Transcript: Thom Hartmann talks to Aaron Swartz about the Arkansas primary runoff and progressives vs. conservadems. 07 Jun '10.
Now there is a primary happening tomorrow. A lot going on politically right now. And all over the United States. It’s going to decide a lot of things. For example in Nevada it’s going to decide whether the chicken lady or another one of the tea party crazies is going to go up against Harry Reid which should be very interesting.
But down in Arkansas, there’s a particularly fascinating race going on. Aaron Swartz with BoldProgressives.org is on the line with us. And he’s in fact he’s the co-founder of Bold Progressives, BoldProgressives.org the website. Aaron, welcome, welcome back to the program.
Aaron Swartz: Thanks for having me.
Thom Hartmann: Thanks for showing up. The easy obvious story, this is the Blanche Lincoln / Bill Halter case. Blanche Lincoln the sitting conservadem, Democratic senator from Arkansas is being challenged by the lieutenant governor, a progressive and neither one got a majority in the last election, so, in the last primary, and so this is the runoff that’s happening tomorrow.
The easy stuff is that she’s taken money, she criticized Halter. She says that, she’s been traveling around the state, and she said, “Bill Halter hasn’t been doing that, he’s been letting other people fund his campaign and do his dirty work.” Actually, 93% of his money comes from individual contributions, whereas 38% of her money comes from PACs, including money from Aetna, Bayer, Bechtel, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, US Chamber of Commerce, Charles Schwab, Chevron, Comcast, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Occidental Petroleum, Wal-Mart, that’s Blanche Lincoln's support group as it were.
But it’s starting to get even more bizarre than that. Adam, tell us about the situation for people, excuse me, Aaron. Tell us about the situation for people in Arkansas who want to vote in tomorrow’s primary.
Aaron Swartz: Yeah, well, we just found out last week that in Garland County, one of the biggest counties that Bill Halter won, the election commissioner decided that, you know, while they had 42 polling places last time, for the run off they only really needed 2. And so he just unilaterally shut down all the other polling places without really telling people. He says, oh someone asked him about it on a radio program and he mentioned it. And that was him telling everyone in the county about it.
So obviously we’re doing everything we can here on the ground getting lawyers out, contacting all the people that we can, informing people of the new polling places. But this is just going to show that we need an enormous grass roots get out the vote effort. And that’s why people go to…
Thom Hartmann: So 40 out of 42 electoral areas in the county that, one of the largest counties for Bill Halter, I mean this could be the swing right? In 40 out of 42 places in that county, people are going to go to their polling station on Tuesday, discover that it’s closed and probably just go back to work.
Aaron Swartz: Definitely. And, you know, in fact there was already this thing where he announced okay well I’ll open it on Saturday so that people who can’t make it during the work day can come, and then…
Thom Hartmann: That’s early voting.
Aaron Swartz: And then at the very last minute he said oh I read the law and I realized I can’t hold early voting on Saturday. So hundreds of people went on Saturday and were turned away. And that’s just going to happen again on Tuesday.
Thom Hartmann: Amazing. Who is this guy that’s making these decisions?
Aaron Swartz: Charles Tapp, he’s the election commissioner for Garland County. And, you know, I mean, there’s two schools of thought, you know. Some people say he’s just not a very bright guy, he’s just kind of lazy and incompetent. And some people are saying no, he’s working with Blanche Lincoln on this and, you know, she controls the party here in Arkansas. I don’t think we’re going to find out which is the case until after the election. But in the mean time we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure the people who can go out to vote and the people in all the other counties do. And that’s why…
Thom Hartmann: I don’t think you shut down 40 out of 42 voting places because you’re lazy or incompetent. I wouldn’t buy that for a second. So the guy is a democrat?
Aaron Swartz: Yeah, I mean, you know, but the…
Thom Hartmann: But so is Blanche Lincoln.
Aaron Swartz: Exactly. Like you’ve seen. This is the fight between corporate democrats versus bold populist democrats like Bill Halter. And this just goes to show why we need change.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. This is really quite remarkable. And we’re talking about the Blanche Lincoln, Bill Halter race down in Arkansas. And the behind the scenes machinations and there aren’t even any Republicans involved! It’s just, this is the conservadems, tragically. Other races around the country, Aaron, that BoldProgressives.org are involved in or that you’re just keeping an eye on?
Aaron Swartz: Well, obviously we were involved in Joe Sestak’s race a couple of weeks ago, you know, we’ve got some exciting congressional races coming up. Also Elaine Marshall’s race in North Carolina, you’ve got another ??? there with a bold progressive versus a kind of standard corporate democrat candidate. This week, this election on Tuesday is going to be huge. We’re really focused on turning out the vote here. If people go to our website they can donate for our last minute get out the vote effort to, even just help make a couple phone calls to make sure voters get to the polls and know where the polls are with all of these closures.
Thom Hartmann: And that would be at BoldProgressives.org. And Aaron, the, I’m forgetting his name, I’ve got the story here someplace, it was Sparks, wasn’t it? Ron Sparks? Do I have that right? Who in the last election, the guy who was the progressive, this was a gubernatorial primary. And it was expected that the conservadem would win and the conservadem had voted against the Obama healthcare program because he thought that that would endear him to the local conservatives and the democrats just said no, we’re going to throw you out on your butt. We’re seeing more and more of this around the country, aren’t we?
Aaron Swartz: Yeah, that’s exactly right and I think you know, that’s why this election is so important. If we win here it will send a message to democrats around the country that look, bold populism is a winner, even in a state like Arkansas where people think oh, you know, that’s not a very progressive state. You know, it’s common sense here. People don’t like their senator selling out to the banks. They don’t like their senator selling out to the insurance companies. That can win everywhere. And if we can show people that winning is possible, I think we’re going to see a huge revival across the country of these progressive challengers taking people on.
Thom Hartmann: Absolutely. Louise and I lived for a decade in Vermont and while there’s a couple of very liberal cities in Vermont, you know Burlington, Brattleboro, Montpelier, what’s called the Northeast Kingdom, the northern third of the state is so solidly conservative. I mean you see, when we lived there in the early 2000s,and Bush/Cheney signs were everywhere and Bush in 2000 and 2004 carried the Northeast Kingdom with like 80% of the vote, I mean just huge. And Bernie Sanders, when he was running for Congress, you know, in every election and when he ran for the United States Senate and won, carried the Northeast Kingdom, hugely. The same thing here in Oregon, Peter DeFazio, one of the five congressmen from this state represents one of the down state counties, a very rural county, generally a very conservative county, but he’s probably one of the five most progressive members of the House of Representatives. Why? Because like with Bernie Sanders, he tells the truth and he talks to average working people and that’s, that’s populism, that’s what people want. And hopefully we’ll see the same thing happen. Hopefully this will scare the hell out of Rahm Emanuel.
Aaron Swartz: Sure hope so. I got to get back in the RV and watch Bill Halter do just that.
Thom Hartmann: Okay, Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Bold Progressives, BoldProgressives.org the website. Get over there, check it out, and help out. Thanks Aaron.
Aaron Swartz: Thanks so much.
Thom Hartmann: Good talking with ya.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.