by Max Brantley
John Brummett says Rep. Marion Berry was tired of the grind. He predicts the First District will remain Democratic despite his announced retirement. But that doesn't mean broader political currents aren't running strong in Arkansas.
Most likely this seat will remain Democratic. Even Republicans begrudgingly admit that. The region has not been represented by a Republican since Reconstruction, which is not to say stranger things haven’t happened. The district did, after all, favor John McCain over Barack Obama by 20 points.
The biggest theme right now in Arkansas, the 1st District aside, is a potential seminal shift. It’s an angry mood nationwide for incumbents, yes. But it seems potentially a little more than that in Arkansas.
It’s as if the perception of the Obama tilt of the national Democratic Party has threatened the comfortable conservative Democratic culture of the state. The extreme right in Arkansas is galvanized; the center is defensive; the left is irrelevant.
It begins with U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s extraordinary vulnerability, which has to do with Obama, and its domino effect.
I grant you that things have gotten worse. But Obama led the ticket in Arkansas in 2008. He got thrashed. Democrats still did pretty well. Obama will not be on the ticket in 2010 (except as a spectral presence of doom). But still, not on the ticket. Count your small blessings.