Columns » John Brummett

Behold the Republican comedy

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It's starting to look like a year of backlash against Democrats and sweep for Republicans. So we may as well sit back in Arkansas and enjoy the comedic gaffe-fest that is the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate nomination.

If there is any basis for thinking U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln might survive the toxic climate, it's that these are the yahoos presuming to replace her.

If the Republicans don't nominate state Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway, the only conventionally gifted politician in the current nine-man field, then they're nuts. And I write that knowing it hurts Baker with Republicans every time I say it. But I'm just telling the truth and letting the chips fall.

Only in this parallel Arkansas Republican universe could Baker be anything other than a hard-right conservative.

First you had gruff old Kim Hendren of Gravette trying to think of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer's name in a speech to a Pulaski County Republican group, and, unable, reaching to refer to Schumer as “that Jew” or “the Jew.”

Then you had preacher/businessman Curtis Coleman trying to explain the vast chasm between Republican-strong areas of our state and Democratic-strong ones, and ending up saying that you almost needed shots to go to Eastern Arkansas.

Then you had Coleman's campaign saying that Baker was just running for the Senate so that he could turn around and resign after four years and go for the job he really wanted, which was governor.

Then you had Baker explaining that that was some sort of ancient quip, and, after that, you had someone in Baker's campaign firing back that Coleman had tried to buy off Baker by offering him a highly remunerated campaign consultancy that left Gilbert feeling most uncomfortable.

Then you had Coleman's campaign saying that was no bribe.

So then we had probably the funniest moment of all — so far.

Not surprisingly, it came from Jim Holt, the simplistically demagogic right-wing extremist out of Springdale. He's the guy who once said that the chambers and commerce and Federal Reserve were liberal groups.

Holt has a powerful defense. It's that, as usual, he had no earthly idea what he was talking about.

A radio station in Mountain Home staged a little debate among a few of these Republican candidates. Holt participated and endeavored to explain that it's the Republican Party that provides the modern voice for a Southern conservatism that once could find a place in the Democratic Party.

It's such obvious and banal truth that an explanation is wholly unnecessary. But that didn't stop Holt from gumming it up so badly that he seemed to be declaring himself a formerly avowed racist, though, of course, he wasn't.

What Holt said was that he was “born an old Democrat, reared a Dixiecrat,” and that Ronald Reagan came along to change all that.

Oh, dear.

He meant an old-style Southern Democrat. It was bad enough, though, that he invoked “Dixie,” as if to embrace remnants of the Confederacy.

But, even worse, “Dixiecrat” was the term in 1948 for Strom Thurmond's bolt from the Democrats to wage a racist state's rights presidential campaign advocating segregation and keeping down black people, even one with whom Strom was having sexual intercourse.

Asked about that, Holt explained compellingly and credibly that he hadn't known anything about that historical context and that he loved African-American people.

I believe every word Holt said, especially those about not having any idea what he was talking about. He's no racist. He's a comedian.

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