JOHN BRUMMETT: A reason to hope

Posted: February 6, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

There is only one ray of hope for applying a check and balance on Donald Trump in the last two years of his term.

It's for people like Clarke Tucker to run for Congress in districts like the one in Central Arkansas.

A Democratic House majority secured in November's midterm election would be akin to closing a freeway lane, thus requiring the speeding, weaving and horn-blowing tractor-trailer rig of a president to decelerate and merge.


By "people like" Tucker, I mean savvy young Democrats who are standout Harvard graduates and accomplished young lawyers from families of strong community heritage and longtime civic leadership.

Tucker's paternal grandfather, Everett Tucker, was a business leader and chairman of the Little Rock School Board who urged a moderate position of compliance with court orders on school integration in 1957. His father, Rett Tucker, is a leading downtown commercial real estate developer and civic advocate. His maternal grandfather, Roger Bost, was the first state director of Human Services on the appointment of then-Gov. Dale Bumpers after the reorganization of state government. His father-in-law is Scooter Register, the veteran high school football coach who has led teams at Little Rock McClellan, Little Rock Catholic and Little Rock Central.

This young man is veritably soaked in Little Rock.

I'm also thinking of the style and substance of a badly outnumbered Democratic state representative who, because he knew Medicaid expansion was the right and important thing to do, helped a Republican governor on a valiant scheme in 2016.

The plan was to finesse a couple of conservative votes by agreeing to the inclusion of special language in the appropriation bill for all Human Services spending that would end Medicaid expansion. The governor would then excise that special language by his line-item veto, permitting the program to continue under the funding authority of the rest of the bill.

When Gov. Asa Hutchinson appealed to the small House Democratic Caucus to support him on the scheme, pointing out that it was the only way to get Medicaid expansion done, Tucker said he might be able to come to agreement. But he asked if the governor would let him try to improve the special language to be vetoed to better guard against a lawsuit that might jeopardize Medicaid expansion.

Hutchinson said sure. Tucker's changes were incorporated into the measure. When the governor announced victory, he thanked Tucker for his sound legal help.

That's the kind of government I like--smart, competent and achieved cooperatively for the greater good by well-meaning persons of both parties.

By "districts like the one in Central Arkansas," I mean those in which Democrats conceivably could wrest seats from the Republicans in November toward gaining a House majority.

Conceivably.

It's at best an outside shot for Democrats in the 2nd District of Central Arkansas. Pulaski County gives a Democrat a lead and a fighting chance if he can survive 75 percent rejection on the separate political planet a few miles down Interstate 30 in Saline County.

Tucker announced Monday that he will join the Democratic primary, which has two other worthy candidates already, for the right to take on U.S. Rep. French Hill in November.

He is as good an agent as the Democrats could hope for in the 2nd District.

I've had a few occasions over the last few months to talk briefly with him about navigating the locally reddened political landscape. I argued that, even if he got elected to Congress, his prize would be to travel weekly between his young family and Washington to bang his head against the wall as a lone rookie Democrat in a Congress beset with partisan institutions so embedded in petty division that a drone could do the job as well.

Tucker decided otherwise, because, as he told me, "This time seems different."

He says it's because of the important issues. But I suspect it's also Trump's manner--volatile, uninformed, imperious, and thus dangerous.

Hill is a mild-mannered banker in his second term who was thought to be more moderate than is evident in the Trumpian cloak in which he's tactically wrapped himself.

Tucker says health care will be one of his main issues, and that the Obamacare repeal bill in the House that Hill voted for--and that Trump first celebrated and later called "too mean"--will figure prominently in that discussion.

A few months ago, Tucker, 37, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He is now cancer-free after surgery, but he must undergo quarterly screenings.

In some insurance policies, recurring cancer amounts to a pre-existing condition. The House bill that Hill voted for would have allowed states to seek waivers to veer from some of Obamacare's protections for pre-existing conditions.

That might explain one young man's perspective on how a race for Congress could be too important to leave with a drone.

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John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 02/06/2018