Asa Hutchinson’s career in public life was built on the two pillars of party loyalty and personal nastiness. As congressman, as party chairman, as Bush administration bureaucrat, and now as gubernatorial candidate, he’s drawn his sword against cancer patients seeking pain relief, aliens seeking jobs, gays seeking fair treatment from their government, women seeking to run their own lives, Americans seeking to choose their own president.
Mike Beebe prefers compromise to confrontation, and became a leader in state government with that approach. It helped that he’s smarter than most of his colleagues, and worked harder than they. Some of us wish that Beebe had been more devoted to progressive causes, but that’s much better than someone who’s in active opposition.
For one example, Beebe remains committed to the education reform approved by the legislature. Hutchinson wants to go backward, to undo the progress already made and to prevent any more. He does this in the name of preserving small schools, really because he thinks there’s political hay to be made at the expense of Arkansas’s children. Never known for concern about the less privileged, Hutchinson now wants to repeal the sales tax on groceries immediately, further undermining the public schools. Beebe says the tax should be repealed but only as the lost revenue can be replaced. He’s knowledgeable and honest.
Evidently, the Republican Party has stopped running what might be called “serious” candidates against U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder. This is an exercise in good judgment and, we like to think, patriotism — a public acknowledgement by the opposing party that Arkansas needs Vic Snyder and so does the USA. Bipartisanship is often overrated, but this is bipartisanship at its best.
Snyder casts the tough votes, defending against demagogues the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression, even unpopular expression, and upholding a woman’s right to control her own body, among other causes. Often, he is the only member of the Arkansas delegation who takes the courageous way out, and one of a handful in the whole Congress.
A doctor and an advocate of legislation to protect the health of children, Snyder is the sort who gives congressional physicians a good name, just as Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee drags the medical profession into disrepute.
Technically, the Republicans have a candidate in the Second Congressional District race, but few will vote for him. He’s an earnest young man, but his campaign, such as it is, seems based on the fact that his name is reminiscent of the old Andy Griffith TV show. Good show; insufficient reason to elect a congressman.