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OPINION: Listen, if they speak; few will be in local venues

by Maylon Rice | April 27, 2022 at 5:25 a.m.

The voting registration deadline ended on Monday, so the voting "pool" for participants in the May 24 Preferential Primary is set.

The forever changing landscape in politics – even here in Arkansas – is changing.

Once, candidates roamed the courthouses, coffee shops, farmers markets and events like parades, fairs, athletic events and city celebrations in search of votes and voters.

Today, where are the candidates?

Oh, there are a few mega events, like the Chicken Peeling and Shrimp Picking in Springdale, where the majority party flexes its muscle in a tightly controlled "see me" event with few, very few real stump speeches.

And a few other venues like the Political Animals Clubs across the state – at least one in each corner of Arkansas – offer a smattering of political discourse.

But even the Political Animals Clubs require a fee to attend, advance notice and then those running for office don't always show. Recently, a slated bill of all the candidates for Lt. Governor set to present themselves here in NWA. The leader of the pack, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, just decided not to show – casting a shadow over those who did and the program itself.

But AG Rutledge has never been a team player and once again proves the point of a barrage of mind-numbing TV ads can elect anyone – personality, integrity or not.

The average voter, wanting to at least meet the candidates, shake their hands and ask them a simple question, is once again, forgotten by these modern media types.

All chatter in political circles is about exposure on line, Facebook and Instagram posts, trending contacts and mail pieces per voter.

Not about the number of Rotary, Lions or Kiwanis Club meetings one has visited.

Not about how many times they have been to Madison, Washington or Carroll counties.

And certainly not about who is going to the Gravette Days Parade next month.

Oh, there are a few candidates who still get into a parade line up and ride on the backs of convertibles or in a large Hummer waving out the window to those gathered along the sidewalks. And once in a while, tired of waiting for the parade to move along briskly, the exceptional candidate will step out of the vehicle and walk the parade route shaking hands and waving at voters on the other side of the street.

But few will make an event where they may encounter the public at large or heaven forbid, see their opponent at the same microphone where they are asked to speak.

Part of the problem, even in the Preferential Primaries coming up this May, is the division within the political parties as we know them. It seems the real 'retail' of in-person politics is dead.

Candidates cannot, it seems, be civil to one another in person.

This stems from an ugly formula of being mean, underhanded, spreading falsehood, untruths, and distortion of their opponents' views on web sites, flyers sent through the mails and slick dodges of the central theme upon their own campaigns.

It's easy to say your opponent is "not tough on abortion," and "supported a bill to killing babies," on a flyer sent under the name of a contrived political action committee.

And it is even easier on TV to say such outlandish accusations in a 60-second advertisement sponsored by a group no one has heard of – ever.

Criticism of TV and radio ads and their content are also to easily lie about and to be levied in a Facebook or Instagram post that offends the listener, but not necessarily the truth.

The biggest yammering has been by those accusing Republican gubernatorial front runner Sarah Huckabee Sanders of not having a reference to "Arkansas" in her ads.

She ended the criticism with her latest TV ad, which does, again, mention her agenda items along with a scolding jab at the "liberal left."

The last words you hear come directly out of her mouth, facing the voters squarely in the TV frame, are, strongly and simply, "... in Arkansas."

Like her or not, she gets the meaning of "retail politics," like few others.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Print Headline: Listen, if they speak; few will be in local venues

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