Arkansas is generally not on a lot of people’s radar as a state that could turn blue any time soon. In fact, Arkansas is one of only five states where Trump had more millennial votes than Clinton. Given that the best strategy for progressives has been to turn out younger voters, this means that Arkansas will definitely be one of the harder states to claim.
Despite the slim chance there is of victory in this state, I have had my eye on Arkansas by sheer virtue of the fact that its incumbent Senator is just THAT much of an abhorrent scumbag. Tom Cotton is someone who first came into public consciousness when he called for three New York Times journalists to be thrown in the gulag because they said mean no-no words about George W Bush, and invoked Hitler in less than a minute into his first speech as a US Senator. Tom Cotton is your stereotypical Republican war hawk, and as Kyle Kulinski put it in a way that that no one will ever top, “this dude probably gets a boner when he hears Dick Cheney speak.”
In 2015, Cotton has signed a letter to Iran that Republicans are against the Iran deal and believes that this means he can ignore international law and proceed to mass murder innocent Iranian civilians if they ever get the urge waste trillions of dollars. Later in 2019, he states that the US can win a war with Iran in “two strikes,” but claimed that he was “not calling for war, but that the the US would easily win if there was war.” Less then a month later, he calls for war with Iran. Note that it was Trump who decided not to invade Iran because Tucker Carlson urged him not to. You know things are fucked when Tucker Carlson is the voice of reason, and you know that things are even more fucked when Donald Trump seems reasonable compared to you.
In case that was not enough to let you know how much of an authoritarian scumbag that Cotton is, he has claimed that the US has a desperate shortage of people locked up over nonviolent crimes, despite the fact that that roughly 1 in every 100 Arkansas adult is in either prison or jail, and that Arkansas is tied with Texas for having the sixth highest rate of incarceration in the country. I’m sure that this has nothing to do with wanting to lock up poor people who are more likely to vote Democrat. Tom Cotton is against federally decriminalizing cannabis by the way.
One will notice a recurring theme in Tom Cotton’s contempt for anyone that isn’t a rich white man like himself. From stating that social security benefits cause heroin addictions, to claiming that “able bodied” poor people don’t deserve medicaid or welfare, to him deflecting criticism of Trump’s tariffs that hurt farmers by saying how it’s so much worse for our troops despite the fact that he’s voted against those same veterans, him voting against emergency relief funds then trying to take credit for them after they are passed anyway, to blocking an Obama nominee until she died out of sheer spite, and even going so far as to threaten to call the cops on his own constituents for daring to write him their complaints!
And all of this is on top of the usual partisan bullshit like his opposition to women, gay and trans people, Planned Parenthood, people not dying because don’t health care, rape victims, net neutrality, and pretty much anything good in this world. Tom Cotton is basically a real life Captain Planet villain, and he’s one of the most dangerous Republican politicians in office.
People right now can’t imagine a worse President than Donald Trump, but that’s only because Tom Cotton has yet to launch a presidential bid. Tom Cotton would basically be Trump if he knew what he was doing, and that is flat out scary. And even worse is that a Tom Cotton Presidential campaign was not just me speculating. If we don’t get a Bernie Sanders presidency to shift the overton window back to the left, then a Tom Cotton Presidency is a serious possibility.
But there is one other way of stopping Cotton in his tracks though, and that is if he loses re-election to the Senate. But there is one slight problem… his only Democratic opponent withdrew. This means that the only remaining candidates aside from Tom Cotton are the throwaway Libertarian nominee Ricky Harrington Jr, and the progressive Independent candidate Daniel Whitfield.
This provides us with a unique scenario in that we get to see a true progressive without any corporate backing and who is running on ambitious policies face off against a major establishment Republican, and there are no corporate Democrats to get in the way, and no post primary pivots. Daniel Whitfield is running on Medicare for All, Tuition Free College, an end to foreign intervention, closing tax loopholes, ending citizens united, and banning privatized prisons. A race between Daniel Whitfield and Tom Cotton would closely mirror that of a race between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, but there are a few key differences.
One of these differences is that Daniel Whitfield also runs on a platform of “Direct Democracy.” I’ll let Whitfield speak for himself on this one.
This is a major element that separates Whitfield from any possible Democratic candidate, and having no Democratic opponent to split the vote with ensures that we can see how effective this approach is for real. Yes you will see a bunch of corporate shit goblins who say that someone like Whitfield will get slaughtered because only centrists can perform well against right wingers in red states, but they often conveniently forget that centrists have NOT been performing well against Republicans in red states.
