It has been my hope for quite some time that Washington-style politics would not find its way to the halls of the Arkansas Senate--the partisan politics that place party above state, the partisan invectives that dictate "win at all cost, no matter the price," behaviors that, when others disagree with you, they then become subject to threats, demonization, falsehoods and scorn.
Sadly, just as in D.C., these walls have been breached, not physically, but emotionally. And not only has that brand of politics made its way to Little Rock, but it has also driven one of the state's most respected Republican leaders from his party.
Sen. Jim Hendren and I have been friends and colleagues for many years, and our fathers served together before us. I have always respected him as a fellow legislator, and I respect and am encouraged by his decision to turn away from divisive politics and toward a spirit of co-operation.
Common ground and cooperation are what Arkansans so desperately need from their political leaders, and now more than ever. We have made tremendous progress in the efforts to defeat covid-19. Our state's economy is better now than any of us could have anticipated just a few months back. Jobs are returning. But big challenges remain and must be faced with level heads and clear thinking. Divisive rhetoric and partisan attacks--simply for the sake of stirring the electorate and scoring political points--stand in the way of productivity.
Our citizens deserve the best that both parties, and independents, have to offer. President John F. Kennedy said it best: "Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."
Democrats are not the enemies of Republicans, and Republicans are not the enemies of Democrats. All 135 members of the Arkansas General Assembly were elected to serve the best interest of Arkansans, not wage partisan warfare.
Springtime is approaching. Planting the seeds of success, nurtured by cooperation, is more productive than continuing the futility of "us versus them." If we sow seeds of discord, we'll reap a crop of conflict, confrontation, or--God forbid--violence.
I expect Senator Hendren will be criticized by some in the party he left behind. But I believe he had the right idea. His bold decision to become an independent should serve as an example to those who feel politically homeless as a result of the current political climate and serve as a warning for other politicians to moderate their unwarranted attacks. I look forward to working with him and other like-minded lawmakers who are ready and willing to cross the aisle to find common ground and put the needs of Arkansans ahead of their party or political interests.
I pray we all can embrace a spirit of reconciliation and demonstrate respect for our neighbors, regardless of political affiliation. It is my hope that others will stand and signal acknowledgement that we must abandon angry combat with one another. Together we can find suitable solutions for our citizens, our families, for future generations of Arkansans.
State Sen. Keith Ingram represents District 24.