Monday, November 06, 2006
The Rising Tide That Lifts All Republican Boats
I met my buddy JC for lunch at a local restaurant the other day. JC was in an unusually expansive mood with the election coming up. Unlike me, he is a consummate political junkie. He knows that I am not much interested in the machinations of politics that consumes him. However, he tolerates me nonetheless, much in the way that my friends who are good golfers tolerate me. I keep my mouth shut. I keep up. I am willing to take instruction.
One of the big races around here involves the one for the exceptionally irrelevant position of Lt. Governor. The Democratic candidate is a self-made millionaire named Bill Halter. The Republican candidate is State Senator Jim Holt who is pictured here.
Now, Holt is an interesting guy. He hails from Northwest Arkansas which is a hotbed of right-wing politics and religion here in Arkansas. Holt's opponent has an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a Master's from Oxford. Holt attended the University of Maryland and the University of Arkansas. More on this later.
Holt is opposed to gay marriage, opposes funding for mandatory pre-kindergarten which he considers socialistic, and has voted against raising the minimum wage. His stance on illegal immigrants is sufficiently draconian that Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and no civil libertarian, has referred to it as un-Christian.
Holt is derided in the media as an unelectable nut in a statewide race and something of a slacker who needs the Lt. Governor's job to feed his family. JC, however, says that the other Republican candidates, such as Asa Hutchinson who is running for Governor, thanked their lucky stars when Holt made the race.
"Really?" I said.
" Hell yes!" John said. " He's the rising tide that lifts all Republican boats. Asa wouldn't have even made the race if Holt weren't running."
" I'm not following you."
JC looked at me with both resignation and pity.
" Look. It's simple." he said. " The nuts will turn out en masse for Holt. And do you think they are going to vote for any Democrats while they are in there voting for Jesus Jim? Hell no they're not. This means Asa can basically rise above the fray and not have to talk about gays and such too much because the nuts have already been pandered to by Holt."
" Actually, pandering is too strong of a word. Holt actually believes the crazy shit he puts out. Anyway, Asa can let Holt keep the faithful fired up about the gays and abortion and illegal immigration and God only knows what else. Asa doesn't have to do a thing and he reaps the benefits of Holt's whack job constituency."
That makes sense to me. At least as much as anything does.
I guess the questions I have about Holt don't have as much to do with his positions as much as
they do with him. First of all, he didn't get a college degree and yet he claims to have been an analyst and watch officer for the National Security Agency. After his stint with the NSA, he supposedly went to work as a counselor and chaplain at a private facility for sex offenders. That's odd. He went from a watch officer at NSA to a counselor's position? At a facility for sex offenders? Neither position required a college degree? Has anybody in the media checked this story out?
Secondly, the man has a wife and 9 kids. His only visible means of support is the salary he draws from the Senate. He has admitted that it is tough to raise such a large family on less than $40,000. Indeed, he has also admitted that he has accepted the gift of a van from a friend from his church. Rumor has it that he also accepts "offerings" from friends and supporters. His friends say that Holt is not a materialist. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we need more average folks running for office. The way things are trending now, you practically have to be a millionaire to run for higher political office. That's just wrong.
But practically nobody in the state legislature subsides on his or her salary as a lawmaker. The positions don't pay enough. Being a Arkansas lawmaker may be a high calling but it is a part-time job. Do we really want to elect somebody to the second highest constitutional office in the State who has such a spotty resume in the real world of work? Further, all politicians are beholden to the interest groups that support them. Do we want to elect somebody that is also beholden to friends and supporters for his subsistence? Do we want to elect somebody Lt. Governor because he needs a job?
These are interesting times that we live in. There are guys on Tuesday's ballot whose only qualifications are that they are devout conservatives. And they got there fair and square by winning their primaries.
Is that all it takes to be a Republican? Is that enough to win an election?
I guess we'll see tomorrow night.