“We have accomplished a lot here in Arkansas over the last few years and Representative Bob Ballinger is a big part of our success. Things are going in the right direction but we have a lot more work to do and I need Bob Ballinger in Little Rock to get it done.” - Governor Asa Hutchinson
I may be sleeping in the dog house for revealing this, but my wife has a medical fascination with grotesque pimples, boils, etc. She is not alone. “Dr. Popper” has 4.2 million subscribers on YouTube. Her videos commonly get more than 20 million views, and now she has her own TV show. I don’t get it, but for my wife and millions of others, it is entertaining and informative.
This somewhat unpleasant topic does provide a useful illustration for the corruption we recently uncovered in our State government. A boil is a bacterial infection of the skin that if untreated will grow and fester over time. Boils are disgusting to behold (stay with me here, I’m going somewhere with this), but never more so than when they are treated and drained.
Our State was controlled by one political party for 138 years. Over time, accountability and transparency disappeared into a vacuum that reached its pinnacle during the Clinton administration here in Arkansas. Corruption permeated the entire system. Without some adversarial tension, without oversight, the path of least resistance, succumbing to temptation, became the norm.
The stench we are now experiencing is evidence that the system that created and sustained the boil of corruption has been lanced. Arkansans have responded with understandable revulsion. The healing process appears ugly, and it stinks, but it has begun. While perfection in unattainable, we would be fools not to learn from the painful experiences we have endured.
Unlike Dr. Popper’s fans who find value in the information she provides; the citizens of Arkansas experienced the revulsion of corruption without any compensatory benefits. If there is to be an upside to our recent governmental moral failures, it must be in our individual and collective responses. We let our guard down once and suffered a regrettable but predictable consequence.
I am reminded of an incident years ago. I met the brother of a good friend who had warned me, as an attorney, that his brother had “no use” for lawyers and politicians. When we shook hands, this stranger I had just met wiped his hand on his jacket. It was done in jest, but the gesture was not lost on me.
We know that power and money invite abuse. The neighbors we serve know that politicians and lawyers are often around both. It’s no mystery why constituents are angry, pundits are cynical, and partisans attack opportunistically with a broad brush. Dishonest players in State Government stink up the whole system and make us all seem guilty by association.
Recently I opined that “no one was benefiting from being in Little Rock.” It was my admittedly clumsy way of saying that in my experience, I have not found the legislators in Little Rock to be routinely corrupt. Most are simply decent people trying to make a difference. Sadly, the dishonest few cast a shadow over all the rest.
These recent scandals do show us that honesty is not enough. The air of power and money that public servants breathe requires more than honesty. It requires a diligence that looks for signs of trouble. Politics is a minefield that can obliterate the most honest among us.
With the help of God, I am personally resolved to go beyond “merely” being an honest man. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. As public servants, we must be proactive. Civility and collegiality are important, but we must never forget that our first loyalty is not to fellow legislators. Our allegiance is to the standards we profess, the people we serve and the Constitutions we swear to uphold.
I’ve witnessed Bob live out his convictions in the midst of immense pressure and stand strong on conservative principles while the political storms raged. I’m confident Bob will continue to stand strong for the conservative values we as Arkansans hold so dearly. I was proud to call him a house colleague but I am even more proud to call him my friend.
Very few events in our society produce the emotional reactions that school shootings elicit among us. Murdering innocents is something that ordinary people like you and I cannot relate to. Like a drowning victim, we seem to thrash about wildly trying to find the answer to our question: how do we save our children from a repeat of this horror?