Hutchinson, GOP “Not Representing Us,” Activists Say
Arkansas politicos are praising Governor Hutchinson’s leadership of the new Republican-controlled Legislature and giving him favorable marks for “governing the state effectively” after 140+ years of total Democrat control. We hear it differently from grassroots conservative voters, the great majority of which voted Republican in the last election.
Their overall reaction to the first 4 months of Governor Hutchinson’s term is not nearly as favorable. They report our newly elected GOP Governor is prevaricating on issues important to them such as the Private Option, common core, and RFRA.
They point out how Governor Hutchinson wouldn’t much discuss the Private Option during his campaign and, once elected, asked voters for “patience” until he made his blockbuster policy announcement — effectively stopping all conversation on the overall issue for months. They express great disappointment at what they call the non-solution of forming a task force. They say this approach takes away direct representation of the viewpoints of the taxpayers, while taking away accountability from legislators elected specifically to stop Medicaid expansion via the Private Option.
They also cite the stated goals of the task force — “find a way to continue coverage for those included in the Private Option” — as evidence the new GOP majority has no intention of attempting to block or stop Obamacare in Arkansas, no matter what conservative GOP voters clearly demanded last November. This constituency is very concerned that Arkansas must pay 5% of total program costs starting in 2017 — a financial burden our state can ill afford.
With common core, activists are not impressed with yet another task force instead of direct legislative action to controvert the mandated federal education program that removes local control of school materials away from parents and teachers. When asked about the Governor’s leadership on common core, what we hear is disgust about “kicking the can down the road” and a sense of inevitability that Arkansas will never actually enact legislation to block common core.
The expressions of irritation, disappointment, and disgust ramp up measurably when activists speak up about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act debacle. Most are well aware that Governor Hutchinson had worked closely with Rep. Bob Ballinger on the original version of the bill, so he was aware the bill would have only allowed Christian beliefs to be used as a legal defense in a lawsuit (not guaranteeing the lawsuit’s success, as the left painted the issue).
Most conservative activists say “the Governor caved” when gay activists used social blackmail to bully Hutchinson into a watered-down version of the bill. Activists say they feel their opinions are not respected and their rights as Christians are not being defended by Governor Hutchinson and the GOP Legislature.
We’ve heard people say they are more angry at Governor Hutchinson now than they felt threatened by former Democrat Governor Mike Beebe and his policies because “at least with Governor Beebe we knew what to expect.” When asked about how they feel now about their GOP votes last November, we hear “misleading,” “Asa lied,” and “sick to my stomach” among the responses we can print here.
Who knows whether Governor Hutchinson and the newly elected GOP legislative majority will continue governing they way they’ve started? (It’s a safe bet in our book that they will.) And, who knows if Arkansas politicos will continue to be so impressed?
More uncertain is what will happen with the conservative grassroots voters who helped sweep Republicans into office. Despite the praise heaped upon him by Arkansas politicos, the Governor’s leadership — and GOP follow-through on these issues — is creating major heartburn and alienating grassroots conservatives.