NWA EDITORIAL | In the Arkansas Legislature, common ground based on the quality of ideas can advance the state
December 11, 2022
In the Arkansas Legislature, common ground based on the quality of ideas can advance the state
Caucus shows promise of good ideas by NWA Democrat-Gazette | December 11, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Who says there’s no good news in the newspaper?
Imagine elected leaders in Arkansas speaking about collaboration, finding common ground and trying to discern the issues in which the state’s residents are better served by something beyond loyalty to political parties.
No, we’re not talking about disloyalty to core party priorities. Nor are we saying the world needs more declarations of independents a la Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema or even Arkansas’ own Jim Hendren.
What we’re saying (and what Hendren has said) is that the leaders of this state ought to identify as Arkansans first, with party labels falling somewhere in second, third or 10th place.
Last Sunday, readers of this newspaper learned more about the Arkansas Future Caucus in a story by political reporter Doug Thompson, who revealed the number of state lawmakers 45 years old or younger will jump from 30 to 40 when the Arkansas General Assembly convenes in January.
These political youngsters have a notion that bipartisanship is possible — and desirable — on a host of issues, that being from different parties does not necessitate perpetual disagreement. “D” and “R” don’t have to stand for “difficult” and “recalcitrant.”
The deliberative bodies of government are built on recognition that people will disagree. “Roberts Rules of Order,” for example, assumes that from the very beginning but attempts to fashion a useful process for arriving at collective decision-making. People aren’t sent to the state Capitol in Little Rock or to the bigger one in Washington, D.C., to just argue interminably. What’s the point in that? (See “social media” or tune in to sports radio to conclude there is none.)
Caucuses can help lawmakers identify commonalities with other lawmakers, regardless of party. Not everything boils down to simplistic party-oriented labels. There have been moments in the state’s political history where cooperation between members of different parties was vilified. Much of that ugliness happened as voters transitioned state government from Democratic control into the hands of Republicans. The GOP is fully in charge now and for the foreseeable future, so there’s no need for the battle lines like those that often exist in the more evenly divided U.S. government. Arkansas GOP’ers can afford to collaborate with Democrats based on the quality of ideas rather than political perceptions on many key issues. And Democrats had better realize they’ll have precious little influence if they try to steer conservative Arkansas in a progressive direction its voters clearly don’t embrace.
Arkansas’ best future will be advanced by lawmakers and other political leaders embracing good ideas, no matter where they come from. The work of the Arkansas Future Caucus and others that seek out common ground across a variety of political lines — urban/rural, public education, etc. — can help chart a path toward that future.
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