("If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?"
"Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most."--Cindy Sheehan)
One can only hope Oklahoma Democrats continue to embrace the interconnectivity and community philosophy of the netroots now that Ivan Holmes has become the party’s chairperson.
(You can find the image to the right and other great stuff at PhotoTune.)
The party’s outgoing chairperson, Lisa Pyror, made some efforts in this direction with an electronic newsletter and a party blogspot.com blog, but most of the published material was press release fluff or simply informational. It was pretty much old-school content in a new-school format.
If it sounds like I’m criticizing, well, yeah I’m criticizing, but I’m also urging the new party leadership to do much more with the Internet. The party blog, for example, should be bigger and better, and it should consistently link to and comment on the state’s progressive blogs. It should contain arguments and positions. It should go after the Republican opposition. We also need more progressive blogs in communities throughout Oklahoma. Could the Oklahoma Democratic Party help make this happen?
Holmes, who ran Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields campaign in 2006, has been quoted as saying he wants to grow the grassroots and, by extension, I hope he means the netroots, but then this is something easy to say and difficult to do.
Here are some looming questions:
(1) How do you reconcile the state party’s true progressives and the conservative Dinos? For example, there are many of us here—real progressives—who were one hundred percent right about the Iraq debacle from the very beginning. Why are we still marginalized by the so-called centrists (really, they are center-rightist) in our own party?
(2) How can Democrats recruit people to run for legislative office, especially in rural areas? The state represents a basic structural problem for Democrats. As population growth stagnates in rural areas, they become more conservative for a variety of reasons. One thing Democrats could do is promote family farms over corporate farms as part of a healthy food initiative in the state.
(3) How can Democrats here start to stand for something? Now is the time to take stock. Can we not find three simple ideas to get behind? Better wages. Better health care. Better schools.
(4) How can Democrats raise a lot more money? The netroots could help. We also need to attract more national money, but we can only do this if the progressive wing of the state party is allowed a voice.
(5) What can be done to elect more Democrats to our U.S. Congressional delegation? U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is currently hosting fundraisers with the vice president in his reelection bid, while Democrats don’t even have an announced candidate yet.
(6) What can be done to cultivate among Democrats an aggressive winning attitude rather than the current appease-the-center-don’t-make-any-voter-mad stance? Look, you’re going to make some voters mad when you speak the truth in the George Bush era of The Big Lie. But that doesn’t mean you will necessarily lose elections.
The 2008 elections right now look like a Democratic sweep on the level of the GOP’s 1980 sweep, the beginning of the so-called and over-hyped Reagan Revolution. Will the Oklahoma Democratic Party, which, really, may actually just be the understood mole-division of the Oklahoma Republican Party these days, get left behind?
It’s Carpe Diem Time For Democrats
The standard operating lie presented by the Oklahoma Republican Party and the state’s rich power structure is that Democrats and their supposed liberalism have kept our state from prospering.
This has always been nonsense. Many, if not most, Democratic politicians in Oklahoma are conservative both fiscally and socially. Some Democrats here would even be considered right-wing extremists in other states. It’s intellectually dishonest to argue otherwise. It’s also a laughable idea that liberal or progressive ideas have contributed to the state problems, such as low wages, poverty, and hunger.
Some Oklahoma Democrats who described themselves as centrist are often essentially Republicans. These DINOS (Democrat in name only) have just recently supported, for example, the warmongering lies of President George Bush, religious intrusion in state government, tax cuts for the wealthy and rich corporations, stagnant wages and poor health care for the middle class, and the loss of higher-paying manufacturing jobs in the state. They are only Democrats for historical reasons, not for their political beliefs.
Now that the GOP controls the Oklahoma House and has an equal number of senators, the state is developing a national reputation as the political junkyard of Christian fundamentalism. The state is at the mercy of the extremists of right-wing extremism because the state lacks enough progressive voices. The GOP here does nothing pragmatic to help the state’s citizens; its only purpose is to pass—with the help of many centrist Democrats—ideological and religious-driven legislation that will isolate the state, branding it with a hick image. It does this under strict edicts issued from the pulpit by the state’s religious-right ministers who manipulate vulnerable people for their own personal gain.
The state GOP, in just two short years since gaining control of the House, has ensured Oklahoma will be known as a place of intolerance and ignorance for years to come. Recent GOP efforts to essentially ban the abortion procedure here, make English the state’s official language in a gesture of racist anger primarily aimed at Hispanic people and Native Americans, and mandate educators teach creationism in schools has hurt the state’s reputation immeasurably and will limit economic development for decades.
