I’ve developed a reputation as someone who, for two reasons, almost never loses a bet: I don’t bet very often and I only bet on sure things.
As of this moment, there are three reasons I am willing to bet that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be our next governor and Republican candidates will win the vast majority of state races. The first is the “R” beside their names; the second (for her only) is the endorsement she received from her former boss; and the third is my predicted outcome if, as anticipated, there is a low turnout.
This Silent Generation senior who moved to Arkansas 46 years ago is concerned enough about this that he is unwilling to remain silent.
I have voted several times for people with an “R” beside their name. The “R” doesn’t disturb me. What bothers me is that I don’t know what the “R” beside Sanders’ name and that of many of today’s Republican candidates stands for.
My concern that a low turnout will help any candidate win who has an “R” beside their name is because there are a number of candidates with an “R” beside their name who, if elected to a responsible position, cannot be depended on to act responsibly. Some indications of their behaviors that, to me, are red flags include: failing to even show up at forums where they might have to respond to unknown questions; their scripted commercials that tell us nothing about what they stand for (or against); their sanitized responses to questions from reporters that are printed in newspapers (or, worse yet, their failure to provide any response); and, finally, their expressed beliefs and promises about what they will do if elected.
We, the people–and voters in the once nicknamed “Land of Opportunity”–deserve more!
However, with the right leadership in the governor’s office and Legislature, we could take advantage of some of the state’s major assets and start moving up in the rankings. These assets include the ability and motivation of the people in this state; the graciousness and hospitality of its residents; its readily accessible post-secondary educational opportunities; and then shift to those characteristics that led to its current nickname as The Natural State. These include such things as: clean air, diversity of terrain, a four-seasons climate, outstanding recreation facilities including lots of lakes, clean rivers (some of which are world-famous for trout fishing), 52 state parks (many of which have lodges), affordable housing, lots of available land (including one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world), and reliable water supplies.
I predict we will have a strong national and state economy in the next few years. When added to millions of federal infrastructure and American Rescue Plan dollars, that means we will have a rare opportunity for Arkansas to make significant improvements in our longtime position in the bottom five of all 50 states, and improve our reputation as a great place to live, learn, work, and raise a family.
For this to happen, we need to raise our ratings in K-12 education, bachelor’s degree attainment, average income, percentage of citizens with health care, household income, poverty rate, average life expectancy, life expectancy at birth, high school diplomacy rate, unemployment rate, violent crime rate, rate of obesity, percentage of smokers, and percentage reporting poor mental health.
Don’t believe it is possible? Look at what Sam Pittman has done! As he has proven, with the right leadership and a strong supporting team, miracles can occur!
To select the best leaders to take us down this road, we need all candidates to tell us which rights they believe citizens are entitled to, then state their plans for how they plan to use the advantages listed above and the current and projected tax dollars and federal funds to move us up in each of these low-rated state rankings.
It would help if our state newspaper (and other papers) would invite candidates to respond to a list of well-thought-out questions, publish the results, and make the answers (and non-respondents) available on social media for non-subscribers. Additionally, it is important that some nonpolitical organizations sponsor a number of town hall forums around the state so citizens can ask questions of each candidate in a civil atmosphere.
Let’s see who shows up, who really believes it is possible to improve our state’s rankings, who has a viable plan about how to proceed, and who shows both the willingness and the ability to lead a nonpartisan effort to move us forward.
These are my thoughts. I admit to being hopeful, as opposed to optimistic, but as Sam Pittman has taught us: You have to believe–and work like hell.
Jim Hammons is an emeritus professor of higher education at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.