Points By Drew Pritt


Follow-Up for Blake Rutherford’s Comment
July 8, 2008, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Blake Rutherford commented on needing data to suggest why Arkansas is more winnable than Georgia. I am more than happy to provide that data. As I told you below, Blake makes a case for Sam Nunn of Georgia and then commented on my disavowal of that premise. So I have gone more into depth for this good man. He’s smart but compare our two synopsises and decide for yourself.

First of all lets look at the facts from 1960. I have prepared tables to help illustrate.

Since 1960, Arkansas has trended Democrat (blue), six times out of 13 times. Thats 46% of the time. Meanwhile Georgia has trended Democrat (blue), only four times out of 13 times. Thats 31% of the time. In that last four elections, Arkansas has trended Democrat twice out of four times for 50%, while Georgia has trended blue only once, narrowly in 1992, out of four times, for 25%.

When Georgia trended blue in 1992 it was because of the Governor of the state at that time, a conservative-centrist named Zell Miller who was good friends with Bill Clinton. So lets look at control of the Governor’s offices. Here’s a hint that favors Georgia. It’s only had a Republican Governor, Sonny Perdue, since 2002.

Sadly, Mike Huckabee (R) succeeded to the Governorship in July 1996 and in terms of Presidential elections, Arkansas in 1968 had a Republican, Winthrop Rockefeller, leading the state. However, 1968 is a wash as Georgia and Arkansas followed the lead of Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, Jr. in his independent bid for President. Also, in 1996 it could be argued that Huckabee had not been in office long enough to influence. I disagree as his apparatus and the legacy of Governor Rockefeller and the Republican upswing helped the Republicans win the U.S. Senate seat that year and the Lt. Governor’s office, from which Huckabee ascended to the Governorship, with Rockefeller’s son, the late Win Paul Rockefeller. Interestingly though, young Rockefeller barely scraped by former State Senator Charlie Cole Chaffin (D) with less than a percentage point even though Huckabee dispatched Chaffin in 1994 for Lt. Governor handily, 57%-43%.

But how the state’s voters elect as their Governor tends to signify the electoral mood and what they ideologically seek in a chief executive. After all the Governor and President are executive positions. So I looked at that and this is where the data is more stark.

Arkansas has tended to elect more progressive and centrist Governors versus Georgia. Dale Bumpers, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker were definitely progressive. David Pryor and Win Rockefeller were centrists who flirted with progressivism. Only Orval Faubus in 1960 & 1964 and Mike Huckabee in 2000 & 2004 were conservative, framing the state. Also, Arkansas has definitely elected a true progressive in the mold of Bumpers and Clinton who somtimes governs like Pryor, in Mike Beebe, so that means Arkansas as swung back to a very light grey in the very least.

Georgia is more complex. In 1960, Georgia’s Governor was Ernest Vandiver (D) pledged to defend segregation, and in March 1960 called “An Appeal for Human Rights” published in the Atlanta Constitution by black students at Spelman College “an anti-American document” that “does not sound like it was written in this country” (Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train [Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, 2002], p. 28).

In 1962, a fellow Chi Phi Fraternity brother of mine, Carl E. Sanders was elected. He was progressive in the mold of Arkansas’ Sid McMath and a New South Governor. Sanders worked to improve education and the environment and most of all, led the transition toward racial desegregation, cooperating with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson on complying with civil rights laws, as as well as appointing significant African-Americans to office.

In 1966, Georgia narrowly swung back to the reactionary conservative when they elected Lester Maddox, an Atlanta restaurant owner, who brandished an ax handle and threatened the lives against African-Americans attempting to eat in his establishment. He refused to adjust to changes following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when he filed a lawsuit to continue his segregationist policies. Maddox said that he would close his restaurant rather than serve black people.  When in 1964, more African-Americans attempted to enter the establishment, Maddox confronted the group, brandishing a handgun. Maddox won because a centrist Republican and an independent progressive former Governor split the vote.

Under Jimmy Carter and George Busbee, Georgia had centrists like Arkansas’ David Pryor who balanced the competing interests. However, Joe Frank Harris, while a great Governor and Zell Miller, while a Democrat, served their policies were conservative. In 1998, Roy Barnes ran as a rural Democrat but started governing as a progressive. He pushed through legislation that guaranteed patients the right to choose their physicians, guaranteed health care to all the children in Georgia, and helped pass legislation that allowed insurance companies to be held liable for denying or delaying health care for individuals. He also attempted to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from Georgia’s state flag. He also pushed through a controversial initiative to end social promotion by requiring students to pass a test before advancing to the next grade. Many educators strongly disagreed with Barnes’ criticisms of teaching methods and the education system as a whole. In 2002, Barnes outspent his Republican opponent 10-1, but the impact the flag decision had had on rural south Georgia counties, where his vote percentages shrank by 20% in places. Barnes was surprisingly defeated.

So Georgia is not the prize it appears to be regardless of what polls say now. In terms of Arkansas, General Clark adds foreign policy experience and experience on the 900 lb. gorilla in the room….Iraq. Many tend to forget that Clark has been speaking out on Iraq before others did. This editorial epitomizes Clark’s intellect on looking at what is best for Iraq, for our service members first, rather than political expediency. Not to mention, Clark was wounded in a heroic act in Vietnam, decorated, and returned to the military. As NATO Commander, he suffered no casualties in the effort successfully completed in the Balkans. Clark also was the benefit of a true grassroots effort to run for President in 2004. Though he only won Oklahoma, he started much later than any of the other candidates. Since then, Clark has been the most sought after speaker by Democrats nationwide, even more so than Obama. Clark adds experience, insight, electoral strength to the ticket, and his advocacy for Hillary Clinton and friendship with the Clintons allows Obama a way to entice the disaffected Democrats back, while still not putting up with an uncomfortable pairing with Hillary Clinton and also putting a fresh face on the national ticket.

I still am not sold. Clark can deliver Arkansas, maybe Oklahoma, and a number of other key battleground states while Sam Nunn is still trying to get traction in Georgia. Lets not forget, Nunn’s last time on the ballot was 1990 in Georgia.

Still thanks for the comment Blake! I encourage my readers to check him out at http://www.BlakesThinkTank.com/

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1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

Talk about depth, Drew! I’ve never compared Clark to Nunn. Clark has his strengths, none of which I addressed in my post because it wasn’t about him.

My argument is simply this: based on the data we have available today, Nunn may be just enough to tilt Georgia in favor of Obama. If that is the case I note that “might” get him on the ticket.

Alternatively, if you’re right about Clark (and we don’t know) then certainly he’ll be considered in light of those factors.

But my post raised the issue of Nunn independent of all of the other military-centered choices including Clark.

Comment by Blake Rutherford




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