishing history education compete for that.

If she inherits her predecessor's advisory panels that she doesn't want or think she needs, then it's her prerogative to do away with then. If another pandemic comes along, she can tragically downplay that without help from any of Asa's people.

The development does demonstrate--again--the difference between Sanders' cookie-cutter national conservatism and Hutchinson's state-based independent thinking and pragmatic conservativism.

Arkansas is just any other deep-red state now, whereas, before, we had a Republican governor who led us in being mildly different from, and mildly better than, that.

Arkansas once was a cussedly independent Southern state that could produce Bill Clinton. Until the other day, it was a unique Southern state that could produce a Trump-resistant Republican governor. Now, with Sanders, we're just another red blotch on the map.

I'll offer a prediction: At some point Hutchinson will have a tiny fleeting moment in the sun in Iowa in his presidential fantasy, leading the national press to do articles on him as a flavor of the week. These profiles will include comments from Sanders dictated by her dad and brother--Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis--about what a wimpy liberal mess Asa left her in Arkansas.

I can see her quoted comment now: "The first thing I had to do was clean up after the last guy because all he seemed to want to do was win the approval of liberals. And I don't think that makes him the man to clean up after Joe Biden."

Right-wing rhetoric is easy and fun. You just combine one part flippancy and no part thought.

Meantime, a rhetorically clever reader of a left-wing persuasion sent me an email saying it seemed to him, from Sanders' executive order on ending supposed indoctrination in our public schools, that she would have to shut down the museum across the street from Little Rock Central that details the racist infamy on that property in 1957.

Sanders is part of that tactical modern Republican refrain that libels history teachers by saying they are trying to turn our children against America by telling them that America has a racist past with lingering effects, which is indisputable.

Of course the Central museum is a federal property and Sarah is merely governor of Arkansas. She can't shut down a federal institution, even though she has said repeatedly that her job as governor is to protect Arkansas from its federal government.

Let me make clear: I do not think that Sanders will stand in any museum door and cause another federal-state stare-down at Central High in Little Rock. I simply submit that she doesn't understand, or perhaps care, that her boilerplate jargon, if taken seriously as something other than pandering and demagoguery, sounds like she might.

And then there was her tweet late last week saying: "Under my leadership, schools will teach reading, writing, math, and science--and our children will learn that the identity that truly matters is the one we all share: our identity as children of God and citizens of the United States of America."

Did you notice that she left out history?

While some people are concerned about her assertion in that tweet that our schools should teach kids they are children of God--considering that there are other views in our free culture and that religion should be kept separate from the state if the First Amendment matters any more--I am confident Sanders' executive order against indoctrination by teachers would put the quietus on any of that.

Religion instruction is for parents, Sunday School teachers, preachers and other personal influencers and inspirations. Indoctrination exists in forms other than liberal indoctrination, and educators shouldn't engage in it in any form.

Sanders indeed has hit the ground running. She got going so fast that she issued an executive order and violated it in the space of a few hours.


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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