With this in mind, Okie Funk calls on Oklahoma’s centrist Democrats to adopt real progressive political platforms that will help regular, middle class Oklahomans who now face stagnant wages, skyrocketing health care costs, and underfunded public educational systems. The Democratic Party and the state’s citizens need you to stand up against Republican initiatives that embarrass and hurt the state.
It might not seem like it because of its recent victories in state legislative elections, but there has never been a better time to attack the GOP in Oklahoma. Its immoral leader, George Bush, has been discredited as a liar and an incompetent decider. The gruesome Iraq occupation drags on only for the delusional Bush’s hubris, and polls and the recent national elections show people are fed up and disgusted with Republicans now in power. The state GOP lives in the ancient world of neoconservative dominance, but it’s a dying, corrupt world. Now is the time to act.
When Wrong Is Right
In the era of George W. Bush and The Big Lie, those government officials and media pundits who were completely wrong about the continuing Iraq occupation continue to be rewarded while those who were right are still marginalized.
Take, for example, Douglas Feith, a former under secretary of defense who cooked up the lies about a connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, lies that some in America still believe today. Under orders from his quasi-fascist leaders, he deliberately pushed this country into a failed occupation of Iraq that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans and Iraqis.
A recent Pentagon report and subsequent statements showed Feith’s pre-occupation actions were “inappropriate” and created “alternative intelligence,” language which reflects the watered-down, Orwellian ways we now refer to lying in Bush’s America. Yet, today, Feith remains a faculty member at Georgetown University. Why was he rewarded with this appointment when those of us who were right about the occupation and spoke up about it remain marginalized?
Meanwhile, American professors who opposed the occupation and were 100 percent right about the mistakes in its execution, are constantly attacked by right-wingers such as David Horowitz, the GOP operative who wants to replace truth with Feith’s lying, neoconservative ideology in the university classroom.
If you’re a professor who told your students more than four years ago you thought American soldiers would be in Iraq for an extended occupation, then you’ve no doubt been ostracized and harassed at some level for years now. If you’re a professor who told your students the conflict would not last more than six months, as argued by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then you’ve no doubt been given grants and awards for your miscalculations and errors.
Then there’s the typical case of the blowhard, dishonest Jonah Goldberg, the right-wing columnist who was completely wrong about the occupation. He’s still out there in the mainstream media spinning his lies and disinformation. Meanwhile, the legendary columnist Robert Scheer, who was right about the occupation, was fired by the Los Angeles Times. Why do those people who were so wrong about the reasons for and the execution of the Iraq occupation remain ensconced in power while those of us who were right about every aspect of it remain marginalized?
Think what you want about the morality or wisdom of the gruesome Iraq occupation, but there were people who predicted every Bush mistake and warned against them publicly. They did so sometimes at great personal risk. Who now, for example, still believes we sent enough troops in the initial invasion? Even Bush has admitted we didn’t send enough soldiers.
Who do you want to operate on your heart? A heart surgeon who was “right” about former patients or a heart surgeon who was “wrong” about former patients and consequently they all died on the operating room table? Who do you want teaching at your universities? Those who were right about the most important world event in a generation or those who were wrong about it? Who should write political columns for the mainstream media? Those who were absolutely wrong about every aspect of the Iraq occupation or those who were right?
It's Henry In A Landslide
Democrats locally and nationally did well in Tuesday’s elections by representing the country’s pragmatic center and triumphing over the GOP politics of extremism and polarization.
Overall, the results mean the country has come back to its senses—again the pragmatic center as envisioned by the nation’s founders--after several misguided years following the September 11, 2001 attacks and the lies and constitutional violations of the President George Bush administration.
Locally, Democrats swept virtually all the executive offices, from Gov. Brad Henry’s landslide victory over the religious extremist Ernest Istook to Lloyd Fields’ victory over Brenda Reneau for Labor Commissioner. In a bellwether lieutenant governor’s race that showed just how much voters are tired of the GOP politics of hate and anger, Democrat Jari Askins beat former House Speaker Todd Hiett, the Republican ideologue from Kellyville.
