by Max Brantley
I made a little fun yesterday of Sen. Jason "Elmer Gantry" Rapert for his presumptuousness. He presumes that all "good" Arkansans have values that mirror his own. As I noted, after declaring that support for medical marijuana was contrary to "Conway values" Rapert nonetheless got a lot of votes, maybe a number approaching his winning margin, from people who voted both for Rapert and for medical marijuana.
More along that line today from Michael Tilley, a business conservative who hasn't yet taken leave of his senses and who oversees The City Wire, which covers news in Northwest Arkansas from a Fort Smith base.
That the historically politically conservative region that stretches from Fort Smith up through to Bentonville voted for a tax increase and favored the medicinal use of marijuana is proof that the Arkansas voter does not cleanly fit in any political category.
Combined, voters in the geographically connected counties of Benton, Crawford, Sebastian and Washington counties supported the half cent sales tax increase for highway improvements by a 57.8% to 42.2% margin. The tax plan was approved in all counties, with the widest margin in Sebastian County at 58.85% voting for the measure.
... Combined, the proposal to allow medical marijuana was supported by 51.5% in the four counties. However, the measure failed in Benton County (47.4% for, 52.2% against) and Crawford County (47.7% for, 52.6% against).
As it turned out, Sebastian and Crawford counties will receive none of the $1.548 billion in special project funding the tax will create. The central Arkansas area is estimated to receive $648 million in special project funding, and Northwest Arkansas could get $375 million.
Local governments will receive some steady money from the tax for roads and streets, however.
Tilley quotes a political consultant who says Republicans will have to continue to run hard right to win primaries and then try to moderate a bit if they face Democratic opposition. The next question is whether voters will notice that, unless history is upended, virtually all the successful Republicans will then vote hard right in the legislature, as their party mandates. An organized Democratic Party best be ready to advertise that two-faced approach, lest it slide further into irrelevancy.
Democrat Will Watson also asks in the article:
“What happens for Republicans in Arkansas when Barack Obama is no longer on the ballot in Arkansas?”
Republicans, living in the moment as most politicians and ordinary people do, would say they'll worry about that in 2016.