Third Party & Independents Archives

Swing State: Arkansas

So where does one begin with talking about Arkansas politics this close to November 2nd? It seems as if my area is the abandoned undecided state at this point in the presidential election. I guess our six electoral votes are just peanuts compared to other places like California.

Looking at the situation with a little humor though, I think Arkansas could use an Operation Pulaski County, which mirrors the Guardian’s Operation Clark County. It angered many Ohioans just last week. Can anyone imagine the southern response returned from many Arkansans when hundreds of Europeans e-mail them in an attempt to put the election in a world perspective? I don’t think the phrase “southern hospitality” would be considered feasible in that case, do you?

When writing opinion about Arkansas politics it is a good idea to consider some of the factors that have an effect on the population. On one hand, some call us the buckle of the Bible Belt. Veins of Southern Christianity run through here like rivers. With that comes a pro-life and anti-gay marriage sentiment (and also see a lot of cheesy bumper stickers). On the other hand, issues like firearms are a factor as well. NRA agendas are huge in some of the Arkansas cities where the number of guns out scores the citizens. The folks for the NRA are not the only kooks we have in the state though. We’ve even held the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan at one point. It’s an embarrassing and archaic accomplishment, I know, but it still deserves noting. The fact is that the 2000 census showed Arkansas as coming in at about 80% white, and 49% male. Those are some good numbers as far as Bush support goes (not that I’m saying all evil sheet wearing rednecks vote for Bush). The real kicker is that there has been a lot of job loss in the state in the last few years. While dozens of major factories close down and work shifts over seas, it is safe to say outsourcing is a big concern for Arkansans.

Bush somehow carried Arkansas in 2000 of course, but the question is whether or not he can do the same this time around. Though state polls show Bush ahead at the moment, we have swung back and forth so much lately that it merits an accusation of flip-flopping (we voted for Bush, before we voted against him). All and all, the debates went well for Bush here. There are a lot of red counties in Arkansas. When I look at the county-by-county breakdown of the 2000 election results I start to relate to Joaquin Phoenix and his fear of “the bad color” in the Village. With all of the issues resonating through the political culture here, it is hard to tell how much of that will change this time around.

As far as the left goes, activists like Michael Moore have come to Arkansas to help campaign for John Kerry, but the state Democrats have spent more time trying to take Ralph Nader off of the ballot than to promote their candidate. Their efforts failed and many of the fence sitters considering Kerry fell off into voter oblivion in the midst of a disgusting attack on democracy. Nader is still only polling about 2% at the moment, but at least he is safely on the ballot. The usual bands of outlaws are on the ballot here in the state as well. We got the Greens, the Libertarians, and candidates from the Constitution party. The buzz is not strong for third parties and independents here in Arkansas though. They are lucky to get on the ballot at all. All third party and independent candidates combined got less than 4% of the votes in 2000. They won’t do much better this time around I’m afraid. We are still an undecided state, whether Kerry and Bush care or not. There is just too much fear about spoilers and wasted votes to build many grassroots movements.

The Senate race in Arkansas is pretty clear-cut. Republican Jim Holt is challenging democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln for her national seat but the big names and big money flowing from the Republican Party are absent in this race. The polls show Lincoln great favor. She is ahead by as much as 28 points in some polls and is considered by most sources as a shoe in. We are a state with two of two Senate seats held by Democrats. Don’t look for a senate change this time around. The Congressional race is catching little or no buzz itself. With so little buzz I expect there to be no change of seats in Congress either. We have three Democrats and one Republican there in the house.

There are several state constitutional amendments up for a vote in November. One of interest to most people will be Amendment 3, known as “An Amendment Concerning Marriage”. This amendment seeks to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman (cue bumper stickers). This more feasible state level initiative has some on the left afraid it will bring a greater number of conservatives to the polls and aid President Bush. An October 15 Arkansas Democrat Gazette poll shows that 64.8% of Arkansans favor the amendment. This is such a hot topic that only a 2.7% chunk of the sample was undecided. That almost beats Bush’s undecided sliver.

To sum is all up I would ask for people not to look for seat changes as far as the U.S. House or Senate goes. There is just not much happening with respect to those areas. Grass roots movements seem dry and withered right now, and there is not a lot of cash flowing in from the major parties. The presidential election is still up for grabs though and it could fall to either of the strong candidates. If enough voters blame Bush for the job loss and outsourcing in Arkansas, then perhaps Kerry will win the state. If Kerry fails to look strong enough or Presidential enough (or if he gets shot by Karl Rove), then issues like gay-marriage, terrorism, and abortion will be the death of him. Isn’t it amazing how close the election is getting? I think we are all getting ready for it to be over, no matter which of the two strong parties comes out on top. I for one will give a sigh of relief.

Posted by Adam Ducker at October 26, 2004 9:41 PM