Public be damned
Abraham Lincoln may have been the last as well as the first member of his party to believe in government of, by and for the people. When they aren't cutting taxes for the rich, today's Republicans are denying ordinary people a voice in the process of governing. Although — to be fair — the Republicans succeed only because timid Democrats won't stand up to them. Democrats are to Andrew Jackson much as Republicans are to Lincoln — they invoke the name at fund-raising dinners, and ignore the principles.
It appears that a bill to let the American people elect their own president will not pass at this session of the Arkansas legislature, surprising as that sounds. The House of Representatives gamely approved HB 1339 five weeks ago, but the bill has been stuck in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee since, and its sponsor, Rep. Eddie Cooper (D-Melbourne), says he lacks the votes to get it out. HB 1339 is the local version of a device to assure that the presidential candidate who gets the most votes is the one who takes office. An Arkansan's presidential vote would weigh the same as any other American's — no more and no less. Under the curious Electoral College system now in use, half a dozen Republican regulars cast all of Arkansas's presidential votes last year. The Electoral College allowed George W. Bush to become president in 2000, a political Hurricane Katrina.
The Senate State Agencies Committee is one where alleged Democrats vote just like real Republicans. It's an undistinguished and undistinguishable group — Faris, Baker, Wilkinson, Bryles, Hendren, Laverty, Glover, Pritchard. Before term limits, there would have been at least one member of the committee with some ability, and some commitment to the common good. Term limits and the Electoral College reward mediocrity.
Sen. Gilbert Baker pops up again in the Arkansas opposition to federal legislation that would let workers use either a secret ballot or an open signing of petitions in choosing whether or not to join a union. Present law allows employers to order that workers hold a secret-ballot election. The bill is eminently fair, but no idea is so good that Gilbert Baker and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette can't oppose it. Big corporations, and big advertisers, claim the bill would deny the right to a secret ballot; Baker and the D-G profess to believe. Above an article on the activities of Baker and associates, a D-G headline says “Move on to retain secret vote on unions.” Such a move is on all right, and it's the unions who are supporting it.