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Note To Oklahoma Progressives: Now Is NOT The Time To Give Up

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Progressives and liberals here in conservative Oklahoma need to take a day or two to emotionally recover from the conservative landslide in Tuesday’s state election and then get right back to pushing for their values in the political scene.

That’s my advice after the carnage Tuesday, which included lopsided votes in favor of Republicans for the entire ballot’s statewide and Congressional and Senate offices, including the governor’s seat. Here’s another bit of bad news: Republicans picked up four seats in the state Senate and will now have a 40-8 advantage. Republicans continue to hold a huge majority in the House.

The national election results didn’t bring good news either as Republicans took control of the Senate. This will create even more gridlock and standoffs between the White House administration and the national House and Senate. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma’s infamous global warming denier who is about to turn 80, is even poised to become chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The planet is definitely in more danger now because of Inhofe’s intractable position on climate change, and that’s not hyperbole.

The political atmosphere over the next two years on both the state and federal level will definitely be frustrating and ugly for progressives. That’s why it’s important to keep fighting rather than give up. I believe there is hope for a massive correction on the national level in the 2016 election. It’s also possible the Oklahoma electorate will grow tired of the conservative extremism in state government by then but, frankly, a significant shift might be ten or more years away, and even that is uncertain to me.

The reasons for the demise of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma are myriad, some of which are outside its control. The party faces a hostile and blatantly unfair corporate media, which is not above distorting facts or omitting crucial information about political issues. There is the insidious paranoid anti-President Barack Obama hysteria anchored in racism and fueled subtly by many state media outlets. This racism then affects how voters perceive Democrats in general here. There are too many, dare I say arrogant, “leaders” and “activists” and “experts” who think they know the magic solution or want people to adopt their ideas or political approaches solely and not enough people who want to unite around some common causes despite differences in opinions. There are too many supposed progressives who sit scared on the sidelines and won’t speak up because of some exaggerated fear of reprisal.

Here’s how I view the political reality: There’s no one answer or one candidate here that can bring about change. Some of what we’re experiencing politically here is beyond our control. It might take a major crisis for change to occur or we might be slowly but surely heading to a statewide abyss. What happens after even more tax cuts here when the Oklahoma oil and gas boom goes bust, which it surely will?

But, today, the main worry for progressives here should be battle fatigue. How do we get back up after getting knocked down over and over again? How do we continue to support candidates when we know they are the better person for the office but also know they will lose by landslide margins and leave us open to mocking and ridicule by our opponents?

The only answer I have to these questions is for progressives to keep fighting. It may well be that you might not even live to see the change you fought for, but you would have lived a life based on reality and inclusive principles that include believing in equality and social justice for everyone. Change is sometimes extremely slow and incremental. Don’t give up.

The Rhetoric of Bananas

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The Oklahoman published an editorial Friday that’s so goofy and uses such tortuous, overwrought “logic" that it deserves comment if only to expose it as a terrible example of argumentation and rhetoric.

It’s sometimes truly difficult to believe that a metropolitan daily newspaper would publish such nonsense. It’s mind boggling, really, and actually sort of depressing if one thinks about it too much.

The editorial, titled “For administration, paramount fear today is ... climate change,” (Oct. 31, 2014), tries to make the case that President Barack Obama and his administration are myopically focused on climate change to the detriment of, well, all of Western civilization, which faces serious threats from the Ebola outbreak, ISIS and North Korea. This is serious, folks.

The glaring problem with the commentary that even most English high school students could discern is that it never shows us through convincing evidence that Obama and his administration are overly concerned with climate change. It only mentions one speech by Secretary of State John Kerry last February in which he supposedly compared climate change to a “weapon of mass destruction.” Again, that’s last February, and the information is given to us at the end of a rambling piece of mush that includes scattered-brain references to Ebola, The Global Village, the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. No, I’m not making this up.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, no matter what their view on climate change, would obviously know that the editorial simply doesn’t support its claim that Obama and his administration engage in fear mongering when it comes to climate change. One sentence from one speech several months ago, and it’s not even from Obama, hardly makes the case. In fact, it’s laughably weak evidence. Someone might think this is the case with the Obama administration, but an editorial writer at a metropolitan newspaper should be required to actually provide evidence.

