It is March 2, and yesterday was Super Tuesday. In a massively shocking turn of events, according to the A.P. Bernie Sanders won Oklahoma. So did Ted Cruz. It seems that Hillary Clinton won Oklahoma County (Oklahoma City) and Tulsa County (Tulsa). OKC and Tulsa are the largest metropolitan areas in Oklahoma, and they are also areas where you would expect to find a large liberal contingent. Far-flung counties in Oklahoma, like Beaver in the northwestern part of the state (aka Almost Kansas) and McCurtain in the southeastern part (aka Almost Texas or Almost Arkansas) carried Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.The population in Beaver County, around 5,600, has not voted for a Democrat in the presidential elections since 1948 (that was Harry Truman). Largely a historic railway hub for agriculture, Beaver doesn’t claim any major manufacturing or education fame, like some other areas in Oklahoma. Clearly, though there are independent thinkers in Beaver county. Clearly, education and income aren’t as clear indicators of political intellect as they might appear to be. Farmers and free thinkers, whether Republican or Democrat, these Oklahoma residents showed without doubt that they are exhausted by the effects on our economy and traditional values that cronyism have on the average citizen. McCurtain County, to the far southeastern part of the state, is much larger, boasting around 35,000 people who are mostly registered Democrats. McCurtain is actually one of the most beautiful places in Oklahoma with mountains, trees, rivers, and lakes. There are two federally protected land areas, but again we’re talking about agriculture as the economic base – cotton and cattle farming. Hillary didn’t have a lot of sway down south either.
What I know to be true for a fact is that there are a lot of farmers in Oklahoma with a college education, some of them have a college degree in agriculture. They always put the most ridiculously attired or uneducated sounding Oklahoman they can find on the national news when tornadoes hit, but I can assure you we are pretty proud of education. So why do we come in last when it comes to teacher salaries, or education funding? Because we have cronies in our state government. Mary Fallin and her Republican Boy Toys along with Jim Inhoffe and his military-oil-industrial complex affiliations ear mark money for oil and gas fracking. They also spend a lot of time waiving taxes for companies like Devon Energy, which is not an Oklahoma-based corporation and Chesapeake Energy, also not an Oklahoma-based corporation. Devon Energy, according to public record, is the largest contributor to Inhoffe’s campaign for US Congress. Our gubernator gives tax incentives to companies based in New England to come here and solicit mineral leases from farmers so that they can stick a gas pump on a piece of pasture and frack the shit out of the ground beneath. For struggling farmers, sometimes the oil and gas lease is the only steady income they can count on. Education or not, feeding your family is a priority. Education or not, some of these farms have been in existence for a hundred years. They’re called Centennial Farms, and we’re pretty proud of those too, especially considering we had our own ten plagues of Egypt complete with mass exodus. Although California can hardly be considered the Land of Goshen, Oklahomans who managed to stay and carry on a hundred year old farm deserve to be proud of the Centennial designation. As another fiscal year opened in Oklahoma to the groans and sighs of national embarrassment that is another billion dollar cut to the education budget in this state, I was beginning to think that Oklahoma was doomed. I was beginning to think that I was rosy and naive about the prospects for Oklahoma in keeping up with the 21st century (nothing has changed on the education funding horizon so that anxiety remains). What do Sanders and Cruz have in common that matters to Oklahomans?
I’ve said this on occasion about Oklahomans and language: we are simple communicators. We don’t use a lot of flowery language to communicate ideas. It isn’t a sign of intellect but rather a sign of pragmatism. This is an unforgiving environment. The soil is rock hard because it’s mostly dried clay. The only things that grow here on their own are prickly things. The sun is relentless because the land is flat as a pancake, so there is not a lot of shade to be had. No diversity in the horizon. From sun up to sun down, it is you versus the sun, even in winter. The sun makes it too hot the rest of the year to stand around philosophizing and prognosticating with a bunch of flowery words and in winter the sun makes it impossible to see who you’re talking to anyway. So we communicate in direct ways with as few words as possible. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz do the same thing. They tend to get straight to the point and they both “call it like they see it.” Ted Cruz’s level of insanity is debatable, and you can be sure that with some iced tea, shade, and air conditioning, Oklahomans are debating that in as few words as possible. What they agree on is that they are tired of the status quo, and when farmers in the heartland get fed up with the status quo, that is always a good thing.
