Sending The Democrats A Message

Sending The Democrats A Message They Can Understand

by digby

... in Arkansas!

Lt.Governor Bill Halter is taking up the challenge and is going to run against Conservadem Senator Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary. Everyone's been hoping for it for quite a while, what with Lincoln looking like a sure loser against the Republican anyway, while voting almost exactly like one. Why not offer a difference and see what happens?

Howie Klein writes:
Blue America has been busy all year letting Arkansas voters know that Blanche Lincoln may have a "D" next to her name but when it comes to the key issues that impact ordinary working families and pits their interests against Big Business and Wall Street, she was, in effect, a dependable Republican shill. Politics for her has become cultivating K Street and then fast-talking the Democratic base back home. We helped make that more and more difficult for her. And now, with her approval ratings the lowest of any member of the Senate and with a virtual certainty of defeat at the hands of any Republican, she has a real primary on her hands.

This morning Lt. Governor Bill Halter declared the would enter the May 18th primary against her. (Next week is the deadline for filing.) I spoke with Halter a few months ago and he said he had no intention of running. I feel certain he didn't. But as Lincoln's approval in the state collapsed, he has come to realize that he is the only chance the Democrats have to hold onto the seat. He will run a populist campaign against Big Business and for ordinary working families. He should be able to defeat Lincoln among a Democratic electorate that now sees right through her, although the corrupt and reactionary party establishment in Little Rock will stick with the Blanche Lincoln suicide train.

Blue America just added Bill to our ActBlue page, in case you'd like to help him get his campaign message out. Blanche has raised over $7 million so far and has over $5 million on hand much of it from the sleaziest special interests in Washington (and Arkansas).

The dean of Arkansas politics, Max Brantley gives this analysis for Salon:
Lincoln will continue to portray herself as a middle-of-the-roader, in the belief that's where most voters lie. That's not a safe bet for the Arkansas Democratic primary. Polling is mixed on health care in Arkansas, for example. Ask the question the right way and reform enjoys plenty of support, particularly among lower-income Democratic primary voters. That's much the same for clean air legislation. Hunters and fishermen don't have a lot of sympathy for polluters. Calling Democrats extremists for supporting universal health care and a clean environment doesn't seem like a good strategy for the primary from my point of view.

Brantley points out that Lincoln still has support among the Dem faithful and the Halter isn't known for his warmth or engagement with the issues. But the liberal base is disgusted with Lincoln and she has some serious problems with the African American community. So this is doable. But he needs help.
Lincoln has a lot of campaign cash on hand, but much of it is dedicated to the general election. As the marquee race, the run for Senate will get a lot of free media. Halter can self-fund to a degree (he spent more than $400,000 in his race for lieutenant governor in 2006) and he's counting on several hundred thousand from progressive groups nationally. That's more than enough to buy a lot of cable TV exposure in a relatively inexpensive media market.

Primary challenges are one of the best ways for liberals to get their message out and gain influence in the party. It's a lot to ask of anyone --- Bill Halter is going to anger a whole lot of the Arkansas establishment and funding apparatus by doing this. These challengers need support from the movement if they are going to do this. And the Democratic establishment needs to know that they are getting support from the movement if the message is going to get through.

Help Bill Halter Send The Democrats a Message They Can Understand.