If you’ve been keeping up with the online news the last two days you’ve probably seen that Dustin McDaniel got himself in a bit of hot water recently. Apparently, McDaniel’s PAC gave Republican state senate candidate Bart Hester, a teabagger facing no opposition, a $1,000 dollar contribution. Now before I go further, let me point out that something like that didn’t just happen. Hester didn’t just look in his mail box one day and find a check from Dustin McDaniel waiting for him. There was certainly some discussion about this, and I bet what happened here was that McDaniel was playing the political game and helped Hester out with some debt relief after his primary fight in exchange for some good feelings that would hopefully turn into a helpful vote should McDaniel need it from him some day. From there, I bet some of Hester’s teabagger friends complained and he folded like a coward and sent the contribution back. So McDaniel learned a hard lesson, one similar to that which Newt Gingrich once learned about penguins. Don’t pet the Republicans, they tend to bite.
There’s a lesson here of course. The era of good feelings in Arkansas politics is over. There used to be a time when Republicans, confined to an extreme minority status, used to play nice with Democrats and vice versa from time to time. Arkansas was, for all intents and purposes a one party state at that point. Those days are dead and gone now and, for better or worse, two party politics has has come to Arkansas. Personally, I think that’s a good thing for a number of reasons, but we won’t get into that here. Regardless, the sooner all Democrats learn the new rules of the game, rules the Republicans have already set out to master, the better for team blue.
That all said, there are a fair number of Democrats who are pretty ticked at McDaniel for this I’m sure. Honestly though, I’m not one of them. Yeah, I know, it kind of surprised me too….
Why am I willing to cut McDaniel some slack here? Because his PAC has given over $70,000 in contributions to Democratic state legislative candidates and he’s showing no signs of letting up. We’re in a real dire situation here and no one has been helping fund the fight to keep the state legislature more than McDaniel has. Beebe certainly hasn’t stepped it up. Halter, sad to say, doesn’t seem to be out there aggressively fighting for the state house like this. Is it just playing politics? To some degree I’m sure it is. But you know what? It might be the difference between a Republican agenda and a Democratic one, and so I’m glad he’s out doing it. Someone has too, and there are a lot of Democrats who could help in a big way who aren’t doing a tenth of the work Dustin is to fight off the wolves. Am I defending McDaniel’s contribution to Hester? No, I think that was boneheaded. Never trust a Republican I say. However, in the context of doing more than any other major Democrat to keep our majorities out of a long list of people who should be doing at least half as much, I’m willing to cut him some slack.
For McDaniel, this little headache will come and go. The DINO charge isn’t going to stick-DINOs aren’t pro-choice, pro-civil unions, don’t take on the big banks, don’t fight Citizens United, don’t go after predatory lenders, don’t testify in support of Sonia Sotomayor, and don’t refuse to join the law suit against the Affordable Care Act despite intense political pressure. McDaniel has his faults like anyone, but he’s no Blue Dog. If anything, this may make him intensify his efforts to elect Democrats, and that’s a very good thing. Now if only we could get everyone else in the Democratic Party of Arkansas to do that…
As for that $1,000 bucks, might I suggest some Democrats who I’m sure would gladly take it? There’s our newly endorsed candidate Diana Gonzales Worthen. I’m sure David Whitaker would appreciate it in his state rep race. Steve Harrelson could definitely use it in his fight to hold on to his seat. Oh and I’m sure Scott Ellington would be happy to take it in his bid to unseat Rick Crawford. And hey, if not them I’m sure there are quite a few other Democrats who would appreciate it and more.