Undoubtedly, the reason for the lack of evidence is that there is no real evidence or pattern, but it’s conceivable that someone could cherry pick through some Obama speeches and piece together some semblance of evidence to back the claim that the administration is at least concerned about climate change on some level, as it should be. Yet the editorial doesn’t even provide one statement from Obama himself. It’s really remarkable that such unsupported drivel can get by an editor even at such a low-quality newspaper like The Oklahoman.

The editorial’s claim that Obama is personally measured and calm when it comes to an issue such as Ebola, but uses fear mongering when it comes to climate change is not only entirely unsupported in the editorial but really begs these questions: What difference does it make? Should Obama use fear mongering when it comes to Ebola, too? And doesn’t the editorial itself engage in fear mongering when it implies Obama’s response to the Ebola outbreak is somehow weak or ineffectual, which is utterly false?

Here’s a truthful universal statement: A person can be concerned about more than one issue.

Like global-warming denier U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who The Oklahoman is supporting for reelection, the newspaper’s editorial board in its commentaries has consistently tried to discredit the science and evidence that show manmade carbon emissions are contributing to global warming or even that the planet is getting warmer. Here’s one editorial. Here’s another one.

The three editorials cited in this post, along with the newspaper’s support for Inhofe, show a pattern and provide evidence. The Oklahoman editorial board has taken a dissenting and extremist view of the science underpinning arguments that global warming poses a threat to our planet. I would speculate the newspaper editorials have to rely on fallacious red-herring arguments because they can’t directly refute the growing evidence of global warming, such as the recent pattern of planetary record high temperatures or the melting of the arctic ice cap. It could also be the case the editorial writers lack basic intelligence and/or pander to low-information readers as part of a business strategy because of the dearth of college educated people here.

It’s an insult to even halfway intelligent people here that Friday’s editorial is what passes for privileged editorial commentary in this place. It can make this a suffocating place to live for people who believe in evidence-based argumentation, people who want to engage and debate.

Conservative City

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It’s no big surprise that Oklahoma City ranks as the second most conservative big city in the nation, according to a recent academic study, but it does confirm progressives here face a huge wall when it comes to community activism and getting liberals elected to office.

Does it mean progressives should give up trying to change the political climate here? No. But it does mean progressives should realize the overall fight for basic concepts such as equality and social justice is long-term in central Oklahoma.

The study, which was conducted by scholars Chris Tausanovitch of UCLA and Christopher Warshaw of MIT and published in the American Political Science Review, was based on the analysis of large surveys. The authors created an ideological scale for 51 cities with a population of 250,000 or more. Here’s an AlterNet story about the study.

Mesa, AZ was ranked the most conservative city, followed, in order, by Oklahoma City, Virginia Beach, VA, Colorado Springs and Jacksonville. Tulsa was ranked the ninth most conservative city. The most liberal cities were, in order, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle, Oakland, and Boston. New York was ranked the eighth most liberal city.

For progressives here, the study basically confirms what we already know, and, obviously, it’s not good news. Yet it’s a solid reminder that we operate and live in an extreme, sometimes radical, conservative political place. That knowledge can not only help us cope with our marginalization but also help dictate activist strategy.

What do you do when the odds are constantly overwhelmingly NOT in your favor? Who should you support politically when even Democrats can hold right-wing views? How do you get your voice heard when the vast majority of people around you don’t care about what you have to say or despise your views?

The study absolutely SHOULD NOT be welcomed news for those city and business leaders who want Oklahoma City to grow and become more culturally vibrant and interesting. Conservative ideology stifles diversity and plural cultural opportunities, two components of any great city.

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