State Department of Transportation officials answered questions Wednesday evening face to face at the Cox Convention Center. The Oklahoman reporter Steve Lackmeyer asked the most pointed questions about where the different alternatives of the Crosstown Boulevard would go and what the impact would be on the neighborhoods.
[A] flash of lightning illuminated the object and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy demon to whom I had given life. –from Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
I know evil exists. It really scared me. –Oklahoma State Senator Cliff Branan, during a current blackmail trial against Tea Party leader Al Gerhart
Clearly, the Oklahoma Republican Party watched with glee, and did all they could in the background, to promote the Tea Party as it developed into a collection of thugs that carried out their dirty work, rallying with ugly, insulting signs and making threats to Democrats and moderate Republicans in our legislature. It was not incidental that this happened directly after the election of our first black president.
Not unlike the industrialists in inter-war Germany funding and using the rising Nazi Party to muscle in their agenda without showing their faces publicly, the Republican Party wanted to keep its respectability while hammering those who stood in the way of their corporate, totalitarian vision for Oklahoma.
That’s where the Tea Party came in. They became the bullies that the Republican Party in Oklahoma could use to their advantage when possible and disown when they created public problems for the GOP.
But just like Frankenstein’s monster, once a political group has been created, there is no assurance of future control. Senator Cliff Branan found that out last year.
According to a news report today by The Oklahoman, Al Gerhart, an Oklahoma City carpenter and local Tea Party leader, is being charged with two felonies, blackmail and violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act, because of an email sent to Republican Senator Cliff Branan who lives in Nichols Hills, a posh, well-manicured city within a city surrounded by the expansive Oklahoma City.
I have to admit to being amused that Branan, who has been in the legislature for a number of years now, is frightened and incensed at getting an email threatening to dig into his personal and family members personal backgrounds to dig up dirt on him. The threat was centered on one of dozens of bills introduced every year that have something to do with defending Oklahoma against that dreaded United Nations.
I support Branan in his refusing to have his committee consider yet another wacky bill inspired by conspiracy theories. What seems strange and downright whiny is his taking yet another fired up Tea Party leader to court on felony blackmail charges.
Would Branan have the same reaction if that same email had been sent to a Democrat in our legislature? Oh, wait. Democrats and Republicans have, and still do receive identical threats every year. This is in addition to the outright threats of physical violence issued through anonymous blog posts, forum posts, and phone calls.
Many in Oklahoma City are used to hearing the random threats against legislators, both violence-centered and those of a more pedestrian nature. We are surprised that a Republican with experience like Branan would react in this way. Another legislator called to testify in defense of Gerhart, Republican Senator Ralph Shorty from Oklahoma City, said ““That’s the kind of stuff that happens all the time.”
If Branan and other Republicans are serious about stopping this behavior, it is time for them to speak up and take action when anyone is on the receiving end. Tea Party bullying is not the way that a legitimate political party does business. It’s time for the Republican Party to quit using the Tea Party as the enforcers.
But, for now, Frankenstein’s monster has turned on it’s creator. Republicans, behold your own creation and be afraid!
This is an expansion of the original post “Five Ways for Liberals to Overcome Those Red State Blues“.
The first way to shake those Red State Blues is to connect. A sense of isolation is the most prominent aspect of being liberal and living in a red state like mine, Oklahoma.
So how do we go about getting connected? It’s easier now than it’s ever been. Here are some ideas:
Everyone wants your email address. If you are willing to share it, you will not be ignored. That’s not the hard part. Managing the avalanche of emails once you start sharing is the hard part. So, unless you are good at using Hotmail or Gmail tools that allow you to sort different kinds of emails as they come in, just set up a new email account that you will use only to give out to political organizations.
Plan out who you want to inform you. The obvious first stop is the Democratic party in your state. In Oklahoma City, for instance, search “Democratic Party in OKC” and you get this:
This type of search will work for any state or city in which you live. As you can see there are plenty of avenues right here in this big-time red state of Oklahoma. If there are options to connect here, then there are even more options in your state.
