To Get Better Republicans (You Might Have To Vote For Some Democrats)
I haven’t done a very good job being diplomatic this election season. I’ve been too annoyed, too frustrated, and at times a bit too idealistic. It feels like we have the best chance in a generation to make a real difference in state elections this November, and…
We won’t. I’m pretty sure we won’t.
I don’t even know what counts as success in my mind. I’m certainly happy that a few of the crazier options were eliminated in primaries. Several existing problems termed out. The activism and commitment of #OklaEd has already made a difference, right?
Just… agree. Please.
Along the way I’ve been accused of being all kinds of things – some with elements of truth, others simply bizarre. My favorite, though, is being called a socialist. A crazy godless liberal, out to destroy American culture and undermine the One True Faith along the way.
Because those are the two options, apparently – borderline fascist, or jobless hippie reprobate.
The thing is, as I communicate with various legislators and edu-candidates in my efforts to brainwash the masses for #OKElections16, the majority of them don’t really fit their respective party’s supposed mold. There are few true progressives in the mix – Representative Emily Virgin would proudly wear that moniker, I suspect. Candidates Paul Sullivan and Jason Lowe might fit that description. But they’re in the minority.
But most of our Democratic candidates have strong ratings from the NRA. Several are pro-life and pro-traditional family. Very few are running on social issues – the handful who want to legalize marijuana are far more interested in its potential as a revenue source than freeing anyone’s minds and hoping the rest will follow. Most simply want the legislature to meet its basic obligations under the Oklahoma Constitution and stop telling people what they can and can’t believe or who they can and can’t fall in love with.
Asking the government to stick to the constitution and stay out of people’s business used to be a conservative position, didn’t it?
As much as it pains me to admit, there are also more sensible Republicans out there than you’d think. Some currently hold office, others are running – or were, until primaries were settled.
The GOP currently holds substantial power at the state level, and the pressure can be brutal for anyone unwilling to fall into goosestep. Some, like Lisa Kramer and Tom McCloud, were defeated in primaries – essentially at the bidding of their own parties. Their sins weren’t letting gay people have a place to pee, or taking anyone’s guns. They were both pro-life, pro-capitalism, pro-fiscal responsibility candidates… they simply refused to fall into line with ALEC and OCPA marching orders regarding manufactured austerity and elitist, destructive policies towards public education and basic government services.
They let reality and the good of the whole interfere with ideology and the will of their out-of-state fiscal overlords.
I look at other Republican candidates who don’t seem like bad people, or sitting legislators who seem to genuinely want what’s best for Oklahoma and all of its citizens, and I catch glimpses of the sorts of pressures they’re under to swing further and fuhrer towards the Cliff of the True Believers. Some don’t survive challenges from their own parties, while others jerk to the right repeatedly - like a bad shopping cart – in order to save their capital for a handful of issue they consider most essential.
This strategy on the part of the GOP works for several reasons. First and foremost, the extremists have all the money. People with interests far beyond the 4-day school week or whether or not SoonerCare should cover single mothers write big, big checks for scary platforms. Second, primaries – and thus elections in general – are largely controlled by the extremes. Primary voters tend to be the most involved, and they vote at every opportunity.
But it’s the third reason that has me most discombobulated at the moment. And, my Republican friends, I’d like your help recombobulating – together, perhaps.
Tell me if this pattern sounds familiar:
Several Republicans run for the same office – state legislator, governor, whatever. One is crazy right-extreme, one is fairly average as Oklahoma Republicans go, and one is relatively moderate by state standards.
Because it’s primaries – where extremes tend to win out – the candidate running furthest to the right wins the nomination. He or she may represent a very small percentage of Republicans in their realm, but the rest didn’t vote. They have jobs, or don’t like to think about politics because it’s depressing, or otherwise simply don’t get involved. If they DO get involved, it’s not until the “real” elections.
Between the money and the nature of primaries, average or moderate candidates are destroyed – and not just in terms of tallied votes. Their character is maligned, their qualifications belittled, and their right to absorb oxygen the rest of us could be breathing severely questioned.
Soon, most decent Oklahomans not interested in spending tens of thousands of dollars just to have their families strained, years of their lives exhausted, and their character and qualifications assassinated, quickly learn not to get involved in politics.
Leave it to the crazies, in other words.
Then, come November – when a slightly larger percentage of the potential voting population is starting to pay attention – voters are left without moderate choices. Many will show up and mark (R) without a second thought, then turn around and vent on social media about THOSE IDIOTS IN CHARGE OMG WHO ELECTS THESE PEOPLE?!
Ask from whom this hell polls, friend - it polls from thee.
Others will pay slightly more attention and realize they are left with two options – a right-winger they may not really like, and who they don’t believe represents their attitude or goals, and someone with a (D) next to their name who they can only assume wants to initiate state-wide orgies, legalize heroin, make everyone use the same restrooms, and open our borders to any terrorists willing to immediately apply for welfare.
They’ll hold their nose and vote for the guy on the far right. It’s not that much different from what we hear in Presidential elections every year – “I’m not voting FOR X; I’m voting AGAINST Y.”
How do we change this?
First, we need to get involved in state level elections at the earliest possible stages. As soon as candidates file in April, we should be researching, writing, and then volunteering and donating. At the very least, we need to consistently vote in primaries, and get our friends, co-workers, and loved ones to vote as well – even in those damned runoffs, if they happen in our district.
In other words, if you want better choices, you need to do something about it.
Second, and more radically, we need to be willing to vote for that scary (D) person on the ballot if the alternative is more of the same. I assure you, the Left is NOT taking over Oklahoma if you do. I doubt they’ll even be able to muster a good pagan orgy or two in their first term.
More Democrats would merely put some drag on the more extreme behavior of the state GOP. It would be slightly harder to pass blatantly unconstitutional, red-meat bills. It would require slightly more compromise to cut basic services. It wouldn’t be a true balance, but there’d at least be a few more voices at the table.
More Democrats would make it slightly more difficult for the state to do those crazy things you said weren’t your idea and stop-blaming-me-we’re-not-all-like-that-I-don’t-know-who-elects-these-people. A few unexpected (D) wins would say to the powers-that-be that you demand better options if you’re to remain loyal to your party. More reasonable options. People more like… you.
Pay attention to your choices on November 8th, starting now. There’s a good chance that “other” choice on your ballot isn’t the lefty nightmare you picture, but a rational, educated individual. He or she may not believe exactly as you do, but then again – neither do the people you’ve BEEN voting for. The question is, which one is more likely to lead to positive change?
The Republicans used to be the party of facts, even if they hurt your feelings, and accountability, even if it proved uncomfortable to assert. You want a better Republican Party? Expect more of it, starting November 8th.