The Donald Goes To The Oklahoma State Fair

Image of Picasso's Guernica

I don’t get all the love here for The Donald.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke to a huge, mostly adoring crowd Friday at the Oklahoma State Fair, and a state poll shows potential GOP voters here clearly favor him over his rivals.

We should probably assume that the state is going to go clearly Republican in the 2016 election, but besides Trump’s “build-a-wall” mentality when it comes to the Mexican border, I don’t see much for Oklahoma Republicans to like in his candidacy given their own special brand of conservatism.

The blunt-speaking Trump is no social conservative, for example, or right-wing religious fundamentalist, and he’s already talking about raising taxes on the rich if he’s elected. Don't Republicans here hate ALL taxes?

Still, there they were Friday night, the conservatives, running all over themselves trying get a photograph with him, trying to see him in person as if they haven’t seen enough of him through the years on The Celebrity Apprentice. News 9 covered the spectacle live.

Make no mistake that Trump does have a certain populist appeal on a few issues and can deliver an entertaining speech, but he still doesn’t seem like he would be an appealing candidate for Okies or Texans for that matter. Perhaps, he’s simply the Republican du jour right now.

Trump’s stump speech, which I endured for as long as I could watch it on television Friday, seems to pretty much center on how the United States is getting taken for a ride by every other country in the world and that he’ll make the country great again.

The City Upon A Hill rhetoric has always been a simplistic trope of global politics uttered by Republicans and Democrats alike, but Trump takes it to a new level. Trump even criticized Germany for currently taking advantage of us somehow in his Friday speech as if our military bases around the world haven’t been also dictated by our own aggressive defense posture. Last I checked, the U.S. was clearly aligned with most western European countries, including Germany, and it should remain that way.

Do we really want someone like Trump overseeing our international policy?

I guess Trump taps into the displaced anger of Oklahoma voters who have clearly voted against their economic interests in recent years and joined with the corporate media here in a seven-year President Barack Obama-hate fest, but let’s be clear that the billionaire Trump has very little in common with the vast majority of Okies.

Trump lives a life of tremendous privilege unlike most ordinary Oklahomans. He has nothing to be angry about. His anger, of course, is only play-acting, much like the acting he did on the television show he formerly hosted. I’m sure he’s getting a kick out of all the attention he’s receiving, and I even find myself laughing in agreement sometimes at Trump’s faux outrage against the media. I like a good joke just like anyone else, but I hope even Trump recognizes the danger in his polemic vision of the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Inhofe, Lankford, Mullin: The Feds Are Here To Help!

Uncle Sam by Terry Johnson, on Flickr’s The Commons

Oklahoma’s two U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, along with U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, are providing information to state citizens about federal disaster assistance ahead of expected flooding caused by what’s left of Tropical Storm Bill.

The heavy rain was expected to begin today here in Oklahoma. Previous heavy rainfall, combined with the new rain, could cause widespread flood damage. Oklahoma has suffered severe infrastructure damage to roads and bridges because of recent flooding caused by record-breaking rainfall some scientists connect to global warming.

It's interesting to note that all three of the Republican politicians have been elected on platforms that pretty much claim the federal government has, to use conservative parlance, “overreached,” whatever that might mean to them or to any conservative. We do know conservatives use this word disparagingly. Overreach to them is something extremely bad. We must end it immediately.

Of course, we don’t hear much about federal overreach when it comes to all the assistance provided to the state by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when the tornadoes hit or the floods wash away bridges and damage homes. In fact, Oklahoma is consistently a state with a high number of federal disaster declarations. Without the extra federal help, what would Oklahoma even be like right now? Would it even be viable?

I’ve made this point for years. Texas, another conservative state, presents us the same contradiction. It, too, relies on massive federal assistance while sending anti-federal government politicians to Washington. Pointing this out doesn’t matter, however. What would matter is if the federal government WASN’T there to bail out Oklahoma and Texas.

Then there’s the issue of global warming. Inhofe is widely known, if not exclusively known, as the major politician who essentially calls the science underlying global warming a “hoax” and a giant conspiracy among leftists plotting the demise of the oil and gas industry. Scientists argue the recent record rainfall was exacerbated by global warming and have predicted such weather events for years.

So let’s see if we can sort through this. Here are three Oklahoma conservative politicians urging their constituents to turn to the federal government for help even as they, in general, bash the federal government and President Barack Obama for that dreaded “overreach.” The constituents may need the assistance at least partially because of global warming, but one of their elected officials has led a tenacious, years-long campaign to refute scientific evidence on the issue.

That’s how the hypocrisy and contradictions roll these days in Oklahoma. It has even become the primary political campaign strategy here.

Teddy's Progressive Politics

Image from Old American Century

Ken Burns’ new PBS documentary The Roosevelts, among many things, should remind us just how radical and extremist the Republican Party has become since the turn of the century.

It’s not difficult to imagine how the progressive politics of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president from 1901 to 1909, would be greeted today by conservative politicians, who advance the cause of states’ rights and corporate greed over the welfare of their country.

Roosevelt eventually wanted his “Square Deal” for people, arguing, “The effective fight against adequate government control and supervision of individual, and especially of corporate, wealth engaged in interstate business is chiefly done under cover; and especially under cover of an appeal to States' rights . . . “ That’s simply the antithesis of the Republican Party today.

Burns’ documentary is a fascinating study of Theodore, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Republicans must hate it because it exposes the contemporary paltry platform of this country’s right-wing reactionaries, who in their paranoia always see sinister motives in their country’s government. Theodore Roosevelt’s political philosophy was much larger than that.

Oklahoma’s Republicans, who dominate state government right now, are especially anti-federal government as evidenced by Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s legal actions against the Affordable Care Act and any number of recent legislative actions based on supposed intrusion.

The war here on the federal government always has its negative consequences. When the legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin recently scrapped some Common Core standards for schools because of supposed intrusion, for example, the federal government announced the state would lose its “No Child Left Behind Waiver” and may have to reassign some $29 million federal funding.

The most recent mess to come to light because of paranoia over the federal government involves state driver's licenses. In 2007, lawmakers passed a law banning the state from participating in a federal program called the REAL ID Act, which was implemented as an anti-terrorism measure. Now, we’re finding out that Oklahomans starting in 2015 won’t be able to use their state licenses to get through a federal government security checkpoint. Starting in 2016, Oklahomans also won’t be able to board an airplane by showing their state license. Instead, a federally approved document, such as a passport, will have to be used.

Obviously, the paranoia and resulting hassle and contradiction are not limited to Oklahoma. An article this week in The New York Times points out that despite the success of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, some residents there—even those who have benefited from so-called Obamacare—are supporting Republican politicians who want to do away with the new health care law.

It’s tempting to file all this anti-federal government sentiment here and elsewhere under “stupidity” or just argue that it’s Republican and corporate manipulation of low-information voters, but Burns' documentary reminds me that something more fundamental has changed among a major segment of the electorate.

More than ever, it seems impossible to me that we can bridge through words or arguments the great partisan divide or educate voters in some meaningful and large-scale sense. Perhaps, only incremental demographical developments—an increase in minority voters, for example, who reject racist politics—will make a difference and advance progressivism in the twenty-first century.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Republican politics at the turn of the twentieth century started this country on an enlightened course and his cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, showed us how government can be a humane force in our lives. They were two significant politicians from the country’s two largest political parties in agreement with the pressing issues of their time. They were united under the philosophical idea of progressivism.

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