PO Spoils It for Both
The Arkansas Legislature will likely soon meet in special session to address teacher insurance costs issues — the second session since the private option vote in April 2013 — but the bad taste from the “private option” votes still lingers on with grassroots activists.
Media talking heads spent the last two weeks discussing how much impact the private option votes had on the primary election cycle. But let’s take a look at the private option vote from the view of informed and engaged activists who turned out in droves in 2012 to elect the Legislature’s first Republican majority in 138 years:
We are probably the most informed, educated constituency the Arkansas Republican party has ever had and we had done our homework. We questioned our candidates and observed them in all sorts of situations before we put our total trust in their campaign platforms.
We believed we knew these people and could understand how they would vote on various issues. We had a working communication with them that we believed went both ways: they would keep us informed and we would stand behind them on unpopular conservative votes.
In Faulkner County especially, we can speak to the energy and work expended by volunteers to get those Republican candidates into office for the first time since Reconstruction. We began to hear, all over the state, the energy and excitement that was building as we worked our way toward those victories in November, 2012.
We had given blood, sweat, and our tears to ensure a conservative victory in our county and our state, thinking we had elected lawmakers that would represent our will. What we got was the first Republican (conservative?) majority in the Arkansas Legislature in 138 years.
Then, in the House, what had finally became a Democrat minority — along with just a few Republicans — maneuvered to select Davy Carter as Speaker over Terry Rice, who had been pretty much approved up to that time.
Things changed. What should be a no-brainer for a Republican Legislature has become a political football: The political elites in both parties (like Governor Beebe, Speaker Carter for starters) worked together to give Arkansas to President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a “test case” for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion provisions via the private option.
In the process they spoiled it for the grassroots and the state Republicans — a most unfortunate result.
Problem is, “unfortunate” for who? The Flippo-Burris and Rutledge-Sterling primary races again left many conservative activists feeling the mainline GOP is wasting their efforts — they say they’ll sit out the November election process, vowing to vote only (and not campaign) for GOP conservative candidates.
So, “unfortunate for who” is relative, both for activists who still want a more conservative government — with or without their guidance — and for those folks who still believe they can make a difference if they are elected as Republicans.
The conservative edge is a very fine line in Arkansas; it’s unfortunate the private option had to spoil it. Even more unfortunate would be if Arkansas conservatives gave up our Republican majority and growing state influence because of it.