In two other significant races that show voter discontent with the “stay-the-course” GOP, Democrat Wallace Collins beat religious extremist Thad Balkman, another Republican ideologue, in a House race, and rising political star and state Senate candidate Andrew Rice trounced his “hedge-of-thorns” candidate Joshua Jantz, a GOP Bible-thumper who obviously envisions Oklahoma as a grand quasi-theocracy.
Meanwhile, David Prater beat incumbent Wes Lane for Oklahoma County District Attorney in an election that, again, showed voters wanted change.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma, however, is the fact the Oklahoma House remains under Republican control, and our Congressional delegation continues to be dominated by the GOP. The GOP congressional delegation will do little for our state over the next two years. Don’t count on U.S. Senators “global-warming-is-a-hoax” Jim Inhofe or “rampant lesbianism” Tom Coburn to do anything but help rich oil company executives get richer on the backs of hard-working Oklahomans.
Unfortunately as well, the Oklahoma Senate ended up tied 24-24 between Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats formerly controlled the Senate. Askins, as lieutenant governor, will break tie votes, but there are certainly conservative Democrats in the Senate. Expect a lot of religious-driven legislation next session on issues such as intelligent design and prayer in school. Expect TABOR to come back in some form. All this legislation will harm the state’s image and hurt economic development. Our centennial year will be marred by huge political fights just as the country turns back to the pragmatic center.
This is what the intrepid Dr. Victor Hutchison, who runs the major listserv that follows the intelligent design movement in Oklahoma, says about the Oklahoma election's outcome:
"The Republicans held the House majority, although Democrats gained a few seats, and the Senate is now tied 24 – 24. In the past few years creationism bills (and other ideological measures) passed the House but were killed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Any creationist bill in either house that makes it to a floor vote is likely to pass. Thus, we believe that there will continue to be attempts (as in the past six years) to promote creationism in the Legislature. It is not clear yet just how the Senate committees will be formed, what party will control the chairmanship of committees and thus the fate of bills, etc. It appears that the efforts to prevent the diminishment of science education will require major new strategies and efforts. We will post information as the committee structure of the Senate becomes clear."
So the story is that state Democrats have a lot more work to do. Democrats also need to start developing candidates for U.S. Congress. Andrew Rice would be a great candidate for District 5 in two years.
On the national level, Democrats took over control of the House, and they were leading in the U.S. Senate race in Virgina that would give them control of that political body. Even if that race goes to the GOP, Democrats will still have the leverage and power to force changes in flawed White House policies that have created a terrorist haven in Iraq and made us a despised country throughout the world.
The new House leadership needs to create investigative and oversight committees about the Iraq debacle and the lies leading up to it, the torture of prisoners in American custody, and the wiretapping of American citizens. Also, where has all the Iraq reconstruction money gone? All this could inevitably lead to impeachment proceedings against Bush. It could be ugly and messy, but it may be needed to reconcile the administration’s massive abuse of power with the emerging center. It depends on forthcoming decisions from the Bush administration on issues such as government transparency and sharing records.
What doesn’t get spoken about much in the mainstream media in Oklahoma is the fact that the netroots—blogs and political websites—played a major role in bringing about the resurgence of the Democrats.
No site deserves more credit locally than the Democrats of Oklahoma Community Forum. It was relentless in providing up-to-date campaign information for progressives and giving them a voice in conservative Oklahoma. These grassroots operations—and I humbly count Okie Funk among them—are changing the face of politics. Who needs The Daily Oklahoman’s mush when it comes to what’s going on politically here in this state? And these sites are only in their infancy.
Democrats simply could not have won here and elsewhere as much as they did without the rising netroots. The Democratic power structure in Oklahoma needs to embrace the local netroots with more vigor if it wants to recapture the House and Senate. The Democratic leadership made tentative, baby steps this year in this regard, but it needs to do much more.
Election Board Computer?
So, speaking of electronic communication, one of the weirdest facts that emerged Tuesday night was this: Michael Clingman, state election board secretary, said results for the election were parsed through 1990 computer equipment. He attributed slower tabulations to the old equipment in a local news article. (Yes, you read that right. It’s 1990.)
I don’t know how many times I have seen this technology weirdness in Oklahoma. Somewhere, I bet, excellent, new, unused computer-related equipment is sitting in some closet in a state government office while those who need it are using outdated equipment. We need to get the right technological equipment to the right people. Obviously, the board needs new equipment. This is a non-partisan issue. The governor and legislature should make this a top priority.