Oklahoma and the “conservative life”

Last Thursday the Washington Post had a big feature article–on the front page, no less–about Washington, Oklahoma, which is just down the road from where my wife’s father and brother live.  The article was focusing on Oklahoma as a Super Tuesday state and as one of the most consistently Republican states in the union, voting for George W. Bush at a rate of 65.6% and for John McCain at the exact same rate of 65.6%.   The little town of Washington, population 600, was targeted, I guess because it has the same name as our nation’s capital, and it was presented as exemplifying “the conservative life,” whatever that is.

The stereotypes and condescension abound, presenting the folks of Washington as an exotic tribe, as in a National Geographic special.  But the reporter, Eli Saslow, has a way with description, and his details made me nostalgic for my own Oklahoma roots growing up:

What you see is Sid’s Easy Shop opening downtown each morning at 6, where Sid will sell you gas, rent you a movie, make you a new set of keys or bring your soda to one of the classic red booths preserved from the 1950s. The post office, its roof painted red and white to reflect the stripes of the American flag, opens for business a few hours later. Next door to that, Casey operates her coffee shop with the help of her husband and five kids, who take turns working the register, Yes Sir and Yes Ma’am, and sell T-shirts imprinted with the phrase “Make God Famous.”

What you see is a parade of several dozen well-wishers lining the street and stretching out their hands to the bus every time one of the varsity high school teams leaves to play a road game, and a few hundred people gathering for community workdays to fix up the Little League field so Washington doesn’t waste money on parks and rec. Almost all of the houses in town are single-story ranchers, and more than 70 percent belong to married couples — few Hispanic, fewer black, none Muslim and none openly gay.

What you see are calves dropping in the spring, coyotes circling at night, shooting stars, roaring tornados and thick flocks of birds migrating across skies that round over the horizon.

And yet, the article itself has details that show the folks of Washington are more complicated than he lets on.  The town has no diversity, with few Hispanics and Blacks and no Muslims, the article complains, but it turns out that the rancher being interviewed is Chickasaw, whose ancestors came to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.  I suspect the same could be said for many of the other Washingtonians.   So Native Americans don’t count in the diversity requirements?

It also turns out that the rancher, described riding his pickup to check on the cattle, went to college, worked in St. Louis, and now telecommutes with a financial company.  The preacher in the story with the alarmingly conservative congregation turns out to be from Chicago.

As for Oklahoma being so Republican, the fact is, just a few decades ago, Oklahoma was purely Democratic.  When I was growing up, there was not even a Republican party organization in the county.   All local elections were decided in the Democratic primary.  I don’t think I ever saw  a Republican, except on TV, until my cousin married one.  (There were some in the family who thought such a mixed marriage would never work, and we were all surprised to learn what a nice guy he was.) Back in the 1960s, Oklahoma was famous for its “Yellow Dog Democrats,” meaning that people would vote for a yellow dog if he was a Democrat.

The people condescended to in this article used to be the base of the Democratic party.  Judging from other liberal rhetoric, I thought “the conservative life” was represented by “the 1%,” the rich, the corporate oligarchs.   The people presented as primitive and retrograde in this article are closer to poor.  I thought liberals championed the poor.  Why are they making fun of them?

The Democratic party would do well to ponder why states that were once solidly in their pocket have gone Republican.  The hints are in the article. The people here are zealously against abortion.  They worry about moral values.  Their families are central to everything they do.  They know about family breakups, their teenagers using crystal meth, and crime problems from bitter experience, and they hate the breakdown in social order that these represent and that have reached even Washington, Oklahoma.  But they are proud to be Americans, volunteer to fight their country’s wars, are fiercely independent, and are ardent in their faith.  There was a time when you could be a Democrat, a liberal even, and hold to all of this.

Why has Washington, Oklahoma, become so strange, so alien, regarded as both scary and comical, to today’s liberal establishment?

via To residents of another Washington, their cherished values are under assault – The Washington Post.

Today’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona

I predict that Romney will win today’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona.  Rick Santorum hasn’t backed down from his in-your-face social conservatism, even as the media has just been hammering him for it.  I salute him for his principles, but I’m afraid there aren’t enough social conservatives in the country to elect him.

