For years, Americans have bemoaned the partisan nature of “Washington-style politics.” That term usually evoked a bit of a chuckle because Washington doesn’t have diddly squat on the nearest county courthouse. Talk about bare-knuckled politics ...
And in Arkansas, those politics are only going to heat up more as the state has quickly become a two-party state and could soon become a one-party state, with the long-out-of-power Republican Party switching power positions with Democrats.
That shift began with votes cast for federal offices. Then, more and more GOP men and women earned seats in the General Assembly (which could turn majority Republican in a few months). Now, Republicans have their eyes focused on county government seats, putting into action a plan talked about for at least a decade — as the county courthouses go, so goes the state party.
And it’s true.
The political party that controls the most offices at the courthouse has a lot of power to affect lives at a granular level. Help enough people, make things smooth — re-election. And at the county government level, intertia can set in pretty quickly. Familiar names win elections cycle after cycle. Ousting those in power isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. But the state GOP appears poised to do just that.
Give party leaders credit for understanding the dynamics at play and sticking to their plan. They may soon reap rewards in all corners of the state.
How can Democrats stave off the onslaught?
They may have already lost their best advantage — that power to help — letting inertia lapse into lethargy. It’s easy to understand. Wasn’t that long ago that all someone had to have to win office was a (D) behind his name on the ballot. Complacency set in a long time ago, and now it’s the Democrats trying to play catch-up.
County courthouses around the state still mostly belong to Democrats. They can manage to hang on to a lot of them, but they can’t take their political positioning for granted. Party leaders need to show some of the discipline their GOP counterparts have shown in recent years as they have gained ground and painted the state a dark shade of purple, getting redder by the day.
This November’s elections will serve as a petri dish peek at the immediate future of Arkansas politics. If a couple dozen courthouses fall into GOP hands, Democrats should start looking for smaller party headquarters. If Democrats hold the courthouses, they will have held off the tide two more years.