Not too long ago a person filing for public office in Arkansas was encouraged to file as a Democrat. Arkansas, having been a solid Democrat state since after Reconstruction Republicans left, had never been Republican friendly. After all, Republicans were viewed as the enemy. After the Civil War, Republican appointed governors and legislative bodies ruled in most of the southern states and Arkansas was no different. As soon as the Republican appointments could be removed, Democrats quickly moved to take control.
In those late 1800s, Democrats managed to seize control of the office of governor, the legislative bodies, and the county and federal offices as well. Candidates would walk into county courthouses file during the filing period and be told, “You need to file as a Democrat. You can’t win as a Republican.” Democrats attempted to control voting, control offices, and control the social and economic segregation of the state. They were so committed to ensuring this control that even during the Central High School Desegregation it was a Democrat Governor who sent the National Guard to stop African-American Children from going to school. It took a Republican President sending the U.S. Army to Arkansas to stop the Democrats. After that, Democrats learned to adapt, change as needed on minor points only, and continued to have strong control of almost all political offices. Then during the last few years something changed.
The “something” that changed may have been brought on by the implementation of President Obama’s job killing Obamacare-job killing being something Arkansas cannot stand. It may have been a wave of education with the advent of the Internet and social media, but suddenly the little “Democrat Controlled” state of Arkansas began to see the voting population shifting. Voters became educated and they began to ask questions. They began to look at the history of the Democratic Party and more importantly they began to look at the history of the Republican Party. Voters began to realize that the Grand Old Party is not a bunch of rich people trying to destroy the rights of others. What they found is that anyone could be a part of the Grand Old Party and that everyone was welcome! They began to see that average people, not just rich people, made up the ranks of people called Republicans. Then they began to look at the history and see that the Republicans had been defending them all along. They saw that when the Democratic Party worked to keep them “in-line” the Republican Party worked to help lift them up. Many found it odd when they studied and found that Republicans had pushed and voted to give African-American Citizens the right to vote-without a single Democrat vote! They began to find it strange that Democratic governors across the south had tried to keep African-American Children from going to school-while a Republican President stood firm and ensured the children could go to school. They began to find it odd that the first Hispanic American to serve on a President’s cabinet served on Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Cabinet. They then found the first African-American man to serve as Secretary of State served for George Bush, Sr. and the first African-American woman served as Secretary of State for George Bush, Jr. The Internet and education is a powerful tool and that power continued to reach voters.
As the voters became educated, the elections began to turn. Primaries saw huge turnouts of Republican Voters. Republicans began to win more races. In 2012, Miller County, Arkansas saw all Republican candidates win office except for one. On the state level Republicans began to gain offices in the legislative body. On the Federal level, Republicans now hold all except for one federal seat in Arkansas.
Perhaps one of the most important signs of this Republican wave in Arkansas occurred a couple of weeks ago. Statewide, 138 Republicans filed for office. Only 88 Democrats filed for office. No longer does a Republican candidates walk into the county courthouses across the state and hear, “You can’t win as a Republican”.