The youngest old lion in the pride of Arkansas’ politicians from the era of “retail politics” roared loudly this past week. And like him or not, his words still ring true.
All told about 12,000 souls, mostly college aged voters in the crowds at Jonesboro, Conway, Fayetteville and even Rogers came to hear him. The crowds were augmented with older adults. Many wanted to see if former President William Jefferson Clinton could still charm the birds down from the trees. Yes. He still can.
While Republican standard bearers like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy, former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney or even our former Gov. Mike Huckabee have flocked to Arkansas in favor of Republican office seekers, none have the star power of Bill Clinton.
Did the former President’s visits help Arkansas’ Democrats? Obviously, That won’t be known until after the Nov. 4 ballots are counted.
What is known: The former President still has the ability to communicate off the cuff with no prepared remarks, notes or speech writers when “stumping” in the political season. After a grueling 45 minutes in the midday sun on the University of Arkansas flagship campus’ open air setting, Clinton was fresh as a daisy. Those standing alongside him on the stage looked wilted and worn out. But not Bill Clinton.
Gems gleaned from his speech focused on the road ahead, not the road behind all of us, in these mid-term elections.
“I know most of you out there today,” Clinton said pointing to the sea of college aged faces looking at him from the Arkansas Student Union Quad between the Union and Mullins Library. “You have more tomorrows than yesterdays. An older guy like me, well, I have had more yesterdays and have less tomorrows left in my life.”
The 42nd President asked those trying to decide about these mid-term elections to focus on the “tomorrows” and what these office holders (all Democrats) are offering rather than the tired rhetoric of yesterday. After coming to the state last week, Clinton sharply rapped all the negative television advertisements in all the races.
“The people that paid for those ads, they will not give a rip about you the day after the election,” he said. “They are trying to create an environment in this state of resentment.”
In a sharply descriptive finale on the television ads, Clinton said the out-of-state backers “just want more for the people who already have plenty.” To combat these attacks, Clinton told the younger crowd, “they should not be persuaded to vote against things, But vote for what you are for.”
“Vote with your heart,” he said.
Speaking only a combined 45 minutes in two venues in Northwest Arkansas last week, Clinton’s wide ranging themes were on cooperation to get things done at the federal and state levels between opposing parties and honoring a legacy of opportunity that should be maintained for future generations.
He recalled his own personal and political success as a legacy of opportunity that only Arkansas afforded him. He was rebuking an Internet story from the Daily Beast as headlining his trip to Arkansas as “Bubba Goes Back to the Briar Patch.”
“I love this state,” Clinton began with emotion raking his raspy voice. “If it had not been for me coming here (to the UA campus) to Fayetteville more than four decades ago, I would never have taught at the law school here. I would never have become the governor. I never would have become president. … I am obsessed, but I did not come back to the briar patch, I came back to the future, the future of Arkansas and the future of America.”
Clinton said Arkansas voters should not be tricked into casting their midterm voters as a protest of their feelings on the six year performance of President Barak Obama. And Arkansans certainly should not reward Republicans a six year U.S. Senate seat nor the state’s opportunity for a progressive governor, simply to spite an unpopular Democratic president.
The popular former president said Republican opposition operatives want Arkansans to make Nov. 4 a protest vote.
“All of these races they’re saying, ‘Hey you may like these guys, but you know what you have to do, you got to vote against the President (Obama) … It’s your last shot.”
Clinton called such mid-term persuasions: “A pretty good scam.”
On Nov. 4 we shall see if the roar of this old political lion and his style of retail politics in Arkansas still holds sway over the electronic attempts to smear, tear down and confuse the Arkansas electorate into a hollow protest vote that could forever change the political lay of our state.