It's the kind of election year when a state legislative candidate with a bribery conviction in his past says if that's all his opponents can use against him, he's pretty much of a model citizen.
Politically, he's got a point (as well as a record) this year. Fogies may think bribery is serious business, but a sizeable segment of the electorate apparently believes it's small-potato sin compared to failure to make jokes about Nancy Pelosi's appearance, or refusal to acknowledge that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Muslim, or disagreement with the Supreme Court ruling that corporations have more rights than people. Teabaggers are stepping on the heads of offenders so great.
A nasty, scary election year in other words, and as we write, we don't know how it came out. We've had nightmares, for sure: A treacherous twerp succeeding the estimable Vic Snyder in the Second Congressional District? A partisan hack claiming one of Arkansas's Senate seats? And, nationally, Republicans gaining control of at least one house of Congress, maybe two, the Party of No made capable of blocking all efforts at improving the lives of common, non-corporate — that is, human — Americans? Cocky Republican leaders have begun calling themselves the Party of No Compromise, proud of their extremism and vindictiveness, qualities that voters once found unappealing.
And will again, an optimist has to believe, and optimism is an American trait. But it may be a rough ride before we get there.
There's a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this year that would protect Arkansans' right to hunt. There is no proposed amendment to protect Arkansans from the state Game and Fish Commission, but it's not a bad idea. Maybe next time.
The commission has a certain independence from the rest of state government because of a previous amendment, Amendment 35, that has probably outlived whatever usefulness it may have once had. In any case, Amendment 35 never empowered the Game and Fish Commission to select which laws it would obey and which it would not. Certain commissioners apparently thought they had such authority, and prepared a regulation they said would supersede the Freedom of Information Act, allowing the commissioners to decide what the public could know about public business. Both Governor Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, to their credit, told the commissioners that they were bound by the law, just like everyone else, and the commissioners backed down. But they're a vain lot, and entirely capable of trying something like this again. Forewarned is forearmed.