Arkansas is catching up to the paradigm shift that most of its neighbors have experienced — moving politically from blue to red.
The trending from a mostly Democratic state to one that may soon be majority Republican is evident across the spectrum. Arkansas went big for John McCain four years ago and may go bigger for Mitt Romney in November, but the movement runs much deeper. A record number of Republicans are candidates in state and local races. In state legislative races alone, 100 candidates have "R" by their names – 74 in the House and 26 in the Senate.
But, it’s not all roses for the GOP in Arkansas. In a growing party, Republicans have many well-qualified candidates — and a few embarrassments.
Embarrassing may not be sufficient to describe how many Republicans feel about three candidates who have made racially charged comments of late.
State Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro has distinguished himself in his first term primarily as an outspoken advocate for stronger restrictions on illegal immigration. He once sponsored a bill that sought to ensure illegal immigrants were not able to obtain state benefits. When he met resistance in committee, he infamously lost his temper.
Hubbard also is known for writing frequent letters to the editor. He has written so many that he compiled them into a book a few years back entitled "Letters to the Editor, Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative." The book received little attention until some people began reading it as research on candidate Hubbard in this year’s election.
Several parts of the book are troubling, but perhaps the worst is a chapter called "The Black Blessing in Disguise," in which Hubbard argues that slavery was actually a blessing for African Americans.
"The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of this Earth," wrote Hubbard.
It is puzzling how Hubbard’s argument for slavery – the ownership of one race by another – as a blessing can be perceived by any sane individual as anything other than racist. But Hubbard insists that the whole thing is nothing more than "Obama-Pelosi-Beebe Democrats" who are out to get him.
Another Republican, former Rep. Charlie Fuqua of Batesville, also has written a book. Fuqua is running against a staunchly conservative Democrat, Rep. James McLean. In Fuqua’s book, "God’s Law: The Only Political Solution," he advocates some bizarre and racist positions, such as deporting all Muslims from the United States, executing prisoners who cannot be rehabilitated in two years and even allowing parents to execute their children for disobedience.
Rep. Loy Mauch of Bismark has not written a book, but has written repeated letters to the editor. His writings include a mix of conservative ideas along with a Confederate sympathizer view of American Southern history. Although his writings are not as blatantly racist as those of Fuqua and Hubbard, they come close in his repeated argument that the Bible never condemns the institution of slavery.
It is important to note that the statements are rightly being condemned by almost all Arkansas Republicans, including the state’s three Republican congressmen.
"While I have not read either book by Representative Hubbard or Charlie Fuqua, I am disappointed and disturbed by the news reports of the divisive and racially inflammatory content. The statements that have been reported portray attitudes and beliefs that would return our state and country to a harmful and regrettable past," said Congressman Rick Crawford, whose district includes the areas where Hubbard and Fuqua are running.
As expected, Democrats are pointing to these statements and painting them as a broad problem within the Republican Party. The blame lies with Hubbard, Fuqua and Mauch, not the party.
The racist statements were not off-the-cuff gaffes that some politicians seem to make, but rather published words. Democrats have every right to point out the other side’s problems.
While the words of three candidates are not representative of the Republican Party, the party will have to absorb the attacks and remind voters that those words do not represent the pervasive mentality of the GOP. All the party can do is chalk it up to the growing pains resulting from a couple of election cycles in which Republicans have ridden and are riding the waves of change.
In the end, racist positions should not and must not be tolerated in a Republican majority. Principles always trump party.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com