Here in Oklahoma, the website to start will be: OkDemocrats.org From there you can find local groups in your county and city.
And yes, sometimes I get plenty disappointed in the national and state Democratic Party. But the reality is that the two “bigs”, Democratic and Republican parties, are very broad coalitions that help people find their way into more specific groups.
On Twitter: The obvious first step is @OkDemocrats. @OkPolicy is a good think tank to give you some hard info from the Progressive perspective. Pay attention to those emails from Twitter that give you some ideas about who to follow and expand your followings to stay informed.
On Facebook for Oklahoma: I have found many good groups to join that have kept me informed beyond the right-wing hype of big media controlled by corporate and conservative agendas. Especially helpful are the local state affiliates with Move-On.org. Since I have been a teacher of many sorts, I also am a part of several Facebook groups that focus on education issues. OkDemocrats is a good start on Facebook if you are in Oklahoma.
Face-to-face contact is the ultimate way to shake those Red State Blues. Political campaigns are a good way to get that type of contact with others whose beliefs are like yours. Especially now, as primary season is underway, you will not have a hard time finding a campaign that would be glad to put you to work at their campaign headquarters doing all kinds of simple things or, if you are more brave, helping to knock doors and place signs for the candidate.
Listen to public radio to hear announcements that will give you ideas of events where you may meet fellow liberals for fun and dialogue. If you start with NPR.org, you can find the local affiliates in your state there. In Oklahoma, the two NPR stations are KOSU.org and KGOU.org, both connected to our largest universities.
Have you found good ways to connect to others who hold some of the same political views as you do? Let us know in the comments. (I will approve any comment that is not obviously a troll from the right trying to disrupt the conversation.) Or, comment in social media through Twitter @OklaBrett if you are outside of Oklahoma or @BrettDOkc if you are in Oklahoma.
Yeah. It’s been a tough year so far in Oklahoma. Those who actually expect logic and sanity to have anything to do with public policy are suffering what I call the Red State Blues.
Our state legislature, more of an extension office of ALEC and the Koch Brothers, continues to gleefully pass laws that don’t matter and carefully avoid those that do.
So, it’s not unusual to hear liberals and progressives talking about the blues that develop after seeing so much idiocy in the public sphere. How we can overcome those Red State Blues?
In future posts I will develop more fully these five ways to do that:
1. Connect with fellow liberals and progressives locally, and in person.
Are you upset that the local paper sings only one note for the far right? Do you get angry at the ways in which there is so much disruption and shouting on social media at times by those convinced of the correctness of their wing-nut agenda? One important way for liberals to have meaningful connections is in person and locally.
2. Develop a political posture that fits your personality.
Not everyone is well-suited to accept an arrest and jail time for a cause. And not everyone is suited to even go to a rally or march for a cause. But those aren’t the only two options for political involvement about what you believe. There are far more other ways to support the causes that capture your interest and passion.
3. Set a goal to do one new thing each year to promote progressive thinking and action in your city and state.
Sometimes we liberals in red states get the blues from just the enormity – the volume – of the crazy stuff that we see going on. It can seem like a flood that cannot be stopped. But, it can over time, if each liberal decides to pick one new thing that you can do to improve the public attitude about cultural and political issues. And the blues will go away as you see progress.
4. Let others know your position through social media in ways that do not offend your conservative friends and employer.
One large contributor to red state blues is the number of employers who ascribe to right-wing ideology and expect their employees to stay silent if they don’t agree, or to give active approval. You can express your political opinion as long as you are aware of the offense triggers that can cause trouble for you.
5. Move from being a resentful liberal to a politically active progressive.
This is the big one. Resentment is born from being a cultural minority in a red state. Being a racial and cultural minority is even harder. So the effort in shaking the red state blues is to not see yourself as helpless. You’re not. We can work our way out of that paralyzing resentment through political action that fits our personality and skills the best.
