The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas's largest newspaper, has an editorial criticizing Democratic senator Mark Pryor and praising his Republican challenger, congressman Tom Cotton. Here's an excerpt:
Ordinarily, a senator like Mark Pryor is so moderate it's hard to name or even imagine a principle he would stand by if it proved unpopular. The way a stand for the law of the land and the brotherhood of man might have cost a politician re-election in the Furious Fifties, when the electorate was in the grip of its basest passions. See the Crisis of 1957 in Arkansas, when one leading political figure after another caved in to the wave of panic that was sweeping the South at the time.
It wasn't just those leaders whose words encouraged the mob--like Orval Faubus--who set the stage for that dark period of Arkansas history. They were joined by respectables like the sainted J. William Fulbright who dodged their moral responsibility. Senator Fulbright's indelible signature on the Southern Manifesto still speaks sad volumes. So does his almost career-long opposition to civil-rights legislation.
It's not just politicians who put career above conscience at the moment of truth who are weighed in the balance and found wanting, but those observers who try to rationalize their actions. ("Hey, he was just seeking a reasonable compromise, and if he hadn't sold out, he would just have lost the election to somebody much worse.")
One of the most appealing things about Tom Cotton is his character--it's easy to imagine his sticking with principle even if the whole state went crazy again. It's what explains his sometimes lonely votes in the House, the ones that stand out from the herd. It's also what gives him the potential of becoming not just a good senator but a great one.
But it's nigh-impossible to imagine Mark Pryor's ever taking a stand he knew might prove unpopular with the voters--for no better reason than it was the principled thing to do. Senator Pryor is an all too familiar type: the go-along-to-get-along politician, a faithful backbencher who'd follow the party line right out the window, and has--the way he voted for Obamacare.
Read the whole thing here (though it requires a subscription).