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Steve Barnes


Trump, state of the GOP

It is difficult to envision U.S. Sen. John Boozman losing his re-election bid this November, but you have to give his opponent credit for giving it his best. Conner Eldridge, the Democratic nominee, is keeping as vigorous a calendar as his resources permit, and rarely a day passes without an e-mailed press release scorching, or trying to scorch, the Republican incumbent.

In memory of Ray Thornton

The night before Ray Thornton of Arkansas died I was reading a biography of Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. And making notes about Adlai and Arkansas (the connections abundant and well-known) and what he would make of today’s politics. (That column, coming soon). The book was on my desk in the morning when on my computer screen appeared the first word of Thornton’s death. The physical resemblance the two men shared — nose, eyes, the hairline (or absence of one) — amused rather than startled.

Troubles

Ask any bartender: drinking at lunch has practically ended among the employed of all occupations. Which is why you need the evening hours to find Democrats who believe Hillary Clinton has even a 50-50 chance of winning Arkansas in November.

Growth

Allen Gordon, an attorney, former state senator and seasoned politico, went to the polls on March 1. Born and reared at Morrilton and elected repeatedly as a Democrat in the years before term limits, Gordon knows everybody in and around Conway County, but: “Who are these people?” he asked his wife, she as bewildered as he. Jamming the line at their voting station were men and women he didn’t recognize. This, in a county of 20,000 souls.

Split within the GOP

The deep division within the Republican Party — the “Establishment” versus the insurgents — has made for a frightening presidential nominating season. Even before the campaigns pushed everything else off the stage, the schism made governing in Washington a continuing nightmare for the GOP congressional leadership, and indeed prompted the resignation of the nation’s then-top Republican, Speaker John Boehner.

History’s lessons lost on today’s political scene

Millions of Americans, surely, believed they had better things to do on Presidents’ Day than watch national politics on television. And those who did tune in almost certainly were watching the spectacle that is consuming the Republican Party. Or the less riveting insurrection nagging the Hillary Clinton campaign. All of it in living color.

Former Arkansans, in Iowa, New Hampshire

The city of White Hall has done a lot of growing over the past couple of decades. From traffic lights to businesses and all manner of residential developments, White Hall is growing up. One thing that hasn’t kept pace with all this growth: The White Hall High School. If you were a student there in 1981 the core amenities would look pretty familiar.

Anti-abortion witch hunts at work

There is much news about one of the most controversial issues of our day. Since it competes with the noise that invariably accompanies any discussion of it, especially in a presidential election year, it can be difficult to peel the details free of the decibels. The issue, yes, is abortion: a shameful if legal practice, some sincerely believe, and some more sincerely than others; though the question at hand is apportioning the shame among the political class.

Benghazi continues to take toll

To concede the obvious makes sense in casual conversation but is considered a major misstep in today’s politics, the objective being to keep a party’s core supporters, its “base,” energized, entertained and otherwise engaged, and no matter the impact on independent, “swing” voters. So it would be a mistake for Republicans in the U.S. House, and their patrons, to simply disband the committee set up ostensibly to investigate the tragedy at Benghazi. Better to allow it simply to fade away than openly acknowledge what its Republican members so thoroughly demonstrated last week.

Trading one carnival for another

The State Fair, blessed by wonderful weather, set an attendance record this year. The Indian summer may have had less to do with the turnout than the yearnings of 473,000 Arkansans for respite from the real world. So they traded one carnival for another, and willingly paid to do so.

Remembering Dean Duncan

A few minutes after Dean Duncan slipped peacefully into the next life, one of his family had an idea, a very good one. A nephew who had been looking after Dean’s mutt, Poochie, rushed home and brought him to the hospice. Poochie was entitled to his own farewell.

Ten years after Katrina

There was some talk of a reunion, but it came to nothing. Too many of us had moved on — to other publications, other occupations, to cities other than the ones where we were based when the editors in New York began ordering us into New Orleans and the path of a banshee called Katrina. Ten years ago.

Right-wing rhetoric helping both parties’ major candidates

I swear, if I was a Democrat running for president I would divert as much of my campaign treasury as I could to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Arkansas’s own Mike Huckabee. If I was any Democrat angling to see my party’s nominee win next year I would do the same. Moreover, if I was a Republican trying to set my party aright (but cantered still to the right) I would send all three money, knowing, as do the Democrats (and independents), that not Trump nor Cruz nor Huckabee has a hope of the White House and that their campaigns will serve only to soil the eventual GOP candidate and thus hasten a much-overdue reconsideration of what the party should represent.

40 year apology

Even his sternest critics agreed it was one of Mike Huckabee’s finest moments. To the surprise of many in the crowd of thousands, Huckabee’s oratory, in style and substance, quite surpassed that of another speaker, a president of the United States, for whom the issue was known to run deep — down where the spirit meets the bone, to borrow a phrase.

Unlearning the malignant mindset of poverty

English is her “second language.” Though born in the U.S. to American parents, she was unaware that she spoke not in conventional sentences, using conventional verbs and nouns — the phraseology of the middle class, even in its vernacular — until one of her first instructors insisted that she discard the tongue she had employed since childhood: the lexicon, the vocabulary — the language — of poverty.