Brummett Online

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Lessons from further south


People wonder if Sarah Sanders is in political trouble owing to her attacks on freedom of information and growing public curiosities about the price and procurement of that lectern.

My answer, based on nothing other than informed pessimism, is that a Republican cannot get unpopular enough in this part of the country to get at risk of losing to a Democrat.

You would need much more than lectern intrigue and huffy secrecy to get lower than a liberal in Arkansas and surrounding jurisdictions, defined by abortion, gender, sexuality, undocumented immigrants, race, spending, and the general culture.

Fox News stays on auto-play in Arkansas, and the network is hard on Joe Biden but silent on lecterns and the freedom of government information, especially in remote provinces.

You will not go broke betting on Republicans to cover the spread in the Southeastern Conference.

You will hear in every election that some Democrat has a chance against French Hill. Or you will hear that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones might get to 42 percent. Then Hill flits back to Congress and Jones gets 35 percent.

Then local Democrats fill their void of vital sustaining optimism by deciding Sarah is in trouble.

We should let Louisiana be a lesson to us.

Louisiana is Arkansas with more blatant vices, spicier food, richer culture, and less frustrating college football. And what happened down there Saturday in politics was a clear and pronounced example of regional reality.

For a short while longer, Louisiana will remain the only Southern state with a Democratic governor. But John Bel Edwards is term limited.

In eight years as a conservative Democratic governor, he managed to get Medicaid expansion accepted but only because he went along with such cultural conservative requisites as opposition to abortion.

There are those who say he won only because a lot of voters thought he was Edwin Edwards or a relative thereof.

In Louisiana, they do things differently. One way is having an all-comer open primary with the top two performers going to the general election, assuming no one gets 50 percent-plus in the first go-round.

On Saturday, with 14 candidates on the ballot including several Republicans and one consolidated Democratic option endorsed by Edwards, one of the Republicans, Attorney General Jeff Landry, won the governorship outright with 51.6 percent. He was a Trump-endorsed culture warrior railing against everything from dirty books to mask and vaccine mandates.

So, that is done. The leading Republican candidate beat the vast field.

The consolidated Democratic choice, state transportation director Shawn Wilson, who is Black and was endorsed by Edwards, got 26 percent. An outside group attacked him with advertising calling him "Biden's buddy."

Altogether, Republicans got 66.5 percent and Democrats got 28.5, with independents getting the rest.

Voter turnout was 36.5 percent. Political consultants say people are so sick of Washington right now they do not even want to consider politics.

Democrats like to say they would do better if they could get all the people who do not care enough to vote to go to the polls. I am not sure they have thought through the implication of that.

The Black turnout was uncommonly low even with a Black candidate on the ballot for governor. The reason is not clear. All we know is that it is simply another factor to toss on the pile of Democratic ineptitude in the South, as is the following: There is talk in Louisiana that the Democrats saved money for the runoff general election Nov. 18. That is the one they are not going to have now on account of the Republican winning it all the first go-round.

Let us close, then, with a final advisory regarding Arkansas: It is entirely possible, even likely, that a group, perhaps Talk Business and Politics along with Hendrix College, will soon publish a poll showing Sanders with a plummeted approval rating and a rising negative rating.

It will not mean anything. It is lucky for her that she does not have to run against her powerful bad side. She gets to run against a Democrat in the South.

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 feed on X, formerly Twitter.