Sen. Jim Hendren spoke with Steve Barnes from Arkansas Week about the vision for Common Ground Arkansas and the need for an organization that gives a voice and political power to those in the political center. Mr. Barnes aptly described Common Ground Arkansas as “pragmatism over partisanship in the pursuit of public policy.”

On a political process that takes policy making out of the mainstream:

“There’s no counter pressure from the center, from where most people are. Most people in Arkansas identify as Indendents, almost as many as Republicans, according to 2020 polling, and more than Democrats. And they have no voice right now. So I think there is a huge path on policy issues like that where they say, ‘Let’s do what’s good for Arkansas and quit listening to the loudest and many times the smallest number of people on the extremes.'”

On hate crime legislation, which Sen. Hendren proposed this session:

“That should not be a hard bill to pass when 47 other states have done it. The fact is Republican states in the last two years have done it. Every state around us that’s Republican has done it. But in Arkansas, it’s still an incredible left because we have so much pressure from the right wing, the right extreme of the Republican Party.”

On the goals and priorities of Common Ground Arkansas:

“One of the purposes of Common Ground Arkansas is to identify good, solid candidates – Independent candidates, Republican candidates, Democratic candidates.”

“I think the nationalization of our state politics is a mistake. … I don’t think we should imitate the partisanship in Little Rock that they have in DC. And that’s what’s begun to happen. So what we’ve seen so far, it’s not question, is an effort to see who can be the most [like] Trump, because that is success in a Republican primary. And conventional wisdom says if you win a Republican primary, you’re going to win the election. Common Ground Arkansas and this movement is to say maybe conventional wisdom needs to change. Maybe there needs to be a center path and some discussion about finding some room for people in the middle. … Maybe they just want a problem-solving, practical candidate.”

On bipartisanship and getting things done for the people of Arkansas:

“I will continue to work across the aisle, and now I’m kind of in the aisle.”

“I went from a minority party where there were 13 Republicans to the majority party where I was the President of the Senate and my uncle was the Governor, and it was our job to make things work. There’s a difference. And so I think people like for things to work. They like for their state government to work. And that’s what we’re going to be focusing on. My focus is making Common Ground Arkansas a place where people who are politically homeless have somewhere to go and to work and to get us back to solving problems rather than screaming at each other.”

If you’re interested in hearing the follow-up commentary from Mr. Barnes, as well as a Republican and a Democratic perspective, you can find that on the second segment of the program.

There will be more to share on Common Ground Arkansas in the coming weeks. In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list or see how you can can help.

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