Arkansas DemocratsArkansas Republicans

Cultural Learnings of Democrat for Make Benefit Glorious Party of Republican (Updated!)

UPDATE: Lots of comments below with good discussion, and check out Blake Rutherford’s response over at Blake’s Think Tank, where the back and forth continues.

Arkansas political history is fascinating and instructive. It is also readily available if you wish to learn on your own. Arkansas politicos like to talk about the old times and how things once were. If you can get past the fact that 90 percent of the people with longevity in Arkansas politics are Democrats, then you can tap into a treasure trove of political experience.

Unfortunately, Arkansas Republicans who have had some political success disappear soon after they leave office. If they don’t get a TV show, they just disappear from the scene and are rarely heard from again. One would be hard pressed to visit with former Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt or, for that matter, former Rep. Stephen Bright. But you can’t throw a rock in downtown Little Rock without hitting two former Democratic legislators in the head.

Fortunately, these Democrats are eager to relate stories of their glory days with intellectually curious young Republicans. Probably the first story these generous souls will share is how some influential Democrat helped them along in their career. They will tell you about how they were mentored and how they, in turn, mentored someone else. They’ll explain how Paul planted and Apollos watered, and soon the political seeds planted grew into actual office holding flowers.

Then you’ll probably hear two second-hand stories if you visit long enough. One is the story of Bill Clinton saying he didn’t need a party to win; all he needed was one supporter in each county. Then they’ll relate how Clinton staged his 1982 comeback based on that theory.

The other story is how a group of young hopefuls drank a bottle of wine one evening and plotted their futures, taking an oath to assist one another achieve their goals. The story will end that 20 years later, they had all reached the offices/positions/jobs they had plotted for and how many of today’s judges, reporters, bankers, congressmen, etc. were a part of this junta .

These stories illuminate what we lack as Republicans in Arkansas. On some level, we know these lessons, but don’t like to admit them.


First, Arkansas Democrats invest in their party’s future. Those with experience help the young politicos, offering advice, guidance and monetary investments. This is the epitome of the Good Ole Boy system. The Democratic Party is the ultimate networking tool, landing good jobs to promising party activists in both the public and private sector.

Also, they do business together and enrich each other. There is brand loyalty and many Democrats in business will avoid doing business with Republican owned establishments. That is especially true on the local level. Many of the business owners and more well to do residents of small towns are Democrats and those seeking favor from them are, in turn, Democrats. Those locals with a little money can make or break local races. Thus the local elected officials are friends with and often beholden to these elites.

That means the strength of the Democratic Party in Arkansas is the county-level power holders. If you want anything done in the counties, you must go through a Democrat to get it done. So when Clinton ran for governor in 1982, he found a few choice power brokers in each county and they delivered their county for him. He invested political capital in the local power structure and they delivered for him.

Lastly, Arkansas Democrats look and plan for the big picture. It isn’t just about winning one election. It is about establishing your base, empowering them, and then relying on them to take you to where you want to go. It is also about unity, a word that is foreign to Arkansas Republicans.


Mike Huckabee won because he emulated Bill Clinton; he didn’t need a party, having made contacts all across the state as a pastor. These contacts were often influential members of their communities. He relied on them to get people to show up and he wowed them with his personality. He created his own structure out of the countless contacts he had.

Unless Arkansas Republicans stop fighting for positions at the top of the ticket and start focusing on lower offices and county offices, they’ll stay in the minority. Primaries are good, but when 20 people fight for one office, that means there are 19 candidates that aren’t running for other offices that may be winnable. Occasionally a Republican with Huckabee’s connections and charisma may come along and win statewide office, but those wins are will be few and far between.

Republicans like to think they are fighting to change the culture, but they fail to understand that until they change their local culture, they’ll never have an impact on our culture as a whole.

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11 thoughts on “Cultural Learnings of Democrat for Make Benefit Glorious Party of Republican (Updated!)

  • The gist of this article seems to be “Buy Republican”?

    How about making purchasing decisions based on quality and value? The growing sector of independent voters will respect that, if it is communicated effectively.

  • David Kinkade

    Not sure where you get that, Doug. The post seems addressed not to the average voter, but to Republican candidates and activists. I think the gist might be more accurately summarized by the old Tip O’Neill maxim that “All politics is local.”

  • Good points. Though I will say that I couldn’t stomach those “let’s plan our rise to power” talks even back when I was a Dem. Ick.

    Part of the reason they naturally do that is because they love power. Real conservatives AKA classical liberals don’t. (Which explains why Huckabee could play the Dem game.) A real conservative sees a bunch of young people plotting power grabs and getting people in debt to them, and he’s disgusted. The desire to control other people is a character flaw.

    But you’re right that the Arkansas GOP needs to work locally. Maybe they can have “let’s plan how we’ll make the government leave everyone alone” meetings.

