Sen. Lincoln’s Victory Cloud has a Silver Lining for the Left

After failing to meet the 50 per-cent threshold in the May 18 primary election, incumbent Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln defeated Lt. Governor Bill Halter by four points in the runoff, June 9.  Though only marginally progressive as a candidate, Halter’s loss will be a tough pill to swallow for those on the left who fought voraciously to unseat Lincoln.

The Arkansas Democratic primary contest accumulated national attention following Lincoln’s stance against the “public option” during the health care reform debate, and her steadfast opposition to organized labor.  The external scrutiny and money quickly became the focal point for the Lincoln campaign, suggesting that Halter’s candidacy represented the meddling of special interests in Arkansas politics.

Despite trailing in the polls, Lincoln enjoyed support from the Party establishment including modest help from the Obama administration, and substantial corporate backing.  Former President Bill Clinton was, perhaps, Lincoln’s game-changer, campaigning for the Senator in the days leading up to the election.  According to The Associated Press post election roundup, “[Clinton] told voters that out-of-state unions were trying to steal their votes.”

Following the Halter loss, an anonymous White House official told Politico’s Ben Smith, “Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise.”  The source went on to suggest how they should have spent their money.  Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake had some choice words in response.

Referring to Lincoln’s authoring of derivatives trading reform legislation, strategically presented to thwart perceptions of being the banks’ collective pocket, Hamsher had this to say:

…Labor is not your bitch, and their money isn’t yours to direct.  They’re supposed to take what, another six years of black eyes from Blanche Lincoln just because you say so? If their $8 million buys derivatives legislation and limits the damage that the Masters of the Universe can do to the world economy in the future, it’s not only a bargain, it also means that a bunch of nurses and janitors have done more to rein in the banks than you and your entire pack of servile, visionless Wall Street lackeys has done since you took office.

Hamsher is also the co-founder of Accountability Now, the “group that bridged Arkansas voters with national support for Bill Halter.”

…[Accountability Now] brought together such organizations as MoveOn, DFA, SEIU, the Steelworkers, and blogs like Daily Kos and Firedoglake with the express mission of organizing national support for challengers to members of Congress whose voting records showed that they were beholden to corporate lobbyists rather than their constituents.

By that measure, Lincoln was well suited to be a target for the group.

As I mentioned at the top, Halter’s loss is a disappointment for progressives, but the news is not all bad.  If nothing else, the support for Halter facilitated by Accountability Now — amounting to $3.6 million in mostly small, individual contributions — has demonstrated that a grassroots challenge from the left against a corporate sponsored establishment candidate can be competitive.

Further, Halter’s challenge clearly had the effect of pushing Lincoln in a liberal direction.  Greg Sargent aptly stated the bright side shortly after Lincoln was declared the winner (emphasis added):

No matter what you read about this, the Halter challenge was a show of force by the left. Period. If you don’t believe that, ask yourself why Lincoln suddenly found herself backing a tough-on-derivatives proposal in the Senate, why Obama had to cut radio ads and robocalls to save Lincoln, and why Bill Clinton had to come into the state to instruct voters not to listen to unions in order to save Lincoln’s hide.

Lincoln must now face down another national effort to unseat her.  She’ll face GOP Rep. John Boozman in November, and though Lincoln has a substantial cash advantage at present, she trails significantly in the polls.

Update: Ed Schultz’s comments on the AR Dem runoff and the foolish comments from the White House.  For progressives, Ed says, “This mission will continue.”  Watch:

Also, check out this Politics Daily post regarding some dirty pool in Garland County, AR:  Lawsuit filed against election officials over the closing of polling places (42 during primary election, 2 during the runoff).


Image via United States Congress by way of


Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat7 years ago


johan l.
paul l7 years ago

Good looking lady for a thankless job!
Know nothing about the politics behind it, so cannot comment further!

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y7 years ago

If Lincoln gets beat by Boozman, the progressives were right!

If she wins, it's not money flushed away. We don't need more Wall St. lackeys like Lieberman. The stronger message we can send to these characters the better.

Oh, and at least we crazy liberals and libertarians send messages through votes and our own voluntary contributions and union money, not with bulletholes through campaign headquarters like you teapartying freaks who think you are above the law.

Gavan A.
Gavan A7 years ago

Thanks for sharing this. Very informative.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C7 years ago

Beth i to served and it was in nam, i do talk about what i know cause i research before i comment, so show me a conservative that runs around with these people and their beliefs? You can't sell me that crap im not buying thank you. if my memory serves me correct she was the first to sell out for the heathcare bill, and may i add not the last, now the cbo comes out an says it will cost 155 million more guess they put their shoes to his neck you think. All for the good of mankind huh, well i for one don't have to excecpt its my right for living in this great Country.

Beth C.
Beth C7 years ago

I am so sorry that Craig feels that Progressives like me are communists..we arent at all. We just want to change our country back to what it was before the BIG MONEY and the GOP set about to distroy it. I get really angry when I hear people say that we or that liberals hate America. As a former soldier in the US Army, I have put my love of this country on the line and helped protect it from those who would harm it whether foreign or domestic. So please talk about what you know and not about what you hear from FOX and others.

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

Kudos to Jane Hamsher. I love her. Who knows if Lincoln will win in the general election? As I see it, it really doesn't matter. She is so conservative, that she really ought to change parties, anyway. Regardless of who does win in that election, Jane and John Doe will lose. She does not represent the average person - especially the organized parts of the labor force. That is one election, that will provide a choice between two Republicans - one outwardly titled; the other hiding beneath the cloak of the Democrat party. Money will buy anyone. Uh, I mean, anything......

Tom Rose
Thomas Rose7 years ago

She is better than the GOP alternative for whatever that`s worth.

Allan S.
Allan S7 years ago

The current administration wanted Lincoln because she is a Corporitist....She is with the program....She is behind big business and big business is behind her.....And don't any of you out there doubt it...This country is run by big business....

Yolanda L.
Yolanda L7 years ago

Hey, even if you don't care about Nafta, Clinton left us in the black, just like Jerry Brown, when he was Governor of California. Reagan made the Republican Party into a fundamental religion. Something that people who love to be told what to do every second of their lives, can really get behind. Lincoln is not for the people. The Republican party is not for the people. They are for greed. Big business gives them money, they take it, and give up the ordinary people's needs. And.... don't go knocking the Unions. Our family led a very good life because of them, retirement also. We had the best health, dental and Eye care we could ask for. Before blaming anything that was for the people, take a hard look at the right. The people who want to control EVERYTHING and take personal rights away from the rest of us. Lincoln has proved which side she is on.