Tom Cotton does not represent the interests of his people, he just so happens to have the right letter next to his name on the ballot. I’m not saying that it’s a guarantee that Whitfield will win, partisanship is ultimately still a thing after all, but rather that he has a better shot than any media outlet will admit, and the only thing keeping Whitfield away from a genuinely competitive race with Cotton is money and resources.
This is where you come in. Any Bernie Bros, progressives, or anyone who wants Tom Cotton to take a one way trip to Bumfuck Egypt and never come back, give Daniel Whitfield as much support as you are able to! This includes, volunteering, sharing his posts, telling everyone else you know about him, donating to his campaign funds, and most importantly, show up to vote for him when the time comes!
There are four Congressional Districts in Arkansas, and we can already write off three of them as having no serious significance. Arkansas’s 1st congressional district has no opponent registered for Republican incumbent Rick Crawford, and the 3rd and 4th district have your standard sacrificial lambs that stand no chance of winning because they are in deep red districts and because they are your standard liberals who try to sound progressive but will weasel their way out of anything significant like Medicare for All or a Green New Deal.
Arkansas’s 2nd congressional district though, that’s where something can happen. First of all, it is the only district where a Democrat managed more than 45% in a general election following 2010, and said election was in 2018. This obviously means that Arkansas’s 2nd district is the weakest link in the chain, but there is still the concern that Clarke Tucker only managed 45.8% of the vote.
The second distinction is that the Democratic candidate is Joyce Elliott, who was cited as a potential candidate for Senate against Tom Cotton. Joyce Eliott is often cited as one of the more progressive voices in the state of Arkansas, but she still stays clear of crossing the line from liberal into full blown leftist. She has no mention of Medicare for All, A Green New Deal, Tuition Free college, or anything that you don’t hear being pushed by any establishment liberal, but I still find myself strangely optimistic about her. She would have been no match for Cotton, but I think she has a shot against a lame duck Republican like French Hill.
On the subject of state legislature, Arkansas has its entire state House and half the state senate up for re-election this year. There are 33 House seats and 7 Senate seats where with both a Democrat and a Republican up for election. 9 of those house seats have a Democratic incumbent up for re-election and 4 had a Democrat manage more than 43% of the vote in 2018. Given the drastic increase in votes Democrats managed from 2016 to 2018, it is much harder to predict which State Senate elections will be competitive based on the previous results.
There IS however, an important election to the Arkansas Supreme Court coming up. There are currently two major candidates in the race. The first of these candidates is Chip Welch, the more professional of the two who takes the “nonpartisan” part of of being a judge seriously. The same cannot be said about his opponent Barbara Webb, who is literally married to the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, and said chairman was previously in charge of a PAC dedicated to packing the courts with conservative flunkies. So you can almost guarantee that there will be a flood of dark money meant to aid Webb and a ton of vicious smears against Welch because he’s not a borderline fascist.
So in short, the political situation in Arkansas is pretty fucked, and unless we get some of that elusive blue wave goodness in Arkansas, it’s likely going to get even more fucked. What I am most curious about is seeing how well Daniel Whitfield does against Cotton. The chances are pretty small at this time, but thinking about this in the long term, what we just need is someone who will help start a progressive movement in Arkansas that will grow overtime.
The progressive Bernie Sanders supporters tend to mostly be millenials and zoomers, voters who don’t tend to vote as much unless they are specifically motivated to. And it turns out that this race has both an ambitious progressive who doesn’t play by the established rules, and an insufferable far right jackass that many people may show up specifically to vote against. When this is pointed out, it starts to look quite similar to Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 bid against Ted Cruz, but with a few key differences.
The most obvious difference is that Whitfield is a progressive newcomer while Beto was an establishment Democrat posing as a progressive. Considering that many have hypothesized that Beto only lost because he did a post primary pivot and backed off of Medicare for All, this could be a good sign in Whitfield’s favor.
The downside is pretty much everything else. The most obvious is that Whitfield will not have the backing of the Democratic establishment and will basically need to have his campaign go viral if he has any hope of winning. On top of that, Arkansas has a partisan index rating of R+15, which is almost doubt that of Texas. Lastly, Tom Cotton’s approval numbers are better now than Cruz’s were in late 2018, but at the very least he is doing worse than the more moderate Senior Senator John Boozman and Governor Asa Hutchinson.
If the thought of re-electing Tom Cotton upsets you, then good. Let it motivate you to fight him and support Whitfield with everything you’ve got!
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