Poor Blanche, Stuck in the Middle with No One
by Charles Lemos, Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 04:41:47 AM EST
Shaila Dewan of the New York Times has opted to throw Senator Blanche Lincoln a pity party bemoaning her primary challenge from Lt. Governor Bill Halter as well as the various Republicans lining to challenge her should she win the May 18th primary.
In a state where voters are known for valuing personal relationships over ideology, Mrs. Lincoln, a moderate Democrat, is in trouble even here in her own hometown, among those who attended high school with her or went hunting with her father. And her tenuous position shows just how dangerous a place the political middle has become.
Caught in a surge of antigovernment sentiment, Mrs. Lincoln has been blasted by conservatives for allowing health care legislation to proceed, and has already attracted a slate of potential Republican challengers. At the same time, in a state with a more centrist tradition than most others in the South, she has become a target of the left for opposing a government-run public health care option, easier organizing rules for unions and regulation to fight global warming.
Not only do polls show her behind several of the Republicans, she now also faces a challenger in the May 18 Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who has been championed by national liberal groups that have pledged to spend millions of dollars to fight her.
“I am the rope in the tug of war, folks,” Mrs. Lincoln told supporters in Little Rock last week.
It's hard to have much sympathy for Blanche the bland. It's a sad testament to the state of the nation's politics if the definition of moderate is Blanche Lincoln. The liberal advocacy group MoveOn noted that Senator Lincoln is “one of the worst corporate Democrats in Washington,” saying that she had taken $866,000 from insurance companies and over $1 million from Wall Street firms.
And as I noted earlier this week during her tenure in the Senate, Senator Lincoln has helped to secure $4.7 billion in subsidies for the rice industry, an industry that numbers just over 8,000 farms nationwide, half of which are in Arkansas. It's rather misleading to characterize these as "farms" since the average size holding is 397 acres or about twice the size of the average 196 acre wheat farm. These are corporate behemoths and the subsidies allow the United States rice industry to flood global markets devastating poor rice farmers in countries such as Mali and Haiti.
About half the US rice crop is exported with México, the CAFTA nations (Central America + the Dominican Republic), Iraq, Japan and Haiti being the five top export markets. Except for Japan, all these markets were opened to the US rice industry via free trade agreements since 1992. The case of Haiti is particularly egregious because until the Clinton Administration forced Haiti to liberalize its trade regime in 1994 and slash tariffs on imported rice from 30 percent to 3 percent, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice. Over half of Haiti's 60,000 rice farmers were wiped out in less than a decade. Today, the country is dependent on food aid which we, the American tax payer, subsidize. By design, American trade policy has been to destroy the agricultural sector in the developing world for the benefit of local élites and American agribusiness.
One company alone, the Arkansas-based Ricelands Foods, has been the recipient of US agricultural subsidies totaling more than a half a billion dollars between 1999 and 2007. In 2002, the $110 million received by Riceland Foods that year was more than Washington gave to every farmer in 12 other states combined. It should be noted that Senator Lincoln's wealth is derived from the rice industry.
Still some see a opportunity for our embattled heroine of moderation.
“The primary challenge may provide Blanche Lincoln with a real opportunity to finally define herself as a conservative Democrat, which could help her in the fall,” said Bill Vickery, a Republican strategist based in Little Rock.
Frankly, her voting record already has achieved that.