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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tell your Mama

Tell your Paw,

I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas

— Ray Charles

The remarkable thing is that an aloof, bookish fellow like Tom Cotton is running for the U.S. Senate anywhere, much less in darkest Arkansas.

It’s a place Cotton left behind ASAP — first for Harvard, ultimately for Washington right-wing “think tanks” — a place of small cities, country towns, and friendly, talkative people given to down-home retail politics. A people historically resentful of condescending outsiders and arguably less easily bamboozled by tycoon-funded TV commercials than Americans who’ve never had a politician like Bill Clinton or Gov. Mike Beebe ask about their mama by name.

Cotton either can’t do that, or he won’t. Although his campaign skills have reportedly improved, he’s often struck observers as an outsider at his own campaign events — standing on the sidelines, making scant eye contact and smiling infrequently. Cotton’s speeches list ideological talking points in a monotone. People have told reporters he’s introduced himself to the same person twice at one event.

By ordinary Arkansas standards, Cotton would appear to have committed several fatal political blunders: He questioned his Democratic opponent Senator Mark Pryor’s religious faith in a broadcast interview. Famously pious to the point of dullness, Pryor asked for an apology he never got.

With every other statewide political candidate attending the annual Bradley “Pink Tomato Festival,” Cotton was a no-show. Instead, he graced a Koch Brothers-financed event at a luxury hotel in California — receiving applause for his “courage” in voting against the 2014 Farm Bill.

After a tornado devastated Mayflower and Vilonia, AR last spring, President Obama visited the disaster site to commiserate and promise help. Mark Pryor, too. Possibly wary of questions about his votes against Hurricane Sandy relief, Cotton stayed away.

“I don’t think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast,” he’d explained. Cotton also voted against funding FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Administration. He said the nation couldn’t afford it.

Today, there’s a big Tom Cotton billboard standing amid the rubble along Interstate 40 in Mayflower midway between Little Rock and Conway.

Cotton voted against funding for Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the nationally known pediatric teaching wing of the University of Arkansas Medical School. Stung by criticism, he alibied that his vote hadn’t cost the hospital a dime. Because his side lost, the candidate neglected to mention.

Normally, any two of these blunders — and there are more — would doom even a personable candidate. But Cotton isn’t running against Sen. Mark Pryor, a cautiously moderate Democrat and the son of the universally popular former governor and U.S. Senator David Pryor. (Disclaimer: my wife worked on Pryor’s gubernatorial staff.)

Instead Cotton is running against Barack Obama. Not the real President Obama so much as the Kenyan Usurper of Tea Party and Club for Growth fame, an alien presence whose wild overspending threatens fiscal ruin. If, as polls show, 54 percent of Americans incorrectly believe that the yearly federal budget deficit has mushroomed since Obama took office in 2009, the proportion of misinformed Arkansans is doubtless higher.

In reality, contrary to Cotton’s warnings of fiscal apocalypse, the Obama administration has cut the yearly deficit by more than half. But perishingly few Arkansans understand that. It’s become a Fox News demographic.

Dislike of President Obama has grown almost cultlike among white Arkansas voters. Although everybody’s heartily sick of the unending barrage of outside-funded TV ads for both candidates, Cotton’s relentlessly push one theme: A vote for Mark Pryor is a vote for Barack Obama.

And yet the race remains extremely close.

Now comes Atlantic Monthly’s Molly Ball with a profile centered upon the 37-year-old Cotton’s senior thesis at Harvard, which the proud candidate can evidently still recite word for word. Declaiming upon the Federalist Papers, Cotton expressed a young man’s egocentric contempt for the yokels back home:

“Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes [sic] most men,” Cotton wrote, “whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business.”

Quite so. For example, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas currently stars in a TV ad explaining away an inconvenient vote. “President Obama,” Cotton alibis, “hijacked the farm bill (and) turned it into a food stamp bill.” He also claims the bill added “billions in spending.”

Both claims are categorically false. The Farm Bill and food stamp budget have been linked since 1973, before Tom Cotton was born. Furthermore, the 2014 Farm Bill that passed despite his no vote cut $8.7 billion from projected spending.

It’s as brazen a political falsehood as one can imagine.

Meanwhile, back home in Yell County, one of the poorest in Arkansas, 13 percent of the population receives food stamp assistance, including 25 percent of the children. (Yell County is roughly 1 percent African-American.)

Politics can be a dirty business, alright.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    We would be well advised to consider the reasons people like Cotton are so successful in parts of country. The first thing that is evident from his discourse on the campaign trail is that facts are irrelevant, and that giving a rapt audience what they want to hear is the easiest way to win votes and elections.
    Consider the claim voiced so often by people like Cotton and other GOP candidates regarding the alleged out of control spending caused by Obama’s policies. In addition to most of his policies reducing spending, there is the inconvenient fact that the Federal Government deficit has been reduced by almost 2/3 since President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, and that accumulation of debt has been reduced to its lowest level in a decade. Does that matter to the people that plan to vote for candidates like Cotton? Not in the least. Their goal is to elect people that think and talk like they do, to make it practically impossible for President Obama to govern during the last two years of his presidency, and to achieve social and religious goals designed to overturn what the “evil socialists” consider progress (social equality, reducing the financial gap between the haves and the have not, raising the minimum wage, making affordable healthcare available to everyone, ending deficit spending, reducing the accumulation of debt, strengthening Social Security and MEDICARE, making it easier for students to pursue a college education, and doing everything possible to minimize the probability of more Sandy Hooks.

