With Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) losing ground in his reelection bid against Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) a Washington Free Beacon headline is offering the Pryor campaign another headache.
“Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor: Desegregation an ‘Unwilling Invasion’ reads Free Beacon reporter Alana Goodman’s headline.
Goodman got a hold of Pryor’s 1985 college thesis which, in a consideration of Arkansas’ political party system, concluded that the Democratic Party’s dominance in the state was due in part to a perception of outside threats.
In the essay, Pryor argued that the Democratic Party’s dominance in the state stemmed from public’s need for protection against external threats, comparing this to the Russian people backing Tsarist and Communist governments.
“Arkansas has been invaded unwillingly twice. Once in reality and once figuratively,” wrote Pryor.
“The Civil War provided the real invasion. The figurative invasion took place in 1957 at Little Rock Central High School. That event took a local problem out of the local authorities’ hands. The federal government had again forced its will on the people of Arkansas.”
In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine black students from attending the state’s segregated all-white Central High School in Little Rock. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by ordering the U.S. Army to escort the students into the school and federalized the Arkansas National Guard.
While Pryor wrote that the Arkansas governor’s refusal to integrate the school caused an “embarrassing escapade that marred our character and reputation greatly,” he also argued that the “state had suffered enough” from the federal desegregation effort and “so it formed an iron-clad Democratic machine and would accept no challenge to it.”
“Nobody has done more than Mark to honor the heroism of the Little Rock Nine and their courageous stand for integration, or to spotlight this embarrassing episode in our state’s history. Junk tabloids can manipulate Mark’s words, but they can’t change the fact that he personally secured the funding for the National Park Service museum at Central High School,” Pryor deputy campaign manager Erik Dorey said.
The Real Clear Politics Average currently has Cotton with a 5.5 percentage point lead over Pryor.