By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
While sitting in a crowded waiting room the other day, my wife overheard a woman say she didn’t know what to do about the Senate race. Mark Pryor votes with Obama, the woman said, and Tom Cotton gets all his money from billionaires.
She no doubt reflects a lot of voters. After a year-and-a-half of campaigning and more than 50,000 television ads according to The Center for Public Integrity, the election for U.S. Senate is largely about these caricatures the opposing campaigns have painted about each other.
Who’s to blame? The campaigns, of course, for selling it, and voters for buying it. Members of the media are guilty, too, of course. We mostly just repackage the products the campaigns provide.
So I’m done. We all know why not to vote for these candidates. Here’s why you should vote for them.
You should vote for Tom Cotton because he’s disciplined, and strong, and brave. As a younger man, he took a break from his promising legal career to volunteer for tours of combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a congressman, he’s shown he will not back down from a fight and will not compromise his convictions. He’s taken unpopular stances he knew would be used against him: for raising the retirement age, because the system needs reform; against Hurricane Sandy relief, because politicians had used that tragedy to pack the bill with nonemergency projects; against the farm bill, because most of the money is spent on food stamps, a program that he believes has grown too big in recent years.
You also should vote for him because, if Republicans take over the Senate while keeping the House, then Congress might again function at least somewhat like a legislative body that serves as a check and balance on the executive branch, instead of remaining the divided and dysfunctional mess it’s become.
On the other hand, you should vote for Mark Pryor because he’s compassionate, and determined, and willing to consider others’ points of view. He’s shown he can play the hand dealt him – a good one as the son of a popular former governor and senator, and a bad one fighting cancer or running under the same party label as an unpopular president.
As a senator, he’s been willing to meet with others in the middle when so much of that body has camped out on the wings. When the government shut down, he was part of a group of 14 practical-minded senators who bridged the gap and helped it reopen. He does not forget that the big-picture legislation he passes affects average Arkansans. He also does some of the little things, like helping create a database that keeps track of truck drivers who test positive for drugs and alcohol.
You also should vote for him because, after a half-century of one-party rule under the Democrats, Arkansas should not become a one-party state under the Republicans.
There are reasons to vote for the other two candidates, too. Both Libertarian Nathan LaFrance and Green Party nominee Mark Swaney have put their names on the ballot knowing they represent parties that have no money, no infrastructure, and no chance of winning. They’ve done this because those parties most closely represent their deeply held convictions. They’ve campaigned at their own personal expense and on their own time. When given the chance, they’ve proven able to eloquently explain and defend their positions.
At this point at the end of a long campaign, many of us have determined that all our choices are all bad. Certainly there is much about Cotton and Pryor that I cannot support – especially the way they have torn down each other. Regardless, one of these two men will represent us, and our decision as voters should be based at least partly on choosing who would do it better instead of simply avoiding the one who would do it worse. They both have flaws, and they both have admirable qualities.
So let’s try to vote FOR something, even if all we are voting for is the democratic process itself. People died for this.