A telling event this week at Little Rock’s ostensibly nonpartisan Clinton Presidential Center underscores the panic voiced privately by Arkansas Democrats that the state’s entire congressional delegation could turn bright red next year.
William Jefferson Clinton, dubbed the “Secretary of Explaining Stuff,” delivered a speech on “the critical role a high quality, affordable and accessible health care system plays in the United States and any country’s economic and social well being.”
Proponents of nationalized medical insurance like Clinton note the U.S. is the only major industrial nation without a government-run system. But economic conditions in the Eurozone are persistently weak, which presents a problem for Clinton & Co.: how to argue, particularly to conservative Arkansas, that nationalized medical insurance leads to prosperity?
Arkansas Republicans, since 2012, have controlled all four of the state’s U.S. House seats, and one of two Senate seats, leaving two-term incumbent Mark Pryor as the sole Democratic survivor. He faces freshman Republican Tom Cotton, who represents Arkansas’ 4th District, next year. President Obama lost Arkansas, 59-39 percent in 2008, and 61-37 percent in 2012.
Enter Clinton. Clinton’s job is to accomplish what Obama cannot: help Pryor, a supporter of the federal Affordable Care Act, in 2014. Pryor revels in links to the former president, who remains somewhat popular despite decamping for New York’s Westchester County years ago. Cotton, for his part, isn’t concerned about Clinton campaigning for Pryor, telling the paper, “I don’t think when Arkansans go into the voting booth in this race or any other race, they are casting ballots on endorsements.”
To understand why Senator Pryor is in such danger, you have to understand that Arkansas was once known as the Land of Opportunity. Clinton, in order to link Pryor to Arkansas’s economic past, is choosing to do so from a shiny Potemkin Village, his Presidential Center, nestled in one of only two Arkansas counties with still above-average income levels. There are 75 in the state.