What Oklahoma Dems can do now, later, forever
Slowing down Republicans in a real way will require serious and unending brand resuscitation. So what are Oklahoma Democrats waiting for? They already have the material.
So I received some mail from Abby Broyles, who’s running to represent Oklahoma’s 5th District in the House and who, to date, appears to not even have drawn a challenger in the Democratic primary, which arrives June 28.
She could get one, of course, but chances remain abundantly high it will be she and Stephanie Bice, who arrived in Congress only last year, facing off to represent the district.
Broyles is exactly the type of candidate Oklahoma Democrats should want on the ballot trying to unseat Bice.
Young, dynamic, well known thanks to several years as an anchor and news reporter in the Oklahoma City market and more than willing to fight an uphill battle, which she demonstrated by taking on the endlessly embarrassing Jim Inhofe — who, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal less than 14 months ago, credited the joyful submission of his wife as a big reason his marriage has worked for more than 60 years; sorry, I just can’t let it go — in his last Senate race, winning more than 509,000 votes (to Inhofe’s more than 979,000), Broyles recently delivered good news to my inbox.
“Team — I’ll keep this brief,” her note began. “We’re so close to meeting our January fundraising goal and staying on track to win this thing. If just 50 more supporters chip in, we’ll meet our first goal of the year and kick off 2022 with all the momentum we built up in 2021.”
“On track to win.”
Do you know hard it is for any Democrat to win any office in this state and Broyles, who knew, is already on track to win.
More encouraging stuff followed.
“I’m running to defeat Stephanie Bice and leave her brand of partisan politics behind us,” she wrote. “Whether it’s fighting for equal pay, investments in our infrastructure or lower health care costs, we need leadership that’s focused on the real issues. We need leadership that’s focused on our neighbors and communities.”
Hooray for her caring about “the real issues.” Hooray for her pointing out “Oklahomans deserve better,” as she did in the paragraph between the two I quoted, but so much of me wishes political pablum like this might be delivered much more sharply.
Like, maybe point out that Oklahomans may not deserve better because they keep sending the same party into power in Washington, the statehouse and and the vast majority of courthouses in the 77 county seats dotting our state, because the party with all the power has spent most of the last 40-plus years convincing us it has our best interests at heart, but it doesn’t and it hasn’t for a very long time … and explain, specifically where the Republicans have failed Oklahoma pretty much forever: education, at every conceivable level, over and over again, tax policy, health care, workers rights and civil rights and that ought to be for starters.
Don’t forget, too, to explain how Republican office holders continue to embarrass the state. About that, see Fallon, Mary; Stitt, Kevin; Standridge, Rob; Olsen, Jim; Dahm, Nathan; O’Donnell, Terry and Inhofe, too, who once thought a snowball from outside could settle the global warming debate on the Senate floor.
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Or, better yet — finally to the point of all this — build a years long media campaign, not to “win the communications battle” but to tell the freakin’ truth about all the good things, historically, Democrats have brought to this state, New Deal forward, and all the things Republicans have stood in the way of, historically, thereby holding the state back.
Because the way to begin turning Oklahoma dramatically less red is to resuscitate the Democratic brand and not stop. Not stop on election day 2022 or election day ’24, ’26 or ’28.
Don’t think of it as an eternal political campaign, but as an education campaign that may eventually reset the playing field.
Who knows, after a few years of it, Dems in our state might put their party back on their yard signs.
The cost may be steep.
But look at it like this:
In the 2020 race to represent the 5th District, Kendra Horn’s campaign raised about $5.95 million and spent about all of it; she was the beneficiary of about $780,000 in outside spending for her, while another $7.26 million in outside spending came in against her opponent, Bice.
That’s almost $14 million spent trying to keep Horn in and Bice out.
Well, could Oklahoma Dems raise that much each cycle to resuscitate their brand? If you can find that kind of dough for one losing House race, can’t you find it for something that ought to benefit every race going forward and begin to turn this state around?
Ken Burns could create the spots.
Sam Elliott could voice them over.
Megan Mullally and Kristin Chenoweth, too.
You never know until you ask.
Republicans are only too proud to put forward ridiculous bills, sell out public education, pick fights with tribes, align themselves with a former president who inspired an insurgency that killed cops.
Meanwhile, Democrats built this state and nobody seems to want to tell that story.
Sure, play the short game, but play the long game, too, and don’t stop.
We’re better than they are, care more than they do, and sure as hell believe in the greater good more than our own damn donors. We’re the original populists and progressives for crying out loud.
It’s time to act like it.
It’s long past time to tell that story.