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Hyperpartisans hyperventilate

We know them here at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as "the usual suspects."

They're the people who can't wait to write the allowed one letter to the editor every 30 days.

I can call most of them by name. And their positions are so predictable that I could write the letters for them.

One of those usual suspects, Tim Irby of Little Rock, had a letter published earlier this month in which he wrote about me: "I don't resent his commentary about Gov. Sarah Sanders, former President Donald Trump or any other Republican. But I do resent his negative comments while giving the impression he's writing from a Republican perspective. Rex, you're now a Democrat. It's time to quit pretending."

That comment is Exhibit A when it comes to the continued politicalization of American life. Older Americans are camped out watching cable news rather than reading books, listening to music or cooking a great dinner. It's a sad time. To them, every aspect of life is political.

Because he's a hyperpartisan, Irby figures that since I'm not a Republican, I must be a Democrat.

Hyperpartisans on both the left and the right can't conceive of people who are nonpartisan (and that's thankfully most people in this country).

Hyperpartisans don't understand a world where voters like me split tickets, voting for the people they believe to be the best qualified regardless of party label.

In the past three presidential elections, for example, I've voted Republican in one, Democratic in one and Libertarian in the other.

I've reached an age where it doesn't matter if candidates have a D or an R after their names. In state elections, I'm looking for people who care about Arkansas and its future rather than those who are simply looking to extend their political careers.

I don't think it will happen, but I would love to see Arkansas voters pass a constitutional amendment that would make all 135 legislative seats nonpartisan. No Democrats. No Republicans. Just Arkansans.

There would be an open primary in the spring. The top two candidates in each district then would face each other in November.

This wouldn't solve all of our problems, but it would go a long way toward curing the crisis at the state Capitol now that the contentious politics of Washington has fully infected us.

What folks like Irby are unable to understand is that my problems with Gov. Sarah Sanders have nothing to do with the fact she's a Republican. I would be fine with a Republican governor who focuses on Arkansas.

I thought Asa Hutchinson was a good governor. So was Mike Huckabee. I wouldn't have spent almost a decade on his senior management team had I felt otherwise. Heck, I wouldn't have managed Huckabee's 1998 campaign had I felt otherwise.

Mike Huckabee hired me in 1996 not because I had ever worked on any of his campaigns or given him any money. I hadn't. I was hired based on professional qualifications -- Democrat-Gazette political editor at the time; Washington bureau chief prior to that; experience in having helped run earlier Republican campaigns for Congress and governor.

By the same token, President George W. Bush appointed me to a full-time post in his administration in 2005 not because I had ever contributed to him. I had never given him a dime. It was based on professional qualifications.

And I was proud to serve in both the Huckabee and Bush administrations.

My problem with Sarah Sanders has nothing to do with partisan politics, you see. It has everything to do with the fact that she seems far more interested in spouting MAGA talking points and getting on Fox News than she is in finding ways to improve life in Arkansas.

She's using the governor's office as vehicle for other things. As a native Arkansan, I resent that.

There have been 11 governors in my lifetime, and I've had the great fortune (because of what I do for a living) of getting to know 10 of them quite well. I have tremendous respect for the office of governor and will speak out when I believe someone is holding that office for the wrong reasons.

No, Tim, I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican, either. I'm an Arkansan who wants our state to finally achieve her potential.

Hyperpartisans will never understand. I get that.

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