I had a recent conversation with a friend back in Arkansas who gives me regular updates of the state and local news. A few days ago he told me about a poll that was getting a fair amount of coverage. (See also here, for example.) The poll showed that a number of progressive social issues like marriage equality for the first time were getting majority support in the state. This agrees with a great deal of anecdotal evidence I’ve observed which suggest a strange paradox in the state (and, I suspect, in much of the Bible Belt). We are seeing a simultaneous spike in tolerance and intolerance around the very same issues.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a Russellville Arkansas has become a utopia of inclusiveness, but from a historical standpoint, the acceptance of people who are openly gay, or who are in an interracial relationship has never been higher in the area. At the same time, conservative media has achieved critical mass, racist and inflammatory rhetoric is at a 50 year high, and the reactionaries have gained full control of the government for the first time since at least the election of Sen. Fulbright.
Arkansas is getting redder in partisan terms while looking increasingly purple ideologically.
I’m not sure how to think about this one, so I’m bouncing it over to you, the readers.