The state GOP, despite its majority in the Oklahoma House and rising fortunes in the Senate, continues to misfire by supporting needless ideological legislation and engaging in petty, sometimes secret, bipartisan politics.
The questions are these: Where are the big plans from Republicans to help move the state forward and help its residents? Where is all the promised reform of good ol’ boy politics, the actions of what its mouthpiece, The Daily Oklahoman, always refers to as the “usual suspects? Has the conservative juggernaut here lost its mojo?
Here’s what sticks out about the GOP in the 2007 legislature so far:
(1) House Speaker Lance Cargill (R-Harrah) still has not made the financial sponsors of his 100 Ideas initiative public. His Republican colleague, Thad Balkman, who directs the initiative’s operations, says he will release the information soon, but we still don’t know who is behind this obvious political effort to advance Cargill’s career and the fortunes of the GOP here.
(2) Republicans, for now, have stopped Gov. Brad Henry’s plan to create an early education program for three-year-old children in the state. This is especially petty because Henry has been one of the most bipartisan politicians in recent memory here. Remember, Henry supported GOP tax cuts last year.
(3) The GOP has submitted eight (yes, eight) more anti-abortion bills. All these bills are needless and designed to play a cultural wedge card for single-issue Republicans. The legislature passed strict anti-abortion bills last year. The legislation will only hurt poor women because those with enough financial resources can always get an abortion in a different state. Let’s hope the legislation doesn’t lead to back-alley abortions for women too poor to travel to places where the procedure is offered. Also, let's not forget the kooky GOP-sponsored bills making English the state's official language, requiring voters show identification when they vote (a GOP tactic to lower minority voting), and preventing undocumented workers from taking their kids to see a doctor.
(4) In a particularly petty move, Speaker Cargill refused to appoint state Rep. Wallace Collins (D-Norman) to an important committee dealing with mental health issues. Collins’ district includes Griffin Memorial Hospital, a mental health facility. What makes this especially petty is that Collins beat out Balkman, the 100 Ideas director, for his House seat. So Balkman apparently gets rewarded by the state’s ultra-rich power structure for losing his race, and Norman gets shafted because one of their representatives can’t get on a committee that is important to their community.
There is certainly an “in-your-face” attitude among Republicans to which they may feel entitled because of their majority in the House and because they now have an equal number of senators in the Senate.
But the ideological tone of some legislation, the secrecy behind the 100 Ideas organization, and the petty politics are symbolic of a political party that has lost its way nationally and locally. Behind Cargill’s bluster, Balkman’s vacillations, or even Vice President Dick Cheney’s angry occupation rhetoric this part weekend is a party that has seen the writing on the wall and is running scared.
Polls consistently show a drop in support for President George Bush’s Iraq occupation, and a majority of Americans now favor an immediate withdrawal. A vast majority trust the Democrats more than Bush and the Republicans on Iraq.
Democrats are poised to make great gains in the 2008 elections not just nationally but statewide as well. This will especially be the case if the first weeks of the 2007 state legislative session are any indication. The state GOP has become a party led by angry, petty blowhards, who vote down programs for three-year-olds even as they sanction secret politics. Their supreme commander, the imperial president, continues to bankrupt the federal government for a senseless occupation of a country whose residents don’t want us there.
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.—from W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939”
President George Bush and the United States Congress are ignoring the will of the American people who have spoken clearly they want an end to the Iraq occupation.
Congress must immediately start to cut off funding for the occupation and begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, or we will risk losing our democratic structures. So far, incredibly, Congress has ignored the people’s obvious mandate. This is staggering in its implications, and people should be outraged.
Our government is now a quasi-dictatorship ruled by Bush’s personality disorder and a coalition of rich Republicans and Democrats who could care less about what the people think and believe in this country. Congress has abdicated its authority to check the power of the executive branch of government. (Read the previous sentence again.) We are in a constitutional crisis that threatens our democracy. Will we have a system of democratic checks and balances or will we be governed forever in the future by warmongering, imperial presidencies?
Our national “elected” government is corrupt at its very core. It is a dysfunctional, immoral, secretive institution that has sanctioned and even celebrated the torture of war occupation prisoners, the wiretapping of American citizens without judicial oversight, and the slaughter of innocent U.S. soldiers and Iraqis. It is fueled by a massive military-industrial complex that buys off its members with campaign contributions and other favors.
Yet it is obvious our historical democratic structures give us our strength, prestige, and power, not televised military generals lauding the latest tank or missile made by corporate America.
The people, us, we, you and me, by a clear, vast majority want our country’s military out of Iraq. We decided this in the November elections. We are the deciders, not Bush, not Hillary Clinton and her cabal of fraidy cat right-wing Democrats. We decide. The United States is, still on paper anyway, a democracy. You should be tremendously frightened—no matter what your political views—that our country’s government and military no longer function under a framework of democratic ideas.
The civilized, democratic world watches us in horror as it faces the reality the world’s largest super power is systematically destroying its democratic institutions and traditions. We are reviled throughout the world. Every country positions itself now for our obvious downfall. These countries are like a school of sharks swimming around us waiting to pounce.
Clearly, the lesson taught by the inaction of the current Democratic-controlled Congress over the Iraq occupation is that your vote absolutely no longer matters in this country. The privileged elite and the rich politicians of both parties care only about themselves and their careers and, most importantly, their bank accounts.
