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Arkansas Politics and Government, Second Edition

Diane D. Blair Irrevocable Trust

Publication Year: 2005

Published a decade and a half after the late Diane D. Blair’s influential book Arkansas Politics and Government, this freshly revised edition builds on her work, which highlighted both the decades of failure by Arkansas's government to live up to the state’s motto of Regnat Populus (“The People Rule”) and the positive trends of democracy. Since the first edition, Arkansas has seen the two-term U.S. presidency of a native son, the retirement of players who defined the state’s politics in the modern era, the further realignment of the state’s electorate, the passage of the nation’s most extreme legislative term limits, the complete overhaul of the state’s court system, and the declaration that the state’s public education system was unconstitutionally inadequate and inequitable.
While maintaining the basic structure of Blair’s original work with its focus on important historical patterns and the ways in which the past continues to shape the present, the second edition details the causes and consequences of recent changes in Arkansas and asks whether they are profound and permanent or merely transitory variations in symbol and style. Jay Barth argues that although Arkansas currently expresses a healthier representative democracy than throughout most of its history, its political and governmental entities are still sharply limited as effective instruments of “the people.”

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Politics and Governments of the American States

Title Page, Copyright

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Tables, Maps, and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xi-xiv

Generations of students and scholars of the politics of the South have looked to V. O. Key’s Southern Politics in State and Nation as the jumping-off point for their investigations since that seminal work was published in the middle of the last century. So too since its 1988 publication has Diane D. Blair’s Arkansas Politics and Government served as the beginning of the journey...

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pp. xv-xviii

Most fundamentally, of course, I acknowledge the mentoring in analyzing and in livingArkansas politics that Diane D. Blair gave me during the years in which we were friends and colleagues. I will forever value the conversations about this work that Diane and I had in the last months of her life. It was a collaborative occasion that allowed me to interact with Diane in a manner...

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1. The Past in the Present

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pp. 1-17

On September 25, 1997, before a cheering crowd of seventy-five hundred spectators gathered in front of Little Rock’s Central High, the president of the United States, the governor of Arkansas, and the mayor of Little Rock saluted the nine individuals who, as students, had once been denied entrance to the school but courageously returned to integrate it. President Bill Clinton...

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2. Some Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Political Explanations

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pp. 18-34

When Arkansas was admitted to the Union in 1836, its territory consisted of 53,335 square miles, much of it densely forested, little of it easily accessible. On its eastern border, separated by theMississippi River from Tennessee and Mississippi, lay a vast flood plain, almost impassable in the rainy season, its swamps a known breeding ground for malaria and other dread diseases. The...

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3. Traditional Politics and Its Transformation

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pp. 35-59

For the first seventeen presidential elections in the twentieth century, Arkansas went Democratic, and did so by margins far exceeding the national Democratic norm.Arkansas’s elections to theU.S. Congress were just as consistently Democratic, and the Democratic candidate won the governorship in thirty-three successive elections from 1900 to 1964. In fact, the average...

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4. Contemporary Political Patterns

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pp. 60-94

Reflecting all the social, economic, and legal upheavals described in the previous chapter, the first partisan cracks in the “Solid South” began appearing in presidential contests, and specifically in 1948, when four southern states deserted the Democrats for Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond. Other southern states actually bolted into the Republican column for the popular war hero...

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5. Dealigned Voters and Disadvantaged Political Parties in Contemporary Arkansas

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pp. 95-115

Although diverging on which is the most important, political scientists have suggested that three major mechanisms help to explain declining Democratic voting in the South: migration, generational turnover, and individual conversion. Clearly, all three of these factors have been at work in Arkansas. l The important Republicanizing effects of in-migration have already been...

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6. The Influence of Interest Groups

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pp. 116-134

In the earliest days of state government in Arkansas, interest groups would have been superfluous. State legislators represented individuals (and relatively few of them) whose economic interests, primarily farming, were fairly homogeneous, and state government did little that materially affected their livelihoods. Still, in Arkansas as elsewhere, as populations grew, as...

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7. The Constitution: Provisions and Politics

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pp. 135-155

The winds of change that produced so many modifications in Arkansas politics in recent decades also generated an intense period of attempted constitutional reform. On four separate occasions between 1968 and 1995, machinery was established to replace the existing constitution, written in 1874, with a new one that was more appropriate to contemporary circumstances...

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8. The Power and Politics of the Executive Branch

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pp. 156-185

The Arkansas governorship has been alternately described as an office of feeble incapacity and of towering strength. Since the framers of the 1874 constitution were not only antigovernmental but fiercely antigubernatorial, they deliberately designed a governorship of strictly limited powers: a two year term; a meager salary specified in the constitution itself; executive...

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9. The Power and Politics of the Legislative Branch

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pp. 186-221

State historians have not attempted to rank Arkansas legislatures as they have governors, but it seems fair to say that if few governors achieved very impressive records of achievement, their efforts still shine in contrast to those of the legislatures with which they dealt. Indeed, the institutional ineffectiveness of the legislative branch was a constant thread in Arkansas...

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10. The Power and Politics of the Judicial Branch

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pp. 222-249

In the past, state judicial systems were considered to be above the ordinary pulls and pressures of politics and therefore beyond the legitimate concern of political scientists. In recent decades that antiseptic approach has been almost entirely displaced by a more realistic recognition that judges at courts are deeply rooted in a state’s political system and have many strong linkages to...

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11. Arkansas in the Federal System: Cooperation and Conflict

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pp. 250-270

If Arkansas government and politics operated in complete isolation, this chapter would be unnecessary. The consequences of absolute autonomy, however, would be much more momentous than the absence of a chapter. That very sizable number of Arkansas’s schools, highways, bridges, dams, courthouses, clinics, jails, levees, sewer systems, and parks constructed...

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12. Politics at the Grassroots: How Democratic?

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pp. 271-292

Local politics is both more and less consequential in contemporary Arkansas than it was in the past. Counties were originally established as mere field offices of the state government, convenient administrative outposts through which the state could ensure the enforcement of state laws, the conduct of state elections, the collection of state taxes, and the provision of such services...

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13. The Politics of State Services

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pp. 293-333

Earlier in this book we emphasized that for much of Arkansas’s history, politics, and government were often irrelevant, sometimes obstructionist, and rarely of material value to citizens’ well-being. The previous chapters have described some extensive changes from traditional to contemporary politics as well as many structural strengthenings of state government. Now...

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14. Continuity and Change in Arkansas Politics

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pp. 334-363

Summarizing Arkansas politics is, as Abraham Lincoln once said of running a democracy, about as easy as shoveling fleas. For every generalization, there are obvious exceptions. Every characterization must be qualified, and every label must be modified. The 1968 election in which Arkansas voters simultaneously selected...

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15. For the Future: Suggested Sources

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pp. 364-382

Arkansas politics is no longer what it was, but it is not yet certain what it will be. Change, of course, is characteristic of all political systems, providing students of politics with both their greatest incentives and their gravest inhibitions. Even the most careful descriptions and insights can quickly become obsolete or inaccurate as the subject of study alters. This truism...


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pp. 383-474


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pp. 475-497

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204898
E-ISBN-10: 0803204892

Page Count: 499
Illustrations: Illus., maps
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Politics and Governments of the American States