Tag Archives: Republicans

Either You are Winning the Debate or You are Losing It

Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.

— Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain’s House of Commons

One of the biggest issues in my deep red state of Oklahoma is that liberals and progressives very often shrink from the larger, harder debate about how government should be conducted for The People. You know, us.

The recent rise of nation-wide interest in progressive thought comes from a frustration with earlier generations of liberals who maybe tried, but failed to effectively engage in the debate for those who need a voice.

We have seen a transformation over time with President Obama as he tried to take the old liberal approach of reaching out to the other side. It didn’t work. It won’t.

He is just now starting to understand that this is a debate and a contest of ideas. And he seems to understand that unless we advocate for our ideas, no one else will. They won’t be understood or heard.

I wish he had known that in 2009.

Oklahoma Liberals Have Learned the Hard Way

We have seen that here in Oklahoma, where one year after another over the last 30, liberals seemed tongue-tied when opposing corporate-sponsored Republicans. Corporate tools who call themselves “conservative” rode into office on the most bogus of claims about

  • reducing government (they haven’t),
  • getting government off our backs (it’s even more so, now), and
  • lowering our taxes (for the rich, as they raise “fees”, really use taxes, that ordinary people pay daily).

What old-style liberals found out the hard way was that strategies for trying to negotiate with conservatives so that “we all would get along” and so that “we can all be winners” didn’t work then. It doesn’t work now. All it does is buy time for the right wing, whose approach is always – and I do mean always – “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”

Most importantly, that strategy conceded too many points that the public needed them to stand up for. Without knowing the other options for thinking through ideas, the bulk of uninformed voters had an “oh well” approach or showed angry resignation against those politicians who essentially betrayed the cause. Perhaps they never understood that it was a cause in the first place.

In politics, there really is no such thing as “business as usual”. Either you are winning the debate or you are losing it.

Rep. Scott Inman during the debate about extending the tax incentive for new wells. Courtesy of the Journal Record
Rep. Scott Inman during the debate about extending the tax incentive for new wells. — Courtesy of The Journal Record
The Necessary Opposition

The debate itself is important. Period.

What I mean by “the debate” is engaging the prevailing mindset and the prevailing party with the determination to not allow a temporary campaign defeat to stop the engagement at the level of ideas.

What we know from history is that groups that have started out small in a democracy can become larger and more powerful by engaging in the debate over time and insisting upon being heard.

Conservatives in general seem to understand this. So do their politicians, either intuitively or because big money donors actually listen to their think-tankers and force their puppets to listen, too.

The value of the debate itself is that more people become informed by the opposition. Most importantly, they are informed from a different viewpoint than the prevailing narrative that slick corporately-funded hired guns deliver to a lazy, compliant media.

Modern-day progressives must push to win in the debate of ideas. It does not serve our concepts or the people who need us to advocate for them if we don’t.

Will we always win? Of course not.

Will we ever win if we never try to win? Of course not.

That’s why the debate of ideas has so much value in and of itself. And debating to win in the arena of public politics and policy is critical.

Time to Participate in a Bigger Way

In earlier posts I have suggested ways in which progressives in this red state can be a part of the debate. It is time to be a bigger part of the debate in this red state.

In the post “Five Ways That You Can Have a Progressive Influence In Your Red State” I showed how you really can have positive, progressive effects on the process in a red state where the dominant Republican Party wants you to believe that you should not be wasting your time.

And since that message is often a real bummer to progressives, I wrote the post “Five Ways for Liberals to Overcome Those Red State Blues”, and posted “Decide that the Ugly Side of Oklahoma Will Note Defeat Us.”

Since pastors are often co-opted by right-wingers in their own congregations in red states, I tried to give progressives some ideas about how to counterbalance that process in this post: “Three Ways to Sway Your Red-state Pastor From Blessing the Radical Right”.

 Good Examples of Political Debate

Here are some very good examples of how liberals and progressives can be the fierce, loyal opposition to conservative control of government.

Reps Inman and Pittman speak to the 2014 Education Rally at the Oklahoma Capitol (video is trimmed to start at 9:21 mark)

From Great Britain: Margaret Thatcher – Tory (conservative) Prime Minister Vs. Neil Kinnock – Labor Leader, on Education

From Great Britain: The first ever House of Commons prime minister’s question time that was televised.

