Trigger warning: The Oklahoman editorial board and its commentary writers are made up of a bunch of bullies looking for ways to snark attack anything that doesn’t fit into the reductionist and inhumane conservative worldview.
— Tulsa World (@tulsaworld) April 12, 2016
Yes, “trigger warning” is meant as humor. Yes, I get it. I’m stating the obvious. But one of the newspaper’s recent editorials follows the similar bullying pattern in an archetypal framework so much so that it deserves at least a modicum of analysis. The editorial attacks state Democrats on the flimsiest of evidence, omits crucial details, doesn’t follow a logical sequence of thought, and never even begins to answer the question of why it’s even addressing this non-topic of the day in the first place.
The editorial is titled “At OK Capitol, taking potshots doesn’t equal leadership,” (April 28, 2016). The gist of the editorial (drum roll, please) seems to be that Democrats at the state Capitol have “provided little leadership and even engaged in stunts” and that’s the reason why they remain a decisively non-force these days in Oklahoma politics. The commentary uses as evidence the recent Democratic-sponsored House resolution, which called for a disaster declaration because of a state government leadership failure, a resolution that everyone from here to Mississippi knew had no chance of passing.
The commentary also mentions its favorite so-called “progressive” think tank, The Oklahoma Policy Institute, as its “got ya now” cudgel to beat the Democrats into submission or maybe oblivion. Just act like the astute staffers at OKPolicy, Democrats, and you will get some respect for once. Yeah, right. Under the OKPolicy rubric, Democrats are absolutely NOT going to get a voice in government and no chance to realistically deal with revenue failures and a predicted budget shortfall of $1.3 billion next fiscal year, which begins in July.
— Media Matters (@mmfa) April 29, 2016
So some refutation, of course, is needed here just for the record.
(1) Lack of logic. It’s ridiculous to assume that Democrats have any voice in the Oklahoma House and Senate or that Republicans will listen to anything they have to say. The GOP has super majorities in both chambers. They control all major state offices. They don’t need or want to talk to the Democrats. The editorial quotes Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman as lamenting the fact that Democrats haven’t “offered any solutions,” but, really, folks, Hickman is not going to listen for one minute to any Democratic recommendation. Everyone knows that. Why would he?
(2) Republicans do all the real political stunts. From passing obviously unconstitutional measures through the years to state Rep. Sally Kern’s gaffes that aim her hatred at the LGBTQ community and minority groups to passing meaningless legislation pandering to their voter base, Republicans have surely outdone the Democrats in the “stunt” department by at least a 20 to 1 margin in the last decade or so. The real difference is that many of the GOP stunts end up costing the state money in legal fees and court costs while embarrassing the state. Democratic leaders, for the most part, just issue press releases.
(3) The conservatives really did break Oklahoma. The editorial claims that many of the state’s chronic problems, such as poor medical outcomes and lack of adequate education funding, predate GOP-dominance in state government, which is true to some extent in the larger history of the state dating back to, well, statehood, but the Republicans have made it much worse this last decade or so through fiscal irresponsibility. Recent income tax cuts that have mainly benefited the wealthy and tax breaks for the oil and gas industry have done more harm to funding vital services than the worldwide oil glut, which has dropped prices and lowered tax revenue here even more. Conservatives have turned our poor-state problems into a full-blown crisis, which many people, including myself, see as an intentional political strategy. Please read this next sentence because it’s what the Democrats were actually saying in the resolution: The conservatives over the last decade or so have produced a major government funding crisis in this state based on their inhumane ideology.
The idea that if Democrats just simply adopt the supposed reasonable posture of OKPolicy, and then, well, only then will they most certainly be granted a seat at the leadership table is like a corny joke in the think-tank organization’s old-fashioned “sister” publication, The Oklahoma Observer. It’s good for a quick chuckle or maybe even an old-fashioned by-cracky knee slap, but it doesn’t do anything to advance realistic progressive action in the state. Only progressive policies will save Oklahoma at this point.
Note to Democrats: Sing it loud atop the Oklahoma hills where we belong and deploy as many stunts as possible to get the message across: The conservatives broke Oklahoma. The conservatives broke Oklahoma. The conservatives broke Oklahoma.
So the conservative disaster rolls on in Oklahoma. Get out if you can.