Across The Aisle
Since late December, I’ve been doing my best to profile sitting legislators and introduce education-friendly candidates running for state office in 2016. My critiques of sitting legislators have been diverse, but I’m pretty much only highlighting new candidates I support.
This may not be ‘fair’, but I’m not a news source – I’m an education blog. I advocate. Like a mofo.
Several of you have noticed that this sometimes means profiling or linking to multiple candidates in the same district. Occasionally they’re even in the same party - competitors in the State Primaries next month, on June 28th.
Am I that confused? That unbiased? Pulled that many different directions?
I won’t argue with confused, and I’m definitely biased. But the issue isn’t different directions – quite the contrary. I’m all about One Direction.
I want candidates who are likely to be good for public education. I don’t know all of them personally, but I’ve read through their rhetoric, their promises, their backgrounds, and made the best calls I can. I’ve allowed many of them to respond in their own words to questions related to education and funding – even poodles, if I can draw them in on that part.
Whatever else you can say about the folks trying to kill public ed in Oklahoma, they don’t disguise their intentions very well. Once you get past ‘I Just Loooooove Smurtness!’ their rhetoric screams ‘ALEC Paid Me To Say This’ and ‘I Still Haven’t Realized That Glenn Beck Is Satire.’
It’s certainly possible we might not get exactly what we’ve paid for with every edu-candidate successfully elected this November, but I feel good about my choices overall.
Sometimes there are no candidates in a district about which I feel very much hope. Other times, there are several. After the primaries, there will be fewer. It’s just how things work.
Senate District 37 is one of the districts in which many people are running. Seven, at last count. Of those, I’ve profiled two – Lloyd Snow, Democrat, and Brian Jackson, Republican. I wholeheartedly endorse BOTH of them for purposes of state primaries. If they both make it through – and I hope they do – we’ll go from there.
Why? Because while they disagree on many other issues, they’re both strong advocates for public education in Oklahoma. They both consider it a priority. And they both know what they’re talking about when it comes to teachers, kids, and edu-slation.
So yeah – I support them both. As do they.
See, Jackson and Snow have actually campaigned together a number of times, knocking on doors and talking to voters. Their campaign Facebook pages and Twitter accounts regularly send shout-outs to one another. They’re even nice to each other when no one’s watching.
I realize there will eventually be limits to this warm fuzziness. At some point someone will win that seat and six other people won’t. If they were both in office (from different districts), there would be bills over which they’d disagree – perhaps vigorously. There would be times their parties would play reindeer games in order to accomplish some greasy goal or other. It’s the nature of the beast.
But is it SO crazy to hope that offsetting these differences are areas of genuine cooperation and understanding? Was it SO long ago that legislators were able to debate across the aisle, then drink across the barbeque grill while their kids tore up someone’s yard and ruined their new cargo pants?
Some apparently think so. One of the other candidates from that district posted this on her Campaign Facebook page a few weeks ago:
While I’m normally humble and demure, I found this, well… horrifying.
Barely polite words were exchanged.
I don’t think Ms. Patterson is a bad person. She wasn’t even the one initially responding on her account. But that last phrase really captures something familiar to those of us weary of political realities, doesn’t it?
Supporting public education, or generally agreeing with someone in the other party about even a single priority, is “forfeiting.” It’s “unethical” and “deceiving to the whole community.”
We all know that nationally, partisan vitriol overrides all other considerations. President Obama could discover a cure for cancer tomorrow, made only out of discarded potato peels, and Congress would shut it down out of spite. I have no doubt a Democratically-controlled Congress will be just as contrary when President Trump tries to free us from the ridiculous constraints of the first 19 Amendments.
But surely we don’t have to emulate that at the state level? I don’t want to trot out all the Pro-klahoma clichés that come up every time someone needs a hand from the community, but come on – this is the freakin’ Midwest. Let’s not be dillweeds about everything.
The conversation continued, more or less civilly, until I wrapped it up with something I thought was both pithy and hilarious.
My wife hates it when I’m so obviously amused with myself like this. That’s unfortunate, because it happens A LOT.
The point I was trying to make, potentially humorously, was that by making claims with which we both agreed, Ms. Patterson (having eventually seized the keyboard from her minions) had violated her own standards of political legitimacy. That’s an absurd measuring stick, of course, which was where the whole exchange started.
The entire conversation was deleted shortly thereafter. Too bad – I thought it was interesting.
I have nothing against Paula Patterson. She’s probably in the majority on this one. She took a cute shot at something her opponents were doing which seemed silly, and this crazy interloper on Facebook (me) made a big thing of it and OMG-who-lets-these-people-on-social-media-anyway?!
Politics and game-playing shape everything at the national level, and far too much at the state Capitol. I’m not a deeply entrenched insider, but I catch enough of the behind-the-curtains shenanigans to know that parties jump ship on their own bills, politicians vote against their own ideas, press releases are press released and statements are stated OFTEN just to mess with the other party or manipulate public perception.
It’s ridiculous. And maddening for the handful of folks up there trying to do real good.
I don’t expect it to stop just because we get a few educators elected. I certainly don’t expect it to change just because I write about it and do my best to rile up all Eleven of my Faithful Followers.
But we can fight it, at least. We can occasionally step away from it and try to model how things COULD work. How they SHOULD work.
It’s not selling out your party or your values to hear what the other side is saying. It’s not deceptive to agree on a few fundamentals. Both parties, for example, are against murdering someone for cupcakes. I mean, I assume – it’s not in their platforms or anything. But as far as I can infer, neither side thinks killing someone in cold blood for baked goods is acceptable behavior.
Is that a partisan issue? An unethical compromise? Is that another example of ‘big government overreach’? Or is it simply something so fundamental that they don’t feel the need to argue about it?
Public education should be a priority for every candidate from every party. We can argue about how to best make it more gooder – consolidation or testing or pay raises or charters or magic. We should be arguing about it – that’s why we have a two-party system.
But how amazing would it be if we could at least all agree that it IS important? That it’s WORTH arguing about? That we’ve not done a very good job on this topic legislatively, and it needs a major revisit?
How awesome could it be if we’d agree that what matters most is helping all Oklahoma students, whatever their color, religion, or income level, and without concern for their parents’ political persuasion? How much good could we accomplish if we started with ‘what are your ideas and why do you think they’ll work?’ instead of ‘what’s your party?’
That’s all Snow and Jackson are doing. They’re not campaigning to conquer their opponents, or to better serve their fiscal overlords, or to lay foundations for their future political careers.
They’re campaigning – sometimes together – because they believe our kids matter. Ethically, economically, culturally, and inherently – our kids matter.
Is that truly so very controversial?
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