By Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard
Enid News and Eagle
— The bad and the ugly in state politics have been readily observable to the Oklahoma public, and lately even to the nation at large. But the good has been more difficult to discern within the Oklahoma legislature. It is there, nevertheless.
Right or wrong, most of us might be inclined to identify what is good in the state legislature as pertaining to our own hometown legislators. Although there are exceptions, most of us like our own legislators. The other guys down there are the bad and the ugly.
When our legislators visit with us personally, they normally make a lot of sense. They are pretty good guys. Basically they want what we want from government – good services efficiently carried out, responsiveness to the needs of the people, and that sort of thing. At least that is what they tell us.
However, in order for us to really discern the “goodness” or the “ugliness” of our own legislators, we need to see and hear them working a crowd that contains their own party base supporters and a few of their larger campaign donors. We may hear some different views and some different priorities enunciated to that audience.
When our legislators are members of a party that contains folk we think are a little crazy, and when the bills sponsored by those crazy people end up passing, we have cause to wonder. But we say to ourselves, “We can’t expect our good guys to stand up against their party leadership lest they lose their positions of influence. If they lose party status, then they cannot help us with our own special causes.” We are selfish.
We have to follow political news from broader sources, and follow the legislative insider reports, to find that there really are some good legislators from all around the state. These people battle for what makes sense. They stand for addressing real problems instead of grandstanding about emotional and religious issues. They see Rome burning, and they refuse to fiddle with the ruling majority.
The bad in our legislature has to include all those who have in the past in any way contributed to any diminution in our state’s income, and thus its ability to support a full spectrum of vital services to the people. Those who sponsored or voted for tax cuts, tax breaks, tax credits, or any other giveaways have proven themselves to be bad. It is not as if there weren’t leaders all around the state telling them that their actions were wrong and unwise. They were told again and again.
Of course, we are now in a recession, and natural gas tax revenues from the well-head price are down. But we are still missing almost a billion dollars in tax breaks given by the legislature in the last five years. Do we even dare to ask why the prices the gas company charges us (just for the product) are twice the market price of gas, and even more above the taxed price?
These legislators are bad because their party ideology got in the way of their good sense. They sacrificed the good of their state for the favor of those who supported them with money, or who shared the view that government is bad and the only way to reduce its size is to starve it. And so they did just that. State government is starving. These hypocrites then criticize the president while taking his bailout money just to survive.
These legislators are bad because they allowed their party ideology, and their vain quest for popularity with a reactionary group, to demagnetize their moral compass. They lost their sense of right and wrong. They became callous to the plight of their fellow man.
So now we have problems in the health services, aid to the elderly and poor, mental health patients, child abuse services, shelters for abused women, jails and prisons, and all the other eleemosynary services of the state for its people. And, we are firing teachers and professors, cutting office staffs, letting work (and bodies) stack and operations drag, and cutting educational television, perhaps losing the only decent state public affairs programming.
The bad people have contributed to this situation. Bad people feel no imperative to take actions to remedy the crisis circumstances. Do something! Do something! So shout we all.
The ugly in our state legislature are not difficult to recognize. They make us painfully aware of them in the news all too often. They shame us nationally, because they supposedly represent Oklahoma. We have made the national news when some legislators expressed the notion that we should sponsor our own state militia to resist the federal government about health care requirements.
One legislator became negatively notorious around the country years ago because of his weird conspiracy theories about federal officials plotting the Oklahoma City bombing of their own facility. He’s back. Somehow he managed to get elected again to join others of his ilk at the Capitol. He wants to declare Oklahoma sovereignty. Then he and others want to demonstrate this by having guns assembled in shops or garages in the state and selling those and ammunition within the state free of federal safety checking laws. This would not be interstate commerce, he says.
In the ugly class would be all of those who cater to the gun-toters, and who want legal gun-toting privileges on college campuses and in pick-ups on tech school grounds. They have some utterly foolish beliefs that guns make us safe. Have they not heard that even Wyatt Earp made the cowboys of Dodge City check their guns. How nutty can they get?
Further, we must include among the ugly all those hypocritical legislators to rant and rave about government regulation of business, but who simultaneously enact government intrusion into the personal lives of families, and of women in particular. One bill after another intruding on the freedom of women’s medical decisions comes from these ugly legislators. This year they have gone further by demanding doctors report names to the Capitol and dictating what doctors must do and say to their patients. Then these same ugly people show up at tea parties with ugly signs against government and labeling somebody else a Nazi or a Muslim.
This ugliness permeates the entirety of the legislature. Only those few who stand up against these wrongful intrusions into personal matters can escape the hue of ugliness and assume the glow of goodness. When the legislature actually passes such perfidious measures, then the party in control turns very ugly.
This week a columnist read nationally wrote: “This month the most dreadful legislation came out of Oklahoma and Arizona.” Nice image builder, eh?
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate