I think there’s a real chance for some progressive gains this election season in Oklahoma for a variety of reasons, but it’s probably not going to happen if liberals spend money and energy supporting The Oklahoma Observer, in its present form, or The Oklahoma Policy Institute in any form whatsoever.
— Kurt Hochenauer (@okiefunk) April 7, 2016
One reason for the “chance,” and, yes, it’s just a slight chance, is that the national Republican Party is a real mess right now with the Trump and Cruz spectacles. Many conservatives are bewildered and confused. This confusion may trickle down to minor, local elections in which Democrats and liberals—in Oklahoma, folks, they aren’t the same thing—are speaking out boldly and sensibly about, say, funding for schools or trying to prevent elderly people from getting kicked out of nursing homes.
The other reason for the chance is that Oklahoma conservative leaders have absolutely broken this state with their careless, reckless fiscal policies. The economy is sinking here, the state is in a revenue failure, and we’re facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in a tiny overall discretionary budget of less than $7 or $6 billion or so. I know there are some not-so-smart people in the Oklahoma leadership pool, such as David Blatt, but it’s so obvious the conservatives have damaged this state in a major way. Everyone gets it even if they relish it, like they do at the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and The Oklahoman. I bet Blatt loves it, too.
But progressives and Democrats—again, these words are really exclusive—face two major obstacles in bringing about change. One is The Oklahoma Observer, which needs to immediately modernize its corny hard-copy layout and web site and start really speaking truth to power. Editor Arnold Hamilton, a nice enough intelligent guy, has dropped the ball and made a mess out of Frosty Troy’s legacy. People have approached both of them about modernizing The Observer cornball approach in order to attract a younger audience, but they are reluctant. I’ll give Frosty the benefit of the doubt because he deserves it as the founder of the publication many, many years ago. I grant no such concession to Hamilton. What does the guy even do each day? He writes about three pieces a month, including the ancient, outdated Observerscope. Dart: To Arnold Hamilton for laziness. I write many more words than you, and I teach FULL-TIME and direct a graduate studies program in my academic department. I feel like you’re lazy and arrogant. Certainly, lazy, folks. I get it that “arrogant” is subjective. I get it that you might think I’m arrogant, too. The truth is arrogant. Miss Truth, she don’t play well with others.
So here’s Miss Truth having a nice feel-good shoutout: Four of us in the Oklahoma City community—two active local working journalists, a technology expert and a tremendous line editor, approached Frosty Troy in the early 2000s and offered our services for FREE to get The Observer online. See, we wanted to do something for our state and make this a better place. We were summarily dismissed as ridiculous and outlandish people. By cracky, we’ll see if this here Internet thing is going anywhere says the great Frosty Troy, who later anointed Arnold Hamilton to destroy his and his late wife’s legacies. We weren’t even given the time of day to make our case. Three of those people live in much better cities than Oklahoma City right now and are highly successful. I’m stuck here facing state budget cuts that affect me greatly trying to get Arnold Hamilton to write more and modernize his cornball publication. Yes, I would trade places with them, and, no, I don’t hold out much hope Hamilton will up his game. Who knows about Frosty? Maybe Hamilton is keeping him behind the pay wall. Has anyone checked?
So let me make it a public proposal: I will assemble a team of people to modernize The Observer. If this doesn’t fit Hamilton’s archaic business and old-fashioned model, which we would work around at his SAME or MORE level of pay or income, then fine. I will then urge everyone to stop supporting the corny publication financially as much as I can. The publication is a joke, a compilation of cornball humor and three-week-old Internet articles, all for only $40 a year. Yeah, right. The problem is that The Observer wastes financial resources. Give that $40 a year to a real progressive site, and, no, I’m not talking about Okie Funk. This is my personal intellectual territory, my mind, body. Let’s start a real, modern site that might attract younger people and give us some momentum. I will help as much as I can, but there’s only so many progressive dollars here, and Hamilton is taking a lot of them and producing a really bad product. It’s shameful and immoral.
As far as The Oklahoma Policy Institute goes, well, it needs to just go away. David Blatt, its director, is a corporate-sponsored tool who never strays between the corporate/free-market lines. It exists because of corporate donations. I’ve looked on its site, and I can’t find a breakdown of its budget and its donations. How much money do you make a year, David, from your corporate sponsors? He can, of course, edify us with this information whenever he wants. What is your annual salary, David? How does it come about that OKPolicy employs so many people who do so very little work and make so little difference? How much do they make? For what reason does your organization exist? I teach students how to write. What have you done, David, except create an organization that employs you and your sycophants? Of course, it only makes sense that old, old blog posts from OKPolicy make up most of The Observer content. It’s a form of rhetorical and corporate-based incest. By all means, tell us what great things you have accomplished in Oklahoma, David, Arnold. We’re waiting. We’re breathless in anticipation.
