From the GREAT STATE OF OKLAHOMA:
This is a diary written for 50-state strategizers. One of the main reasons that I decided to come back to DKos as droogie the Okie is because I wanted to ask this question of the community.
According to the DKos election map, Oklahoma is the only state in the Union where not a single county went blue. Not a single, solitary one. It wasn't even close in my home county, Tulsa, which is supposed to be the state's cultural capital.
This is a results-oriented diary series I am writing. Oklahoma is, by most measures, the reddest red state. I want to know why, and I want to know how this trend can be reversed. I'm looking for a real diagnosis, and real answers.
What I'm not interested in is sweeping generalities about Oklahomans. If you want to call us all ignorant, misinformed, racist or backward, I suggest you do it an upcoming open thread and not here. As unfathomable as it may seem to us, there is a reason why Oklahomans choose Republicans over Democrats, and I want to know why.
To begin our analysis, here's the awful truth: No other state in the Union gave McCain a wider margin of victory than Oklahoma. Only Idaho, Utah, Alabama and Wyoming came close. Even those states had some blue counties. Oklahoma was solid red.
According to exit poll data from CNN.com, a full one-third of Democrats in Oklahoma voted for John McCain. McCain also won the votes of two-thirds of Oklahoma independents. Only 5 percent of Oklahoma Republicans voted for Obama.
Some demographic categories that Obama performed well with include non-whites, people with no college education, and people with an income between $15,000 and $30,000.
The state also chose by a wide margin to re-elect shiftless backbencher Sen. Jim Inhofe over State Sen. Andrew Rice, a candidate who ran a progressive campaign and never once tried to attempt to hide his liberal Democratic roots. Rice won only four counties southeast of Tulsa County, including Muskogee County -- Muskogee being the hometown of Sen. Tom Coburn.
Rice's campaign on the ground mirrored Sen. Obama's. He was positive and progressive, yet unafraid to point out Inhofe's ultra-conservative stances and his ties to Bush. Inhofe's campaign was even more negative than John McCain's, if you can imagine that. His TV ads places Rice's face next to mugshots of criminals, and at several points even seemed to question Rice's sexuality -- to the point where Rice apparently felt he had to feature his wife and family in a later ad.
Furthermore, Inhofe recently declared his intentions to run for yet another term in 2014 -- he would be 80 years old then.
Coburn, who defeated centrist Democrat (read: Republican) Brad Carson in 2004 is up for re-election in 2010. In this same year, Oklahoma passed a state question banning gay marriage.
Here's the paradox of the whole thing: In just a few years, I've seen two Oklahoma Democrats run for the Senate. One of them played "who's more right wing" than the Republican. The other made no apologies for his liberal views, and waged an aggressive, principled race.
In the end, both races turned out about the same, and both candidates lost by similar margins to their Republican opponents.
As for Oklahoma's House representation, 4 out of 5 representatives are Republican. The lone Democrat is Dan Boren, who in some ways is more conservative than many Republicans. But his recognizable name and status as a political dynasty in the state keeps him firmly in his seat.
On Oklahoma "Democrats"
Another anomaly in Oklahoma is that while Democrats hold an 11 percent registration advantage over Republicans, the state hasn't chosen a Democrat for president since LBJ's landslide in 1964. Clearly, many Oklahoma Democrats do not always vote for Democrats at every level of government.
On the state level, Oklahoma voters are not afraid to elect a Democrat to the state's executive branch. Gov. Brad Henry won a second term in 2006 with two-thirds of the vote, defeating Ernest Istook, a well-known veteran of the US House of Representatives.
Considered a DINO by some, Henry has governed as a moderate Democrat. He believes abortion laws should be left as they are, is pro-gun rights, favors the death penalty, introduced a lottery to the state and has fought to raise teacher pay. Henry also advocated for a ban on cockfighting, which was passed in 2004. Oklahoma was among three states at the time that allowed the "sport."
Henry also endorsed Barack Obama for president during the primaries, even though Hillary Clinton was favored by almost everybody to win the state (and carried it by some of her widest margins in the entire primary).
In other primaries, Oklahomans favored Mike Huckabee among Republicans and Wes Clark and John Edwards among Democrats.
So that's a snapshot of what Oklahoma politics are like. We're a bit of an anomaly. It's hard to plumb the depths of what is on the minds of voters here, so I am open to anyone's interpretations so long as they are fact-based, thoughtful and respectful of the people who live here.
Editor's Note: As an Okie with his boots, as it were, on the ground in this reddest of red states, I have something interesting to report. Although it's painfully clear that very few Okies chose to vote for Obama, like a pack of Elizabeth Hasselbecks they seem to be cautiously optimistic about the prospect of his inauguration and appear, for the moment at least, willing to give him a chance to prove himself. Of course, this goodwill could evaporate in the first week of his presidency, but I thought this observation was worth reporting to you.
Rec List Editor's Note: Here are some conclusions that I agree with...
- We need a Brian Schweitzer -- someone homegrown and authentic who can communicate progressive ideas effectively to Oklahomans.
- We need to stop the brain drain -- Many sharp, young Oklahomans do not stay here once they receieve their educations. They more to Texas, or Colorado, as my wife and I very nearly did.
- We must organize and strengthen state and local parties -- I went to the state Democratic Party site yesterday and it was a mess. Their most recent news item was about John Edwards dropping out of the primary. They spoke of resolving debt, and the mission statement was all about how wonderful centrism is. Weak tea all around.
- The influence of conservative churches cannot be overstated -- Something new has to counter-act this effect. The Matthew 25 people and the Red Letter Christians are both organizations that could be instrumental in helping Christians see that they don't necessarily have to vote Republican to keep in line with their faith.