“ … I am convinced that this is truly a victory of the people and I am thrilled that you have said to the rest of the nation, ‘Yes, we want a two-party system of government in Arkansas.’His election sounded the death knell for the Old Guard machine of Orval Faubus. WR opened up government to blacks, women, and others closed out of the process. He began a much-needed reform of the election law. He cleaned up the prison system, brought transparency to government, and stopped illegal gambling in Hot Springs. He went after abuses in banking and chased fly-by-night insurance frauds out of the state. It was a new day in Arkansas and much of what our state has accomplished is a result of WR’s bold leadership.
I will not let you down. I know that the Democratic Party will be watching every act of this Republican administration, just as closely as we have watched the Democratic administration. And this is good. The checks and balances within the framework of a two-party system are the greatest protection ever conceived for the citizens in a democracy and represent the great hope for Arkansans in the years to come. … ”
Recently, a number of Arkansas Democrats have been saying that Governor Rockefeller would not want to be in today’s Republican Party. They do this for political purposes because they are desperate. People are leaving their party in droves. Everyone has heard the most common refrain in Arkansas politics: “I didn’t leave the Democrat Party—it left me!” This saying derives from the indisputable fact that the Democratic Party has moved to the far-left liberal side of the political spectrum. Arkansans simply cannot relate to people like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barrack Obama. For that reason, the local Democrats are now trying to paint the Republican Party as extreme. It is Politics.101: If people say your party is too extreme, you should say the same thing about the opposition party.
Politics can be an ugly business. There is a degree of tolerance for that. However, it is one thing to besmirch a live opponent, it is quite another to drag into the fray the name and reputation of a distinguished leader who has been dead for forty years. This is particularly true when the tactic is a bald face lie and admiring people have set aside a month to remember his good work. It is doubly bad when the lie touches the family of the great leader and disturbs a memory they cherish. WR’s son, Lieutenant Governor Rockefeller, served our state with distinction for ten years and was chair of the Republican Party in 2003 and 2004. In that capacity, he was fond of saying: “The Republican Party of Arkansas represents the views and values of everyday Arkansans.” Today, WR’s grandson, Will, works for U. S. Senator John Boozman, a Republican. Another grandson, Collin, is in his second year at the U. S. Naval Academy and he has been a frequent speaker at Lincoln Day dinners. Yet another grandson, Lewis, has applied to be a page at this year’s Republican National Convention.
The partisan bloviators — former Governor Jim Guy Tucker, Will Bond (chair of the Arkansas Democrat Party), and Jay Barth (a liberal professor and unsuccessful Democrat candidate) — should cease and desist their unbecoming attempt to speak for a great man who has been in the grave for forty years. Their ploy is at best a dirty trick; at worst, it is a ghoulish attempt to rewrite history for political purposes. Would it not be better to debate the issues on the merits?
Ed Bethune was elected to Congress from the Second Congressional District of Arkansas in 1978. He served until 1985. He was born and raised a Democrat and became a Republican after he helped Winthrop Rockefeller become governor. He is the author of the autobiography; Jack Hammered. This article first appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 14, 2012.
Tags: Ed Buthune, op ed, ghouls, Arkansas, Republicans, governor, Winthrop Rockefeller, democrat ploys,