Independent in a One-Party State: Arkansas Edition

Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln stirred up some ire earlier this month when she referred to town hall protesters across the country as "un-American" in a conference call with reporters, and was quickly forced to issue an apology and retraction. John Lyon reported at Arkansas News:
Efforts to disrupt town hall meetings on health care reform are un-American, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said today, though she later issued a statement retracting the remark. “It’s so sad, because it’s diminishing to the process, it’s diminishing to our outcome,” Lincoln said in a conference call with reporters. “I think it’s sad that they choose to do that. I think it’s un-American and disrespectful.”

A few hours later, Lincoln issued the following statement: “Although I do believe that some of these protesters are disrespectful of other citizens in the audience who truly want to ask questions about health care, I shouldn’t have used the term ‘un-American.’”
There is nothing new about politicians – not to mention everyday duopolist hacks – referring to opposition protesters as "un-American" or "anti-American," as the case may be, from which we might draw a few conclusions regarding the reactionary character of the nation's ruling political class, who equate being an American with subservient obedience to the state, so long as their preferred party happens to control it. But perhaps, like so many of her colleagues, Lincoln simply cannot recognize one of her own if he or she is not wearing a suit and carrying a checkbook. As Down with Tyranny notes, she is no friend to progressives:
She has vowed to join the Republicans to filibuster the Employee Free Choice Act, she has come out against climate change legislation, and she has been a prime behind the scenes operator in replacing progressive initiatives in health care reform with the self-serving agenda drawn up by her generous campaign donors among CEOs and lobbyists from Big Insurance. This week . . . she told demonstrators at a health care town hall in Benton County that she opposes the public option because "We cannot afford it" and then went on citing Republican talking points prepared by Insurance Industry lobbyists.
Is it necessary to point out that conservatives and Republicans are not enamored of her either? David Sanders reports in a commentary that:
One GOP political consultant predicted this week that Mrs. Lincoln’s “un-American” comment would be front and center in voters’ minds next year. That was his way of saying that there will be plenty of television ads coming.
Lincoln's gaffe will surely affect her poll numbers among Arkansans, which are not very strong. A recent survey by Talk Business revealed that just under half of Arkansas's respondents approve of the job she's doing in the Senate, while 60% stated that they would not vote to re-elect her. As Robert McLarty writes in his "Democratic Analysis" of the poll: "while most people believe themselves to be Democrats, a solid bloc of Independents are really who move state politics forward or put a stop to things they don't like" (see the PDF at the link). This might even be something of an understatement. In 2006, 1.5 million people in Arkansas opted not to declare a party affiliation when they registered to vote, while Republicans and Democrats together only garnered the explicit support of just over 100,000 registrants, according to the state's 2006 Voices of Arkansas voting trends analysis (p. 26).

Given the relative weakness of the GOP in the state, the situation bodes well for Independent Senate candidate Trevor Drown who is aiming to unseat Lincoln in next year's election. Tellingly, the above-mentioned post at Down with Tyranny favorably compares Drown with Lincoln, despite the independent's conservative tendencies:
1- he isn't corrupt and he won't have his head up the asses of every corporate CEO waving a check under his nose;
2- he genuinely cares about ordinary American working families and will look to put their interests ahead of the special interests;
3- no matter how he votes on issues, he won't be working behind the scenes to undermine progressives within the Democratic caucus-- since he won't be in the Democratic caucus;
4- no one trying to persuade him about the merits of a progressive stand on an issue is going to face a closed mind or a door closed to all but corporate donors.
Incidentally, it should be noted, Poli-Tea was recently featured as a 'Friend of the Week' at Dare to Make a Difference, Drown's online grassroots organization, which is well worth checking out.

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