Assembling purveyors of better ideas

Assembling purveyors of better ideas

Organizing persons unified by common ideas can be a very tall order.  Regular readers may recall my account from a few months ago of the 2017 Oklahoma Democratic Party Convention in A long day at the sausage factory.   I’m fairly certain I could get a consensus that anyone willing to put up with such a tedious and often contentious process of electing leaders of a major state political party possesses a level of dedication and resolve far above average with far greater depth of commitment than that of the average citizen.  If I were a betting man I would double down on the likelihood that every one of those 620+ delegates attending that convention at some point asked themselves subconsciously if not outright, “Why am I here?  Why am I involved in this?  Why do I aspire to endeavor in politics?”  All are good questions the answers to which revolve around being a conscientious soul in possession of a genuine desire to improve the lives of families of friends, neighbors and all the citizens of one’s state, county, community and neighborhood.  To be such an individual one must involve oneself in the legislative process.  In order to become involved in the legislative process one must immerse oneself in the political process.  This is why people volunteer to knock doors, staff phone banks and stuff envelopes for political candidates.  This is why people open their wallets and purses to fund the campaigns of those seeking elected office.  This is why motivated and inspirational citizens of firm resolve step up and throw their hat in the ring seeking to be elected.  This level of commitment requires every office seeker to open up their hearts and soul to the scrutiny of the voters in a popularity contest held every other or every fourth or every sixth November or on whatever Tuesday is designated as Election Day.  By seeking to serve the public trust as a democratically elected government official, a political candidate dedicates themselves to striving to improve the lives of all their fellow citizens, those they seek to represent and even those they do not.

The one huge downside to politics is that all candidates of all parties must be recruited from the human race.  That is the same human race which I described as a very dysfunction species in my post a few weeks ago, Our slow but steady downward glide Regardless of capability, motivation or desire to serve, all prospective candidates usually have a wide breadth of life experience.   Much of that experience may reflect a stellar professional career, shining credentials burnished in public service or private business, a monogamous marriage and notable engagement in various civic and church activities.  In spite of all these actual and perceived positives, any candidate subjected to intense scrutiny may be found to have one or any number of personal failures.  These may range from  judgement lapses of which the consequences may effect nobody other than the candidate to flaws of character that lend to illegal or unethical conduct.  The case can be made that life is a series of judgement calls.  In a milieu where good judgement is often dismissed and bad judgement is universally condemned, the amount of harm a busted judgement call inflicts on others can be a point of scrutiny years after the fact.  The main caveat of framing a candidate’s history is that character failures vary in degree of  seriousness and run the gamut from insignificant and harmless to criminal.  The product on sale in a political campaign is the candidate’s body of their life’s work.  One unredeemed failure of any magnitude has the potential to negate many positives which may have occurred before, concurrent with or after it on the timeline of life.  Increase the power of scrutiny a few times and even the seemingly most unblemished character can be found to have a few warts.

Having been directly involved in campaign politics at the municipal, state legislative and Congressional levels for now well over a decade, I have observed that political office and high level public service attracts a lot of overachievers.  Professions that tend to attract overachievers like medicine and law are well represented in the Congress.  The 114th Congress contains fifteen physicians and some 160 lawyers.  The Oklahoma Legislature is a microcosm of this phenomenon and although I do not have a current handle on the respective numbers of doctors and lawyers now serving, I do know of more than a few of each currently occupying seats under the Oklahoma Capitol Dome.  A Democratic state representative was once very eloquent in their explanation of being part of such a body, “Going into session in the State House is akin to meeting with a hundred high school valedictorians from every county in the state.”  It may perhaps offer some degree of comfort to know we have the finest minds among us representing us in state government.  I will vouch for that sentiment given that I personally know polished senators and legislators on both sides of the aisle.  At the same time it does not instill a lot of confidence in their ability to govern when an assembly of such fine characters fail to meet the basic requirements necessary to properly manage the affairs of an American state on multiple occasions.  Proof of quality of their collective efforts are validated in the results of their work.  Sadly, the results produced by the implementation of conservative ideas over the past seven years have, by all reasonable metrics, not been good.  The change brought by the OKGOP when they took control of all levers of government in 2011 has not been the type of change that has afforded maximum benefit to our state.  Tax cuts in theory may make for wonderful campaign sound bytes and may be music to the ears of taxpayers in the higher brackets but in the reality of actual practice the consequences have imposed a great deal of hardship on much of the state from repeated revenue failure.  I’ve never understood why the Republican Party, so steeped in the principle of fiscal responsibility, has such a fascination with insolvency.  How does anyone think they can administer the affairs of a US state with no money?  To paraphrase Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers, we should not have elected these senators and representatives.  We should have elected magicians.  One main core tenet of modern conservatism, that cutting taxes increases revenue, has failed and is failing everyone in Oklahoma in the ugliest way possible.

Purveyors of better ideas for governing Oklahoma need not indulge in magical thinking or any degree of groupthink.  As it turns out so many things in government are neither Republican nor Democrat, conservative nor liberal, right wing nor left wing.  Many of the necessary things dealing with budget and tax policy are either reasonable or unreasonable, they either work or they don’t work, they either meet our needs or they do not.  I would venture to guess that the number of Oklahomans who would like our state to move up from the back of or dead last in the pack in key quality of life indicators is growing steadily.  That number will continue to grow as more people become dissatisfied with putting up with the status quo of egregious mismanagement of substandard governance.  There is no pride in being known for a reputation of four day school weeks because of cut education funding, for being the nation’s injection well earthquake capitol, having some of the most expensive health insurance in the region and vying for the nation’s leader in teen pregnancy, incarceration of women, and for having the poorest maintained infrastructure amongst other things.  Conservative ideas have and are failing us all.  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  As the time arrives for a change in leadership we must be ready to offer a new way of  thinking and a better direction for all of Oklahoma.  The needed decisions are not difficult.  They just require a commitment to doing the right thing first and foremost by a slate of dedicated candidates willing to endure making the case for their election.

Critical mass is building for a reassertion of Democratic values and leadership in Oklahoma.  As the number of disenchanted Oklahomans continues to grow, we must be ready to step up with common sense answers and solutions to the problems that are making our state a national laughingstock.  We must be ready to implement long term strategies to move away from economic and tax policies that are relegating our state to permanent backwater status.  We must also never sell ourselves short.  It would be better to have a legislature chocked full of average people of modest means who are able to work together and deliver stellar results from their efforts.  The perpetual failures of overachievers who seem to pump an endless supply of sunshine and manage to get reelected on the promise of lofty platitudes is hopefully nearing the end of its disappointing course.  As Democratic success has been shown in more than a couple unlikely victories in recent special elections, working harder and working smarter and getting the biggest possible bang for our campaign donor dollar has delivered positive results.  The successful campaign managers worked hard at mobilizing the party base.  Some GOP voters may have crossed over but this phenomenon cannot be counted on for sustenance.  The local Republicans have gotten the message that 2018 will not be an automatic vote for them.  They remain complacent at their own peril.  Stamping the Rooster at the polls on Election Day is coming back into vogue in the Sooner State.



1 Comment

  1. Cynthia Schmitt LCSW
    Dec 1, 2017

    Well written articulate article that lends hope and promise to our future…i might even rejoin the modest…dems. change must happen though. It is not change that hurts. It is resistance to change that is woefully painful. As we can see in okie politics, its also ignorant…yes i see change a commin’

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