It would not be accurate to call Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is 70, an “old-timer,” but he hails from a different time in the Republican Party.

We sort of saw an example of that fact this week when Hutchinson vetoed House Bill 1570 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs. The Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act prohibits gender transition procedures from being performed on Arkansans under age 18.

Hutchinson said if the bill were limited to surgical sex changes (which aren’t done in Arkansas for minors), he would sign it, but it’s too broad and would include young people who are already receiving hormone treatments. He had talked to transgender individuals and also to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which runs a Gender Spectrum Clinic.

A couple of times he got philosophical, sounding like the Ronald Reagan appointee he was in 1982 when he was 31 years old. “Government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained,” he said. “This is an example of where restraint is better than over-broad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society.”

Afterwards, Lundstrum and the lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, hosted their own press conference where they said children need to be protected from irrevocable actions like a sex change operation until they are 18, when they are free to make their own decisions.

Hutchinson acknowledged that the Legislature this year has considered a lot of bills related to the culture war, which he said he’s not opposed to engaging in himself. He’s signed bills this session to outlaw almost all abortions and limit girls’ sports to biological females.

This one he vetoed while acknowledging it probably would be overridden – which it was on Tuesday. In Arkansas, a veto is tough to sustain because it can be overridden by a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate. Governors veto bills to make a statement about their own beliefs or to give legislators a chance to reconsider their original votes. But this one passed overwhelmingly, and the vote was overridden overwhelmingly.

Hutchinson said Republican tenants going back to the Reagan era have been economic conservatism, social conservatism, and a strong national defense. The last one isn’t really relevant to the governor of Arkansas, he said, while the first two sometimes come into conflict with each other. My words here: There’s a natural conflict in a party that supports limited government but says government should try to control some behavior.

Here’s the change that Reagan-era Republicans are having to adjust to. Under Reagan and in the decades following, economic conservatism usually won.

Since Reagan, Republicans have been the small government party of business, which funded their campaigns, teamed with social conservatives, who provided the votes. Big business was going to get taken care of. As for the social conservatives, sometimes the support was more rhetorical. Who else were they going to vote for? Democrats?

But then two things happened.

The first is that the culture war took over politics. Issues related to values and identity – abortion, gay and transgender rights, guns, illegal immigration – became more important than the traditional tax-and-spend issues many politicians prefer talking about.

The second is that, in 2015-16, then candidate Donald Trump recognized that fact and made those types of issues the backbone of his presidency.

Now it’s not an automatic decision for Republicans to side with economic conservatism. Corporate America is increasingly culturally liberal and Democratic. It sometimes would rather offend its traditional Republican benefactors and old-fashioned middle Americans than its younger customers and employees. Republican officials likewise know it’s OK to offend corporate America because then they can just campaign and fundraise against it.

For Hutchinson, this is a challenging situation, both philosophically and politically. He’s not a fan of Trump’s style of politics. As governor, part of his job is to appeal to corporate America because it creates jobs.

And he’s from Reagan’s time, which – no offense to the basketball-playing governor – is now a long time ago.

Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist in Arkansas. Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.

Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist in Arkansas. Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.

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