Although Senator Cotton is the duly elected junior Senator from Arkansas, he doesn’t speak for me. There are many areas on which I disagree with Senator Cotton, such as D.C. statehood, confederate monuments, using active duty troops during the recent protests, etc. However, his silence (and that of the entire Arkansas delegation) on the issue of Russia offering bounties on the lives on our troops speaks volumes. I am baffled by Senator Cotton’s silence on this issue since he is a veteran who served in Afghanistan. Given his education and experience, I can only conclude that his silence reflects political considerations rather than principles.
While Senator Cotton may not have a challenger in the upcoming election, he is not unopposed. A recent poll of Arkansas voters conducted by Hendrix College and Talk Business & Politics showed a negative job approval rating for Senator Cotton as well as for President Trump.
Independent voters, in particular, were strongly negative with 51 percent disapproving of Senator Cotton’s job performance and only 39 percent approving.
Also, research by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia found that, in Arkansas, the vast majority of registered voters identify as independents.
Political commentators keep referring to Arkansas as a “red state.” However, we are, in reality, a nonvoting state. In 2014, the year Senator Cotton was elected, the turnout rate of the voting eligible population (VEP) was 40.1% according to the United States Elections Project. The VEP reflects an estimate of those eligible to vote regardless of registration status.
In 2018, the voting eligible turnout rate was 41.3% placing Arkansas 49th out of 50 states.
Using the voting eligible population turnout rate as a measure reveals two important facts. First, almost 60 percent of those eligible to vote in Arkansas didn’t vote for Senator Cotton or for anybody. Second, and most important, Democrats, in Arkansas and nationally, are missing an opportunity and should not cede Arkansas and rural America to the Republican party.
Arkansas is fertile ground for progressive and grassroots politics, a fact evidenced by our history of activism. I understand the political triage which places limited party resources in “battleground” or “swing” states that may affect the Electoral College outcome. However, in the quest for racial equality, Arkansas has always been a battleground state.
We are the only southern state with a direct Initiative process where citizens can propose legislation themselves—a right the Republican-controlled legislature is trying to restrict. We need to reignite our history of populist politics. We need to elect Joe Biden as the next President, make Senator Chuck Schumer the next majority leader, and put Senator Cotton in the minority where he can do little harm.
William Hanson is the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 4th District of Arkansas.