A fellow was telling me Monday he’d always thought it was 50-50 whether Jan Morgan would go through with it and file to wage her challenge to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s re-nomination in the Republican primary.
But now the Gun Goddess is 100 percent filed. The Muslim-banning gun range owner came to the state Capitol rotunda Monday dressed in a red suit and red heels and signed her name to become official.
She’d made a Twitter post asking supporters to meet her on the Capitol steps for the dramatic moment. She waited in her vehicle for a while, perhaps hoping more people would show. Then, with a half-dozen to a dozen pals in tow, she made the fateful move inside.
After she filed, a press gaggle gathered around her, to her seeming discomfort. She gathered herself to answer questions in the articulately uninformed way that worked so well for so long for Ronald Reagan and Mike Huckabee.
She’s from TV. She’s done pro-gun commentary on Fox. Some people are comfortable until the lights come on, then they become uncomfortable. Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Lyndon Johnson — they come to mind. The Gun Goddess seems the other way around.
Whenever a reporter asked a question, perhaps from her left or right flank, she answered directly into the nearest television camera in front of her. It was odd. I’d never seen anyone do that — behave as if in a studio debate when fielding questions in the field, when a camera is more an observer of spontaneity than a target of performance.
It could be–I’m starting to think — that Morgan is more performing than spontaneous. But rest assured the performance is almost as good as the substance is nil.
Anyway, what good does it do her on Channels 11 or 7 to stare into Channel 4’s camera, if that’s the one it was?
Republican insiders and veteran political observers had been telling me Morgan could raise no money, and that everywhere they went, Republican voters were griping about Asa not being conservative enough.
I think that means if Morgan had a few million dollars, Asa and Arkansas would be in a heck of a mess.
One dare not underestimate the nutty extremism within an Arkansas Republican primary.
Let’s take the most recent, 2016, when the nutty presidential candidates — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson — got a combined 69 percent, while the moderate and sensible ones — Marco Rubio and John Kasich — got a combined 29 percent.
In Pope County, a wild extremist has pushed into a runoff with a conventional Republican candidate in a special state Senate election.
And now they’re telling me the sensible moderate is a lock for gubernatorial re-nomination, but only because the nutty extremist will have no money to make herself nearly as known as Trump and Cruz.
Morgan’s alternative is to look straight and hard into the nearest television news camera and say dogmatically conservative things with an inflection of profound command even if they contain a substance quotient of approximately zero.
For example, she says Hutchinson has raised taxes on poor beleaguered Arkansans and cites as evidence that state government’s receipts have has gone up each year he’s been governor.
Here’s the deal on that: Hutchinson has indeed cut income tax rates in both regular sessions when he’s been governor. That state government’s receipts have increased means people are making more money, or more people are making money, and that both kinds of people are buying more stuff and forking over more sales taxes.
That’s the very essence of Reaganomics — the modern holy grail of conservatism — which insists that tax cuts pay for themselves.
It’s like this: If the income tax rate is 5 percent and you make $50,000, then you pay $2,500 to the state government. And if your neighbor is unemployed, he pays nothing. Between the two of you, the state gets $2,500. Then, if your income tax rate is reduced to 4 percent and you make $55,000, then you pay $2,200 — $300 less than before. And if your neighbor gets a job and makes $35,000, and the rate for that is 3 percent, then he pays $1,050. From the two of you, the state gets $3,250 the second year,or $750 more even after you got your taxes cut.
That’s how that works. I don’t see how you can rightly fault the governor for your neighbor getting a job.
Asked to identify spending cuts she’d make — always the bedeviling question in a state budget that goes almost entirely to public schools, higher education, human services, prisons and public safety — Morgan cites a state consultant contract granted by the state Legislature, which is not the governor and is in fact a co-equal check and balance on the governor.
That’s a little like Morgan’s call for greater transparency in state government and her specific example of the state Legislature having voice votes and not roll calls in its committee meetings. Let’s be clear: The governor runs the executive agencies. He does not–must not, cannot, would not–presume to try to run the co-equal independent legislative branch.
Perhaps the Gun Goddess should have run for a position in the branch that seems to bug her most: the legislative. She’d fit right in.
Finally, Morgan seems to resent questions about her declaring her gun range a Muslim-free zone. Someone must have told her she can’t win if marginalized, and that a religion ban marginalizes her. She owns up to banning Muslims but gripes about being asked about it.
The best question — one I simply did not have the heart to ask Monday — is how you can tell a person’s religion when they show up at the check-in station at your place of business.
I could go over to Hot Springs to Morgan’s gun range and present myself as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But that wouldn’t make me 7-feet-2.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.