I’m looking forward to your response to these ideas as I develop them further over the next several weeks.
Since I live in the reddest of red states, I hear progressives here say variations of this: “Yeah, I lost my vote in that last election. My candidate lost.”
True? I don’t believe that. Every vote that is cast makes a point, in some way or another, and is “lost” only if it is never cast in the first place.
Your vote is significant on many levels, and should be guarded and exercised as often as possible. Here’s why:
Back in the day when everything was analog and statistics were done with huge stacks of paper by guys in white shirts/black ties using slide rules, that may have been the case. Sorting out who voted and why was a Herculean task. Not any more.
Today, campaigns have an amazing array of evaluative tools due to the digitizing of polls, surveys, voting records, etc. I still remember hearing in the late 1980s how marketers who set up mailing campaigns could tell what kind of toothpaste I used, and how to target me. Now if that was the case in the 1980s, imagine the tools now.
No, your vote is never “lost” to campaigns and candidates who pay extremely close attention to various statistical cuts in voting during an election, even if the candidate that you wanted to win does not. Even a candidate who loses, but turns in a larger opposition vote than the last election has an effect on the winner.
Case in point: The last Oklahoma City election for mayor was the most active and seriously contested in my memory. Oklahoma City is on a roll, but our 3-term mayor, Mick Cornett, who was going for a fourth, was spending way too much time in increasingly tighter circles of thinking. The crescendo of that process was Cornett’s speech to the Republican National Convention in 2012. It was a rousing speech of right-wing dog whistles and partisan grandstanding that Oklahoma City is not used to hearing from what is, by design, a non-partisan mayor. Those earlier non-partisan days of his leading the city to lose a million pounds were past. But, not quite….
One of our City Council members, Dr. Ed Shadid, mounted an energetic campaign that focused on giving neighborhoods a voice instead of only listening to interests that wanted downtown to grow at the expense of the rest of the city.
Shadid’s campaign effectively pointed out the contradiction of the recent growth of Oklahoma City: Wealthy corporate chieftains who lived in the suburbs were dictating how Oklahoma City would spend millions and give millions more in tax breaks to promote their new headquarters at the expense of neighborhood development.
This campaign pushed Mayor Cornett to reconsider his direction. We began to see him in more neighborhood meetings. Even though some thought it was a campaign stunt, his Twitter feed started using the word “neighborhood” more, which was a significant change from last elections. For the first time, I actually saw him actively engaging the crowd of the Martin Luther King Day Parade for a considerable length of time, not just shaking hands, but carrying on conversations.
Mayor Cornett won his fourth term, but not without the wakeup call of the results. This election resulted in a far larger turnout than before. Those who voted for Shadid actually turned in larger numbers for him than those who had voted for Cornett in the last election that was not seriously contested. Yes, Cornett won, but he would be stupid (he’s not) to ignore the fact of the number of voters who cast a vote for the other guy.
That other guy, Dr. Shadid, is still on the City Council and is still asking those questions that need to be asked.
Did those who voted for Shadid “lose” their vote. No way. Just yesterday I saw the mayor’s tweet that he had eaten at a popular locally owned neighborhood restaurant for the first time. By being there, he was meeting new people and learning once again about what common people thought. That’s progress. And it’s because people got out and voted.
The only votes that were “lost” in that election were those that were not cast. Plan to vote!
If you are progressive and live in a politically deep red state you may wonder sometimes just how the atmosphere became, and remains, so pervasively radical and right-wing. It’s not by accident.
In part, it is due to Christian pastors who play into the hands of the power grab that is under way by radicals on the far right, funded by many wealthy people and organized by the Koch Brothers “octopus” of influence.
For a few pastors, siding with the radical right is cynical, intentional, and motivated by a desire for personal power. But, for the largest portion, the drift toward overt or subtle blessing of the radical right is so incremental that it goes unnoticed even by them until someone like you brings it to their attention.