It is time to hit the streets in protest. It is time to hold more local impeachment hearings around the country. It is time to speak out each and every day in small and big ways to save our vulnerable democracy. It is time for you—yes YOU—to run for office, to confront a corrupt politician with the truth, to create new organizations because the old ones are not working, to join a real democracy movement, to save the United States of America from its corrupt, warmongering, bought-and-paid-for politicians.
I especially call on those country’s intellectuals who have remained on the sidelines during the quasi-fascist regime of Bush to take action now. When will it be too late to speak up? How will you explain to your children and grandchildren you lacked the courage to act as the country lost its democratic structures?
You know he had to leave Texas but he won't say why
he owns a quarter section up by Lake Eufaula
caught a great big ol’ bluecat on a driftin’ jugline
sells his hardwood timber to the chippin’ mill
cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell
he cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell
you know he likes that money, he don't mind the smell--“Choctaw Bingo,” songwriter James McMurtry
The way things look now Oklahoma’s centennial year will be marred by hateful, narrow-minded, right-wing initiatives courtesy of its Republican dominated legislature.
Get ready for a freak show, folks. The state’s business bigwigs and the religious fanatics, cheered on by the ultra-conservative propagandists at The Daily Oklahoman, are on the brink of getting their quasi-fascist desires fulfilled: Complete control of state government
By the time State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and company get done with this upcoming session, Oklahoma will probably be viewed as the first true theocratic state in the union, Hispanic people will no longer be welcomed here, women will have to leave the state to get even basic care related to reproductive issues, and the state’s energy companies will be completely tax exempt.
Republicans now control the Oklahoma House, and have an equal number of state senators as the Democrats. Throw into this mix some of our state’s ultra conservative Democratic legislators, and what you get is right-wing extremism. When the country went left in recent elections, Oklahoma went right. This trend doesn’t appear to have lost its momentum.
Here is what you can expect from the GOP legislature this upcoming session:
(1) Reducing Reproductive Rights. Kern and others will lead a charge to take away as many reproductive rights as possible from women. Kern has already introduced a bill to limit the number of doctors who could perform abortions in the state. Her bill will ensure rural women, in particular, are denied convenient access to doctors who perform the procedure in the state. Watch as well for legislation that would completely outlaw abortion in the state. Watch as well for proposed legislation that would restrict access to Plan B, or the morning after pill.
(2) Attacks On The Hispanic Community.State Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson (R-Oklahoma City) has proposed a bill that would make English the state’s official language. This would primarily hurt Oklahoma’s growing Hispanic population. Some state services, like driver’s license tests, are now offered in Spanish, for example. The Department of Human Services often gets request for language assistance in Spanish. Will Spanish-speaking people still have access? In addition, other GOP legislators will undoubtedly try to pass legislation cracking down on undocumented workers, even though it was the failure of the GOP on the national level that created the problem. In addition, a relatively small number of children of undocumented workers are allowed to pay in-state tuition for college if they meet certain strict criteria. Watch for the GOP—in an act of petty hate and spite—to eliminate this pro-education state program.
(3) Religious Intrusion In Government.Watch for more bills promoting so-called intelligent design theory in schools. Intelligent design theory, or neocreationism, advances the idea that the world is so complicated, a “designer” or, wink, wink, the right-wingers’ Christian God, designed the universe. The aim is to eliminate the teaching of evolution, which is the foundation of medical science. The aim of the medieval-like fanatics is to stop scientific inquiry and eliminate advances in medicine. The religious fanatics in the legislature will also probably try to pass prayer-in-school legislation.
(4) Tax Cuts For Rich People.The GOP here will follow its recent successful strategy of cutting taxes for rich people on a huge scale as it gives token cuts to the middle class and poor. State revenues are up, and the rich people here probably believe they alone deserve the extra money. Watch for TABOR (Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights) initiatives in the legislature and corporate tax cuts, especially for energy companies.
The upcoming GOP legislative onslaught will all be done under the guise of populist rhetoric in the George W. Bush era of The Lie and Irrationality and Hatred of the Other. A lot of people here are still stupid enough to fall for the scam. Modernity, rational, intellectual thought, and a recognition of advances in science have been replaced here with religious fanaticism and greed.
Unfortunately, just as Oklahoma City appears on the brink of making it into big-city status with a prospering Bricktown and the NBA’s Hornets, among other things, the Christian fundamentalists have been put in charge of things. Behind the curtain, the state’s rich people pull their strings.
Progressives need to fight the fanatics at every turn by speaking the truth. They need to pressure the state’s media to offer varying opinions about the state’s central issues. If this doesn’t work, and chances are it won’t, they should create their own media to offer the balance the state will need to thrive in the twenty-first century. They need to pull Democrats away from the so-called center because in Oklahoma centrists are often just right-wing Bushbots in disguise.
I cannot scream it loud enough, local Dems: Bail, bail on Bush and the war and make the local GOP pay for supporting a lying, corrupt presidential administration. Do not take what you might sincerely believe is a centrist position. Every Kern move, for example, should be met with massive resistance and dissent not only because her particular legislation is anti-woman, anti-freedom but also because Kern represents all that is terribly wrong with the GOP these days. The GOP may be on the rise in Oklahoma, but its ideology is dead throughout the country and world. If the Kerns are going to take our state down into their freakish, ugly world of religious fundamentalism while the country gets mired further in Bush’s Iraq debacle, then at least we should fight it.
What progressive politician will stand up this session and speak the truth? If no one is brave enough to do so, the state’s new bumper sticker will be this: “Oklahoma: Land of Religious Fanatics, Meth Addicts, Greedy Corporations.”