In a recent post, I discussed Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. The book details how conservatives in places such as Kansas vote against their own best interests, destroying their communities and ensuring their children have bleak futures. As I previously argued, Frank's book could have been written about Oklahoma, which has become a bastion of right-wing conservatism. Like our neighbors to the north, Oklahomans consistently vote against their own interests.
This is an important issue that needs to be consistently revisited in Oklahoma. For example, polls show President George Bush with a commanding lead over Senator John Kerry in Oklahoma. Why do Oklahomans continue to vote against their own interests, and what will make them wake up to this reality?
A recent review of Frank's book in The New York Review of Books, points out that Frank sees America today as "a panorama of madness and delusion . . . of sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care; of working class guys . . . deliver[ing] up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life [and] transform their region into a 'rustbelts,' [and] strike people like them blows from which they will never recover."
All of this is applicable to Oklahoma. Why would an Oklahoman father or mother vote to ensure their children have inadequate health care or no opportunity for a college education? Why would someone in Ponca City or Newkirk or Clinton vote to ensure their city dies a slow and painful death? Why would a grandmother in Tulsa make sure her grandchildren have no job opportunities in Oklahoma. Have we become so morally bankrupt in places like Oklahoma and Kansas and Nebraska that we no longer care about real family values, like making sure our children can go to the doctor, or has the right-wing snookered people into thinking they represent their best interests?
Obviously, the answer is that the right-wing extremists have hoodwinked middle America's electorate. They have done so through shallow yet consistent sloganeering and media manipulation. For example, look how long The Daily Oklahoman has refused to allow any progressive voices on its editorial page. The newspaper is unfair and unbalanced. It is ultimately a detriment to the vast majority of the state's residents.
What will George Bush do for Oklahoma? Nothing. If he is reelected, our insurance premiums (if we even have health insurance) will continue to rise, our job opportunities will be diminished, our taxes will go to support the quagmire in Iraq, small farmers will continue to lose their lands, and our smallest rural communities will continue their long suffering demise. I could go on and on.
John Kerry has announced his plans to help middle-class Americans by creating jobs and making health care more affordable. You do not hear Bush consistently talking about these issues because his stewardship of the American economy has been a miserable failure.
It is time for conservative Oklahoma residents to wake up to the reality of the right-wing lies. And it is time for Oklahoma progressives to quit backing down in the face of the right-wing juggernaut and speak up.
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