Here are the three ways that progressives can disrupt this corrupting influence on your pastor, Christian faith, and elected government:
Realize that in your red state, there are people in your congregation who are demanding compliance with right-wing ideology. Every pastor that I have known in my red state deals with a constant barrage of demands from people who want the church to bless, promote, and comply with their political ideology.
Take action by expressing your objections to any accommodation or promotion of right-wing ideology with which you genuinely disagree. No matter where they fall along the liberal-conservative-evangelical-Pentecostal spectrum of Christian expression, your pastor needs to know that “everyone” does not have the same political views as those right-wing folks who make weekly demands for political purity.
Follow up and persist so that your pastor remembers that there are many different opinions about solutions to political problems in your country, state, and town/city. As individuals among other individuals in America, Christians may contribute to solutions; but, there is no “Christian” solution to problems in a democracy. Right-wing purists want to insist that there is. Pastors must allow for political issues to be worked out in the public sphere that includes many more than are in your congregation or even belief system.
Smart pastors with integrity will welcome your counterbalance of pressure that will allow them to tell the right-wing purists that there are other people in their congregation who do not agree and must be considered, also. They will welcome the reminder that they are in the uniquely neutral position of being in the culture while not being completely of it.
Some smart ones don’t need intervention at all. My strongly evangelical pastor regularly claims in his sermons that Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat and demands that people leave him alone about it. Ha!
On the other hand, pastors who are hungry for personal acclaim and approval, or who don’t want to see the difference between right-wing political ideology and conservative Christian expression, simply do not deserve your support. They are neither effective leaders of the Christian Faith or of the political sphere. Once you are convinced that they are intent upon only blessing a certain brand of secular politics, then it’s time to go. There is never any need to attack. Just be calm, but clear about why with that pastor and others who ask.
It is important that you not engage in a large conflict with other members of your congregation with whom you disagree. It will be energy wasted on tearing up a congregation instead of expressing your faith in a different congregation whose ministry you can truly support. Save that fight for your democracy, which is where the active debate over political ideas is legitimate, necessary, and expected.
End Note: I have been a teacher in Oklahoma for the last 19 years. Before that, I was a Methodist pastor here for 17 years. I know personally how hard it is to be a pastor in a red state. So, this is no attack on pastors. In fact, it is a process that will liberate them.
Senate Bill 573 that would have made radical changes to the process of establishing charter schools under an appointed state-wide commission was defeated this evening. Nearly all Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans ended up being against the bill.
Two earlier posts in this blog, one from April 10th and another on the 14th, warned of the dangers with SB 573 that was indistinguishable from model legislation created by a national organization created to promote wide-open charter creation in all states.
More and more teachers, legislators, and parents, started to realize that the charter school bill, drafted and lobbied from outside of the state, had nothing to do with what was best for kids in Oklahoma, and everything to do with potential profits of for-profit corporations based outside of the state. Governor Mary Fallin continued to strongly promote the bill to the end.
Skepticism has grown recently even among those on the political right about State Superintendent Janet Barresi and her installing of top-level staffers from outside of the state who have a history of moving from one state to another to promote the agenda of for-profit education corporations.
Those of us who live here know that there are two sides to Oklahoma: The pretty side and the ugly side.
The Pretty Side
There is one side to life in my state that is the good side, the side that we want the rest of the nation to see. It’s kind of like your only wanting one side of your face to be photographed because, well, it’s your good side — the pretty side.
Tulsa’s enduring sophistication and beauty matched with Oklahoma City’s 20-year run of progress in developing both its new downtown skyline along with the re-purposed Bricktown into a destination entertainment district has impressed many. The various parts of rural and town life Oklahoma are some of the best places to live anywhere considering resources and the cultural variety as you move around the state.
Here in Oklahoma City, where I live, the rise of various neighborhood mini-centers of activity along with the rustic Bricktown matched with the excitement of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball has been a true joy. I enjoy many of these events and enjoy living in this place. It’s an amazing thing to see, since I have spent most of my life here.