  • Cory Allen Cox

    The independent voter is the target, and we want our ideas to rule the day, that is, after all why we are Republican. But in order to get to that point, you must be able to get your message out. More importantly, you have to overcome the average person’s propensity to follow the herd.

    I too think that limited government naturally means a curbing on the power of individuals in positions of authority. But in order to defeat the enemy, we must know the enemy. Also, you must play the game by the rules that are set. If you do not know the rules, you will lose. But mostly, remember we are conservatives/libertarians. We are not anarchist. Thus, we do believe in a power structure, though it is limited. It is not wrong to be ambitious as long as your ambition is curbed and put in check by restraints on the government. Even Jefferson built a formidable political base from which to act.

    In the least we should at least try our best to support business endeavor’s supported by people who think and vote the way we do. There is no harm in that. It is the free enterprise system and we should reward those whom with which we agree. I’m not saying that we should never eat ketchup from Heinz again because of that loathsome Teresa Heinz Kerry. But you should be loyal and support, buy from and hire those that will promote your values.

  • Well. Couple things. Hilarious title. Seems eerily familiar tho.

    These “theroies” crack me up. But hey, I might as well throw mine out there too..

    How about its not so much the Dems organizing, recruiting as it is our good fortune that repubs nominate people who are not in touch with mainstream Arkansas (or reality, often)

    Look,for example, at every single republican announced candidate for statewide or congressional office right now. None have any idea what they are doing. None have ever won a campaign.
    Sure, the tea party may have brought out the angriest of the angry, but the R’s were already gonna get their vote.

    I think the time has come for a reality check within the repub party. You need the Chuck Banks in your party. He GETS it.

    the only way for moderate repubs to get out of your primary is to expand your base–that means moving to the left a tad–i.e. More mainstream.

    But at the same time who would I make fun of if yall stopped nominating guys with 87 kids, stupid nicknames, or who invoke tv shows that have been in syndication since I was in diapers?

    Anyways. Good stuff.

  • David – I get it about the intended audience. The average person isn’t going to buy overpriced tires from Joe Bob just because he’s on the central committee.

  • Cory Allen Cox

    Sure he is. Having grown up in a county that of less than 10K people in it, people banked at the local bank because who owned it. People did things to curry favor with three or four people. No, they didn’t do it because the person was a democrat, they did it because the person was powerful and they wanted to be his buddy. Those powerful people were Democrats and everyone that wanted to be on their good side were Democrats.

    There is a reason all these folks pop up and run as Republicans. There is a power vaccuum that allows that to happen. If you have a strong candidate that has come up through the ranks, then these unknowns aren’t going to challenge them. One or two might now and again, but they won’t win. The problem isn’t who is nominated, it is that they can get nominated. There is simply no strong candidate to keep them from it. Strong candidates don’t fall out of the sky, they are made. Bill Clinton, Mike Beebe, Dustin McDaniel. All started out at lower offices and moved up.

  • “they did it because the person was powerful and they wanted to be his buddy”

    But that’s disgusting. Build up candidates from the local level, yes. Emulate one of these grotesque political machines with the suck-ups and the suck-up-to’s, no.

  • Pingback: Blake’s Think Tank » Blog Archive » The Future of the Arkansas GOP: A Response to Cory Allen Cox

  • Jason Gibson

    Great post.

    A few things.

    First Republicans need to stop fighting among themselves in their little clicks. The whole “Rockefeller” republicans and the “Holt” Republicans and the Huckabee v/s Hutchinson duals, I am more of a conservative than he is…. not of that mess benefits out party. I for one have great disdain for our former Governor. I have a close friend who is a great admirer. We are friends, we share the same values, fight for the same causes, just like most Republicans in Arkansas but they don’t realize it. We just rarely discuss the former Governor.

    Secondly if you were going to enter into a political race where would you find someone to run your campaign. O you would just run it yourself? How is that working out for you Arkansas Republicans? Not one single candidate for statewide office in Arkansas in 06 had a campaign ran by anyone who had ran a campaign before. Take this lesson Arkansas candidates, You HAVE to hire good people to help you run your campaign, especially if you are an Arkansas Republican. You can’t do it on the cheap. Hire Keith Emis and his crew (proven results) or Carl Vogelphool (proven results) or No Impact Management (proven failures) but you have to hire somebody.

    Finally Arkansas Republicans need to take care of the people who support them. Few people worked harder for Asa Hutchinson than Joe Pennington. When the race was over Asa and the RPA left him high and dry. You know where he in now? Not with Chris Battle in D.C. Not in any number of the various ventures Asa is involved in. He is in Mississippi struggling to make ends meet. Trudging away trying to get his degree. I would say that is a pretty good example of why the Republican party is struggling in Arkansas.


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