One of the earliest political books I can remember reading was George Orwell’s satire, “Animal Farm.”
In the book, it isn’t an accident that pigs are depicted as the ruling class. Fat, dirty and selfish in the pursuit of power, pigs were the perfect metaphor for the kind of person who thought himself better than others. Since reading “Animal Farm” I have met real-world examples of “Squealer,” one of pig characters in the book.
Years later, I saw the satire come to life. I served two tours in Afghanistan as a Special Forces Green Beret. During my tours, I had interactions with local officials. I can remember one warlord in particular. While most of the Afghan people are undernourished and skinny, he was obese. His expensive white robes strained to contain his bloated gut. He had an AK-47 strapped to his back, the strap knotted tight to hold the weapon to his body.
More than his physical appearance, what struck me was the way he talked about the people he represented. He looked down on them. He often talked about how important he was, and how they would fall apart without his leadership. He said they would be nothing without him. He was a “Squealer” if ever there was one.
In Arkansas, we have heard plenty from the Squealers of late. The major transition in our political system from a Democratic stronghold to Conservative bastion has snatched power from the Squealers.
In 2020 the voters of Arkansas sent a clear message – they want real, conservative elected officials. President Donald Trump won 62.4% of the votes cast in Arkansas. We are one of the states where he got more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016.
In the state Senate, conservative Senator Dan Sullivan soundly defeated a less conservative opponent in a primary. Former Senator Bruce Maloch, who often touted himself as a conservative even with a voting record that wasn’t, was easily defeated by a real conservative, Senator Charles Beckham, in the general election.
The people of Arkansas took action and smart elected officials took notice. Our state and federal legislatures, the branches most accountable to the people, responded with conservative reforms. The last session of the General Assembly was one of the most conservative in our history.
The Squealers, losing election after election, started making noise. Elitist and bullying in nature, the Squealers were used to having things their way. They had no problem selling out to special interests, at the expense of the people. They thrived on backroom deals done outside of the public’s sight. They loved it when the state government worked in their favor, not in the favor of the people.
A coalition of Never Trumpers and failed Democrats created groups with nice sounding names that conceal their power-hungry agenda. The mainstream media ran opinion pieces representing the smallest minorities.
Nowhere have we seen a better example of a Squealer than Rex Nelson.
A regular contributor to Arkansas media outlets, he opines regularly about his biased perception of the decline of the General Assembly. He compares our current legislature to a mythical version of past General Assemblies. He decries how extreme it has gotten. In his squealing way, he even resorts to school yard insults, calling the House and Senate Know Nothings and cowards.
Let’s look at the type of men and women that Rex seems to admire in public office. He praises the legislature of old. What he failed to mention was the rampant corruption in those days.
In his book “Inside the Arkansas Legislature, Bill “Scoop” Lancaster, a former chief of staff for the Senate, detailed examples of sweetheart deals and outright bribes that were common in the legislature.
It was a known practice for lawyers in the legislature to be paid “legal fees” from clients with legislative agendas. Many of the qualities that Rex seems to exalt were found in former Senators Paul Bookout, Senator Jeremy Hutchinson and Senator Jake Files. They either served time in federal prison or have pleaded guilty to charges of corruption.
We should look at what Rex is really saying with his childish insults. He is saying the people of Arkansas know nothing. Hundreds of thousands of voters, not Rex, decided who should represent them. They had choices at the ballot and overwhelmingly chose a new direction.
What Rex calls extremism is in reality strong people standing on principles. To weak men, principles look like extremism.
Fortunately, we are moving in a new direction away from the toxic influence of the Squealers. In what direction are we moving? Allow me to use another swine comparison that we love in Arkansas.
The new group of elected officials are like a group of wild Razorbacks. Bold, hard charging and sometimes messy, we have decided it is time to move Arkansas forward in real ways. That is why you are seeing such dramatic results in Arkansas.
Those loud squeals you hear are the last gasp and protest of the people who held Arkansas back, now being trampled under the wave of change.
State Senator Trent Garner of El Dorado represents District 27 in south Arkansas.