Vol. 3, No. 2, 1981, pp. 4-5
Four states—and only Arkansas in the South—elect governors for merely a two-year term. More than most other high ranking officials these four governors must face the electorate only after a relatively brief time in office and may suffer the benefits or tragedies of the changing winds of public sentiment.
Unlike members of the U.S. House of Representatives who also serve only for two years, the two-year governors must set a tone—cast a vision for their administrations. From the day they take office, when custom requires a formal public address to the people of the state, governors cannot easily swing both ways nor satisfy opposing concerns by voting differently on different votes on the same issues.
In Arkansas in January, 1979, the state’s youngest governor, Bill Clinton,
gave an inaugural address that soon led people to discussing his national future as a Democrat. Two years later, Frank White, a middle-aged Republican offered the state quite a different view of government as Clinton listened to the man who defeated his re-election.
These two contrasting views of government in Arkansas do not explain entirely why Bill Clinton lost the governor’s chair. They do represent a remarkable portrait of common notions, differing styles, and opposing philosophies that represent the change in elected government in 1981 at both the stateand national levels.
One final note: Governor White’s address received no prompting from President Reagan’s inaugural speech. White presented his remarks on an January l3, 1981—seven days before the changing of the guard in Washington.