Next week is Super Tuesday when a bunch of states, mostly in the south though including the big prize of Ohio, hold their primaries on the same day.  Santorum and Gingrich have a shot at some delegates, but I still think Romney will soon become inevitable.  As will the Democratic landslide.

Democratic party says to hijack GOP primary

Dirty tricks:

The Michigan Democratic Party sent an e-mail to supporters Wednesday encouraging them to take part in the state’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday.

The e-mail points to a YouTube video of two Republican state senators encouraging Democrats to vote and notes that voters can still return to voting in the Democratic caucuses two months from now.

“Any Democrat who takes Senators Jones and Meekhof up on their offer will still be able to participate in the Michigan Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses on May 5, 2012,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said in the brief missive. “If Democratic crossover votes affect the results of the GOP presidential primary next Tuesday, the Republicans will only have themselves to blame.”

There has been some discussion that Democrats might cross over and vote for Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney in an effort either to prolong the Republican nominating contest or to nominate the supposedly less-electable Santorum. . . .

This year’s effort, which is being pushed by liberal blogs like Daily Kos, has been dubbed “Operation Hilarity.”

via Michigan Democratic Party encourages crossover voting in GOP presidential primary – The Washington Post.

I understand the Daily Kos crowd thinking it would be “hilarious” to throw off the Republicans and even funnier to have someone as religious as Santorum drag the Republicans down to ridicule and certain defeat.  So they think.  But to have the official party call for thwarting the political process like this is surely highly unethical.  Isn’t it?

Santorum’s sermons

People are digging up Rick Santorum’s religious addresses from years back.  And though what he says is pretty conventional to most of us Christians, his sermons are being used to alarm the voting public.  This is about something he said in 2008 at Ave Maria University, a conservative Catholic college:

“Satan has his sights on the United States of America!” Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.

“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

The former senator from Pennsylvania warned in 2008 how politics and government are falling to Satan.

“This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”

“He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions.”

Santorum made the provocative comments to students at Ave Maria University in Florida.

via DRUDGE: SANTORUM’S SATAN WARNING.

Wouldn’t any of us agree with that?  I’ve heard even liberal theologians with liberal politics talk like this.  And yet, in a political context, from someone running for president, it sounds whacky, if not crazy and dangerous.  But it isn’t!

Santorum doesn’t seem to have moral transgressions in his closet, so the opposition researchers are focusing on his religious beliefs.  (He doesn’t believe in birth control!  He believes Satan is attacking America!)  But whose religious beliefs couldn’t be made similarly scary?  (He wants to eat Jesus and drink His blood!)

Birth control as a winning issue for Democrats?

Religious people are for the most part appalled at the Obamacare mandate that employers must provide health insurance that will provide free abortion pills and contraceptives.  This is seen as a profound assault on religious liberty, forcing people by law to do what their religion forbids.

The left, though, is framing the issue as being all about birth control, ignoring the religious liberty angle altogether.  And Democrats are elated, convinced that they have found their winning issue that will make voters forget all about the economy in order to drive out of public life once and for all those crazy religious people who are against sex and who want to keep all women pregnant.

Sample the rhetoric and the cynical political strategy from this:  It’s Democrats who are putting focus on birth control – She the People: – The Washington Post.

Which side do you think will be more effective in framing the issues?

Opposition research

How political campaigns are waged these days:

Rick Santorum’s surprising momentum at a critical stage in the presidential race has forced the Obama campaign to reassess its reelection strategy, which for months has revolved around the likelihood that Mitt Romney would end up as the president’s Republican rival.

Obama’s Chicago-based reelection team has begun digging into Santorum’s background, diverting opposition researchers who thus far had been focused on Romney. They also blasted an e-mail to supporters in Pennsylvania, asking them to submit their most damning recollections of Santorum, a former senator from the state.

via Obama campaign turns attention to Santorum – The Washington Post.

Instead of arguments about policies and positions, much of our political discourse today consists of revelations of embarrassing things that opposing candidates once said or did.  To what extent is that valid and to what extent is it just the ad hominem fallacy?

In the meantime, if you know anything bad about Rick Santorum, tell the Obama campaign team.


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