The Stand-out Group: Public School Teachers

My post tomorrow will focus on how public school teachers, generally known for their cultural conservatism, and especially in “red” states like Oklahoma, are a stand-out group who are more progressive than people think because of what they see every day in the classroom.

“Enough is enough. Somebody stand up! Get up!”  — Chuck D and Public Enemy

The Only Real Republican Principles: Protect the Rich Guys, Send the Rest of Us to War

The most dangerous and damaging spin that the Republican Party inflicts upon the political process is presenting itself as the party of principles; but, their only two real principles are: protect the rich guys and send the rest of us to war.

The Spin
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin at a presser on in front of the White House
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin at a press conference in front of the White House

As you listen to Republican politicians speak you will hear certain buzz words that sound familiar. They are actually code for something else.

“Liberty”, unless your exercise of it violates their racial prejudice or might cause them to lose money.

“Freedom”, for those who want to treat you however they want in public, at the company that they own, or in their neighborhood, where they think you don’t belong.

“Less government”, so that corporations can get by with anything that they want and eventually be the actual ones that we depend upon instead of a duly, democratically elected government.

“Freedom of religion” for those Christians on the extreme right-wing socially and politically. Christians who don’t ascribe to their particular kind of Christianity, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others will only be infringing upon the “freedom” of those who want to impose their religion on you.

“Free speech” for corporations and the rich who want to use their money to buy elections. However, according to them, this does not apply if you are liberal or even moderate. It does not apply to those who protest. It does not apply to those who go on strike. It does not apply to publications that oppose their ideology.

And what we hear the most on Memorial Day weekends:

“Supporting the troops” only when that means adding more money to the military budget so that contractors continue to get wealthy with the blood of the brave, patriotic young men and women who actually go to war.

This language only comes out when Republicans think that it’s time for conquests, like invading a country that has not attacked us and has a lot of oil, like Iraq.

In this opinion piece, penned by two Oklahoma Republican Congressmen, the headline is written as though they are standing up for men and women in the military, when they are actually arguing for more military spending on equipment and training, not medical care and benefits. Their campaign supporters, the defense contractors, will be happy to see this.

Men, women in uniform should always be priority  News OK - Mozilla Firefox_2014-05-25_16-16-45
Opinion piece in today’s The Oklahoman that promotes only more military spending for equipment, NOT actual aid for those in uniform or veterans. It was written by two Republican Congressmen.
Indifference for Veterans

As we have engaged in longer and longer wars that are fought by the middle class and lower classes, actual support for real veterans has drained away. Those who have been torn apart and emotionally wrecked along with their families meet indifference in the GOP.

Marine Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 12, 2012. Daniel A. Wetzel/U.S. Marine Corps
Marine Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 12, 2012. He is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for throwing himself onto a grenade to save his fellow Marines.
Photo by Daniel A. Wetzel/U.S. Marine Corps

Budget talks stall and legislation is held up for veteran’s benefits because that’s when Republicans get very concerned about “the national debt” (it’s shrinking) and “the growing deficit” (it’s shrinking, too) and they argue that we can’t possibly afford it.

Do the sons and daughters of the rich go to war? No way. They are “important”. The idea is that they are smarter and more valuable and should not spend their time going to war and perhaps finding out first hand about the brutality of war. If they did, then they would be reluctant to send others to war later. And they mustn’t have that.

After all, when it’s time to go to war to steal another oil field or to gain control of another waterway or strategic pipeline intersection, they can’t have reluctance on the part of a rich person who has actually gone to war and has compassion on those who fight them.

Their positions of leadership have been bought and paid for with cash from the rich so that their generation can send someone else from the “lesser” classes in this generation to go to war again.

The Romney sons who represent an entire class of children in the U.S. who have never even considered going into the military.
The Romney sons who represent an entire class of children in the U.S. who have never been in the military, much less gone to war.
Time to Point Out the Only Two Principles of the GOP

Any time that you hear or see Republican leaders referring to their principles, just remember that there are only two, and they should be pointed out with gusto. All of us deserve more than their spin.






Oops! The Party of Bullies Can’t Handle It’s Own Bullies

frankenstein (1)[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!