Much in opposition to what is popularly portrayed as an Oklahoma attitude, we are pretty accepting on the whole of people different than ourselves. Many of the people who came here in the Land Run did so because of their own feelings of disenfranchisement. Irish, German, and Dutch immigrants came here looking for peace and quiet. The Native American population in Oklahoma is the largest dislocated and disenfranchised group in the United States. This is the end of the road on Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears. What makes Oklahomans terrific, in my opinion, is that we are a “do the best you can with you have” kind of people. In spite of the wretched conditions that motivated people to be here, they made the best they could out of it. And there’s not a lot to work with, seriously. I’m not at all surprised that Oklahomans are largely turned off by Donald Trump’s urge to build a wall between the US and Mexico. I’d have to say that Trump, with his fancy hair, fancy wife, fancy suit, and fancy words, makes many Oklahomans suspicious. We don’t do “airs” in Oklahoma. We don’t like our pent up and twisted off neighbors to the east who seem to be unable to let go of their racial hatred and move on with life. In fact, we are pretty embarrassed by that behavior in Oklahoma. Here, you just get up, dust off your butt and move on. If you don’t like the way the cards landed, that’s your problem to deal with. It’s too hot, and life is too short to hold grudges that last generations. We also don’t like our neighbors to the south because their loudmouthed braggarts more than anything. They talk too much and show too much pride. We like New Mexico and Colorado because they offer fun and close places to visit on vacation and they aren’t as rude as Nevada and California. We don’t care for our neighbors up north because they have weird religious hangups in Kansas and Nebraska is full of dislocated Texans – loudmouths. And people in Arkansas are a lot like us only with trees and water.
All in all, I think Cruz and Sanders winning Super Tuesday in Oklahoma is unsurprising. Shouldn’t be shocking at all when you think about it. It is a pretty good representation of how Oklahomans approach almost everything. Making the best or the most out of what you have means that you are able to see beyond what’s on the surface of a thing and beyond what a thing is typically used for into its potential. Transforming rock hard clay into fertile crops for grazing and growing requires faith, intuition, and dogged determination. They’re choice of party candidates reflects that about Oklahomans. Both men have doggedly pursued the nomination from their respective parties, and both men get right to the point. Both men represent a change in the way things have always been. They can see themselves in both Cruz and Sanders, working within a less than desirable system to make the best out of it. If you can’t respect anything at all about Ted Cruz, you have to tip your hat to his dogged determination. It makes him an ass most of the time, and he is certainly not POTUS material, and you have to think even he knows this about himself. But bless his little heart, he’s still out there, still trucking up and down the road with his Dr. Seuss book, and I think that Oklahomans, even Oklahoma Democrats, have to respect that tenacity a little bit. Cruz was in my neck of the woods on Sunday night. Had we not happened to have been on our way to see our daughter at her dorm room that night, we wouldn’t have even known he was here. He didn’t get a lot of publicity. It was in the largest place in town, the place where Oktoberfest is usually held and the three high schools’ graduations. The parking lot was pretty full, but not high school graduation full. What is respectable about this fair showing is that this weekend The Donald was in Tulsa and Sanders was in Oklahoma City. In my neck of the woods, Sanders and Clinton ran pretty neck and neck while Cruz took my county with a significant margin. Tenacity pays off in Oklahoma even if you are crazier than a shithouse mouse.
In Oklahoma, the people have spoken about how they feel about cronyism which tells me one thing: gerrymandering has ruined our state government. If this many people voting shows a trend towards progressive politics in Oklahoma – and as much as we hate admitting it, Ted Cruz is more progressive, for a Republican, than Donald Trump who I’m not even sure is human – then how else do we explain the current state of affairs in our own governance except by claiming that we are not being given a fair opportunity to vote for local issues. That our districts have been so carved up by Tom Coburn, Tom Cole, and Jim Inhoffe that we have no choice but to continue on the same path. The path where foreign corporations and politicians are making the most money from the dogged determination of Oklahoma’s citizens while we continue to have too few books for each student in a classroom. Since May, 2015, four elementary schools have closed in my city due to state budget cuts in education. Who knows how many more will at the end of this school year. I think Super Tuesday has shown us in Oklahoma a lot more than just how we feel about the position of the POTUS, and it’s high time we did something about it.