My argument is that the only reason for The Oklahoma Policy Institute’s continued existence is that it can work to STOP real liberal action in this state by posing as “liberal” and “progressive” and getting liberal people to vote against their own interests just like the conservatives do with their base. It’s immoral and wrong. OKPolicy will never serve the interests of just regular liberal, decent people here. Never.
My suggestion is for The Oklahoma Policy Institute to rebrand as The Midwest Policy Institute and branch out into west Arkansas and southern Missouri and maybe southern Kansas. Wichita? It’s already based in Tulsa, the far eastern part of the state, anyway. It’s not an Oklahoma City or state Capitol-related organization. It’s not really Oklahoma. Leave us alone in central Oklahoma, David, please. OKPolicy isn’t even based in the capital of the state it purports to help. OKPolicy has done nothing to help us progressives here in Oklahoma, a state that has cut education funding the most of any state in the nation since 2008. If you’re an educator, and you’re supporting Blatt and company, and there are some of you, and you’re even serving on his Board of Immoral Directors, then think again. The Oklahoma Policy Institute is NOT on your “education” side at least and never will be.
So, for what it’s worth, I intentionally started stirring the pot this weekend on this issue on Facebook. I’ll stop after this post for . . . a while, but I’ll whittle away with endurance and consistency. “This land was made for you and me.” All we have are our voices to undo social injustice and the folded lies made possible by media mediocrity and think-tank immorality, given to us locally by The Oklahoma Observer and The Oklahoma Policy Institute.
So, as a college professor, I must address the counter argument even though I don’t feel like doing it. Some Oklahoma progressive leaders are aghast—not a lot because they know how awful The Observer is, for sure—that I’m making these points. I hear them: Let’s all work together, maybe meet for lunch, talk strategy, hold hands, sing a song and hang on David Blatt’s every brilliant word. Why are you being so mean-spirited, Kurt, say the supposed liberals in this place? This is why: We’re not going anywhere as progressives here if we don’t stir the pot and shake it up. I will sing it from the mountain top and ring the bell of freedom: Hamilton needs to up his game and OKPolicy needs to go away. See, folks, you have your hyperbole and your nuanced argument, too. Let’s keep The Observer, but get rid of OKPolicy. NOW.
Here’s one of the personal things that triggered my epiphany over the weekend, an epiphany long, long in the making as, like most educators in the state these days, I face the budget crisis in very real terms. I was interviewed by Dale Denwalt of Oklahoma City’s Journal Record last week about some innocuous legislative bill. I get requests like this all the time. So I took some time to help him, wrote some things out, and then did a telephone interview with him. I was extremely busy with my REAL full-time job, actually grading and commenting on papers if you care to know, but I took time out of my day to help him. I didn’t get one thing out of helping Dale Denwalt to do his job, not one damn thing. No big deal. Later, though, I tried to access the story I might have been quoted in or might not have been, either way is fine, and it’s behind a pay wall. Only $189 a year, people, and so I can’t even see my own words if they were even used. I can’t even see if Denwalt quoted me correctly, distorted my comments or didn’t use my material at all. I can see the headline of the story, but, no, not the words.
This is the publication that runs Hamilton’s and Blatt’s so very very stupendous, unethical wise words while the rest of us get shut out, shut down and told to shut up. Hamilton and Blatt support a publication with a $189 a year pay wall, and it doesn’t matter one iota that you can access their boring, lifeless commentaries in it. (Let me make it abundantly clear you can access Hamilton’s and Blatt’s editorials for free in The Journal Record.) Hamilton and Blatt want us to shut up. They are supporting the wrong vision, the wrong media outlet, the wrong philosophy, the wrong idea, and the wrong everything at a very right and opportune time for progressives.
The Observer is worth saving if Hamilton ups his game. I strongly doubt he can. Maybe he will step down, and we can get a younger editor in there. (Not me, just saying. I think I’m even older than Hamilton 🙂 The Oklahoma Policy Institute, which will probably soon start its prissy, whiny overwrought tirade against OU President David Boren’s one-penny sales tax increase for education, needs to go or at least be given the same type of indifference Blatt doles out to real progressives and liberals in the state.
What a nice home for you, Blatt:
— KAKE Lily Wu (@KansasLily) April 9, 2016