It’s not that side of Oklahoma that can defeat us, though. The ugly side surely will, if we let it.
The Ugly Side
Violence-prone, deep-seated racism against blacks left over from our segregation days has been flushed back out into the open by the election and re-election of our first black president.
Women are mistreated and disregarded on many levels and in many ways, especially by a legislature made up mostly of white, conservative men who are against “big government” unless it is controlling women’s bodies. Then it is magically a good thing.
Our Republican-dominated state government is so dysfunctional that legislators cannot even agree on how to fund repair of an aging Capitol Building that has the smell of sewage from rotting pipes throughout and has to block certain entrances for fear of falling pieces hitting visitors. Welcome to our beautiful state capitol, y’all!
The deepest parts of the ugly side are actually hidden, though.
The Difference Between Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Because natural disasters so shape Oklahoma life, we have developed a tendency to see all disaster as “natural”. That provides a large smoke screen for those who have sinister motives.
For instance, if you did not know that the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing was carried out by domestic right-wing extremists, you might not learn that from our yearly remembrances at the memorial service. Speaker after speaker will focus on remembering victims and heroes, carefully navigating around the harsh realities of who perpetrated that heinous crime. It wasn’t a tornado that caused that disaster.
Another example of naturalizing the unnatural is how legislators frame the constant cuts as necessary because of not having enough revenue while passing new tax cut measures yearly. Just today in The Oklahoman there is one story about how new measures are being passed to increase education funding that is dependent upon revenues increasing each year. If they don’t increase, then the funding increases won’t go through. Then, just on the opposite page, there is a story about how concerned some legislators are at the impact of proposed tax cuts that are likely to go through.
The slow erosion of state government and the much-needed services that it provides is by design. With unwitting support by
ideologues on the libertarian edges of the Republican Party, big money interests that stand to gain much from lop-sided tax cuts push harder each year for even more cuts, which is the central goal. The benefits to them are easily seen in the chart below and explained here.
The result is that GOP legislators are so confidant in the security of their positions that they don’t even try to cover up the illogical bills signed into law even when public opinion is running in the opposite direction. Examples are a ban on local cities and towns passing their own minimum wage, and empowering local traditional utilities to add a surcharge for wind and solar energy.
Our ugly side is making it into national news more and more, though. Recently Rachel Maddow featured Oklahoma’s redness as being at the very end — no, off of the end — of a blue to red scale. We were featured as a state that has gone that extra mile to lock down the state with right-wing ideology and favors for those wealthy donors to our Republican politicians.
See the whole clip at the MSNBC website here.
Avoid the Man-Made Disasters – Act Now!
This is no natural disaster. It is man-made by the designs of a small, wealthy, powerful minority in the shadows. If we allow this to go on, will we have a state made up of well-educated, clear-thinking people who value logical, rather than the most illogical thinking? No, we won’t.
It’s time for us to decide that we will not allow the ugly side of Oklahoma to defeat us!
Here are some action ideas:
1. Use social media to call out publications and various forms of media that do not report or consider any other view than that of the right wing.
2. Write, call, and visit the repeat offenders at the Capitol who continue to follow lockstep with the designs of ALEC to de-fund public services and public watchdog functions of state regulation. Here is a list of Oklahoma Legislators who are ALEC trained and resourced. Good resources to help you apply pressure: OkPolicy.org and OklahomaWatch.org
3. Research which corporations are the biggest donors to the leaders of the movement to de-fund public services in Oklahoma and write to their board of directors complaining that their sponsorship of particular politicians are causing a social and educational environment that will harm them in the long run if eventually there is a brain/income drain from the state. iCitizen is an app that is available on iPhone, and Android. It is resourceful in helping you find your reps from top to bottom and showing you their major contributors.