    • ESG

      Spot on anyone who has some intellectual capacity can see and understand but unfortunately there is a serious lack of that in the US particular among the country folk. They only listen to Fox and would shun anyone who had anything positive to say and excercise the brain-well that is asking too much for sure.

      • trm

        You remind me of Jethrow on the Beverly
        Hillbillies. He thought he was a genius. Not sure why I stumbled in here, as I
        dont see not much brain power going on.

        By liberal standards Im a 1%’r. I have an 147 IQ I
        have a business, two college degrees, I understand economics, and how
        government works, And I ask myself the same thing about you. How can you keep
        voting for the same liberal policies and expect to improve the divide between
        the top 1% and bottom 10%. Liberal policies make it worse because it
        eliminates competition, thus those at the very top 1% of the 1% reap all the benefits.
        My advice, get a clue before sharing your knowledge.

        • dtgraham

          Are you aware of the number of comically bad spelling, grammatical, and structural errors in your first paragraph and the top half of your second paragraph? Normally I wouldn’t care as I’m not Dickens or Kipling either. However, when you put others down and then claim to have a genius IQ with 2 college degrees, combined with a special understanding of economics and government, it kind of stands out.

        • dpaano

          Gee, I’m impressed. I’m in the bottom 99%, have an IQ of 156, six college degrees, and I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if they begged me. If you think that liberal policies make it worse, you really have NO idea what you’re talking about and perhaps YOU need to do some research yourself. By the way, I’m also a retired military officer.

          • trm

            Really with those qualifications, in the bottom 99%. You are obviously educated beyond your ability to think.

    • Gene Lyons

      Good idea. Instead of ritual denunciations of presumed Red State backwardness and moral inferiority, Democrats ought to be trying to figure out how they lost the knack of talking to people who elected politicians like David Pryor, Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton for a couple of generations.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    At what point do people in the red states realize this is 2014 and not the good ole good ole plantation days where all they had to do was buy another slave to do all the dirty work? Yeesh..just how “ignernt” do these lunatic fringe freeloaders plan to get?

    The red states already eat up more than 50% of our federal tax dollars. How plantation mentality does it have to get before the blue states start realizing that the harder we work, the longer we work, the more CONs will eat up federal tax dollars we earn and they don’t?

    • FireBaron

      As long as Fox News keeps telling them that the Red States are the only ones that support the government, they will keep believing people like Cotton.

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        Men like Cotton have skeletons in their closets. They always do. One reason Teddy Roosevelt was called a Muckraker was because he had a knack for uncovering and publicizing hypocrisy where and when it existed.

        As an American, I choose to believe that people in red states are beginning to realize how their negative image originated: with their bully politicians with plantation mentalities.

        These are still Americans who deserve the same opportunities people in other parts of the country enjoy. When they are so firmly obstructed by their own voting choices, they won’t want another 100 years of plantation mentalities where the rich get richer by forcing the poor to remain poorer.

        If there is one fact of life few can avoid, it’s that nothing moves perpetually backward…only onward, forward and upward.

    • Sand_Cat

      I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for people in the red states to wake up, and I suspect your opening question was rhetorical as well.

  • aabsalooka

    The republican party has found a comfortable home right between two piles of the dumbest among us. One pile buys into their crap because they don’t know any better nor will bother to find out, and the other pile will stay home on election day because they care just about as much about their future as they do about escaping ignorance. Scare the first bunch and discourage the second and you’re on your way to victory.

  • Tony Torres

    The only way we are going to prevent and/or remove these IDIOTS from any and all office is to get off our asses and vote them out. If we don’t get motivated we will be up the proverbial creek with out a paddle for at least another 2 years. So in order for our country to move forward we MUST NOT let the GOP control any of the houses of Congress.

  • bckrd1

    Was it Twain who said “Never underestimate the stupidity of the American voter”? This is another perfect example.

    2004 was a spectacular example of National proportions. And we should all reflect on where we might have been had the Supreme Court not given it to Bush in 2000.

    • trm

      Yes thank goodness, No doubt would have went into a depression for sure. Liberal policies couldn’t even get us moving out of this mild recession we are in. 8 Trillion dollars more debt, and huge increase in government size and spending, some day will have to pay this bill. But Im sure its Bushes fault.

  • trm

    Admitedly FOX might not have the budget to hire the best orators, but maybe you all should look at the whole picture, and sad to say maybe the ignorant you think your smarter than, are smarter than you!!! First of all if you think your smarter than the 1%,,, not likely. Then look at who has been in charge the most for the last 60 years, only 4 years of that 60 both houses and president were controlled by republicans. If it only took those 4 years to mess things up, Democrats had 4 to fix it. So the policies that have grown this national debt, increased the number of people on assistance, trade deficits, created a vast difference between the haves and have nots is liberal policies!!! Good intentions dont solve real problems. And none of us have to watch the political adds to know what we want is less government,thus less opportunity for lobbyist and corruption . If your too ignorant to know that tax the rich falls on the working class, welfare falls on the working class, social security falls on the working class. “Work” falls on the working class. Unless your a complete fool you can see that!!! BTW Lincoln was a republican and the south plantation owners fought the republican party a long time, then democrats found a way to get and keep blacks on the plantation,,, its called welfare.

  • dpaano

    As John Dean continually says in his books….the GOP rules with lies and scare tactics. Unfortunately, the ones that vote for them are the ones that should be listening more closely instead of believing everything they are being told by these individuals!!