4. Support candidates in this year’s election cycle that challenge the dominant right-wing power structure in the legislature. And support those who are brave enough to run against our well-funded governor.
5. Challenge pastors – especially yours – when they support right-wing ideology as though it is the only Christian option. It’s not. The right-wing way is not necessarily the right way. (I’ll write more about this in a future post.)
What are some ways that you have found to oppose the weight of the right-wing machine? Please comment.
The pattern of political action for liberals and progressives goes much like this: Get fired up about a particular candidate. Work hard and get emotional about the outcome. If the candidate loses, fade away, never to be heard from again. If the candidate wins, fade away, never to be heard from again.
It’s time for that to end. Too much is at stake in our future.
Campaigns are critical. However, turning over the long-term political discussion to voices on the right produces a political landscape where we only consider a narrow set of options from the right, none of which are good or remotely logical. For politicians on the right, the only logic is how to deliver power to their benefactors whose only logic is, of course, their power.
The irony with progressives loosing heart and relaxing the pressure between campaigns is this: Because of a lack of political muscle developed between campaigns, it is harder to elect the best candidates when the time actually comes to elect them. In Oklahoma we see this behavior repeated with agonizing consistency.
Case in point: Recently, there was a very good, necessary, and spirited campaign for mayor in Oklahoma City between progressive city council member Dr. Ed Shadid and incumbent Mayor Mick Cornett. As a part of Shadid’s campaign to raise awareness of too many shadowy machinations about a convention center idea, a petition was started to get more sunlight onto the studies that had been done. After Shadid lost an uphill battle against the strong incumbent, the petition drive fizzled so that it was never even delivered on the deadline.
It is clear that if progressive thought will have an impact in very red states like Oklahoma, there needs to be a constant commitment to progressive values and thought between campaigns.
How do we achieve that? Here are some ideas:
1. Support the candidates that represent your values and ideals whether you think that they have a chance of winning or not.
I hear too many people talk themselves out of helping with a good campaign just because they think the candidate won’t win. That’s not the issue. The public needs to hear what that candidate has to say, especially if they are challenging an incumbent that has been too much of a gofer for big money donors in the shadows. And, if the points the candidate is making are important now, they are important in between campaigns, too.
2. Support that candidate again if they want to run again.
Look at how many times influential office holders in U.S. history have lost before they won that influential position. Being a good, tough politician is about coming back from defeat. Like a good cage fighter, a politician has to be able to take several hard punches in order to stay in the fight. If your candidate can, they are worth supporting no matter how much of a long-shot others may think they are. One thing for sure, they will never win without your support, and those important ideas will never influence anyone without your being the carrier of them.
3. Learn as much as you can any way that you can about issues that concern you.
A part of influencing others between campaigns is knowing what you are talking about. People can tell if you do or don’t very quickly and will either listen or turn you off accordingly the next time you speak to them. In Oklahoma, a very good progressive think tank is the Oklahoma Policy Institute, which also has a good daily podcast to keep you up to date on legislative matters.
4. Learn from national news sources to compare with local ones.
There is now a large volume of information available to progressive thinkers about a number of issues that may affect your state. In central Oklahoma, The Oklahoman is usually read by we progressives with a side eye. The local TV stations also reflect a corporate media view that fails to ask the biggest, most important questions. Very strong state-wide sources like the Oklahoma Policy Institute and national sources are important tools for calling out local right-wing-influenced media. That activity will have an impact upon newsroom discussions.
5. Act locally.
- Participate in your neighborhood association.
- Accept a leadership position in your neighborhood association.
- Organize your precinct or ward for your party.
- Run for a school board seat.
- Run for town/city council.
- Run for a seat in your state legislature. (Yes, it’s yours.)
Oklahoma and other deep red states are starting to cause great suffering among common people because the political field has been left to right-wing radicals between campaigns which led to unopposed or weak opposition in the next round of campaigns. It’s time for progressives to stand up and join the debate for logical thinking and sunshine on all things public.