Gov. Mary Fallin’s attempt to make a group of impoverished refugee children fodder for her reelection will surely test the limits of the Oklahoma electorate’s cravenness and ignorance.
Fallin has been greeted with bad news recently when it comes to her reelection bid. First, SoonerPoll found that her approval rating has plummeted by approximately 20 points over the last year. Second, a Rasmussen poll shows she and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman are locked in a tight election with Fallin leading Dorman by a slim 45 percent to 40 percent edge. Until now, political pundits have considered Fallin, a state Republican who has never lost an election, virtually invincible in her reelection bid.
Fallin’s response to this bad news has appeared to be to distance herself from the draconian, high-stakes testing policies of outgoing and controversial state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and to arouse conservative anger over the housing of some 1,100 Central American children at Fort Sill near Lawton. The children are part of an exodus of younger people trying to escape the violence of their countries, which include Honduras and Nicaragua.
The Fallin campaign has actually launched a petition drive to close the Oklahoma facility housing the children. The petition language appeal is couched in typical flaming rhetoric, such as “illegal alien minors,” and it, of course, blames President Barack Obama for the situation when, if fact, a policy initiated by former President George Bush has exasperated the problem of deporting the children. This is also a political refugee issue, not an immigration issue, created by years of immoral Central American policy based on U.S. pseudo-colonization interests. Both Republicans and Democrats have shaped this policy, which is based on exploitation and greed.
So, in effect, Fallin is asking her supporters and potential supports to do two things: (1) Condemn a group of children who are merely trying to escape certain death, and (2) completely ignore the actual bipartisan facts of why the children are here and why they can’t just be immediately deported back to their countries.
Fallin is appealing to the cravenness of Oklahomans to simply not care about the welfare of children in general and the ignorance of people to just randomly condemn Obama for what can be construed as much as a Republican problem as it is a Democratic problem.
Will it work? These Republican “group hate” appeals have certainly worked here in the past when it has come to immigration issues. The state’s cheerleaders like to make a big deal out of how nice everyone is here, but the reality is the state is filled with people who are terribly prejudiced and have mistrust of “the other,” which, in this case, is a group of poor children with brown skin.
Still, surely a majority of the state has grown past these racist ideas, especially in the last ten years or so. One wants to think this, of course, but racism is not quantifiable here. Fallin’s campaign tact, as racist as it can publicly get, is probably as good as any indicator where the state currently stands when it comes to tolerance. If she starts to move up in the polls, look for more group hate appeals. It’s clear, given this recent political move over the young refugees, Fallin plans to make her campaign as little about state issues as possible.
A new poll shows gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, a Democrat and a term-limited state representative, in a surprisingly tight election with incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin.
Rasmussen Reports shows Fallin leads Dorman by a remarkably thin 45 percent to 40 percent advantage. Eight percent of those polled are undecided. Seven percent favor independent candidates.
The prevailing wisdom among pundits and political observers has been that Fallin would easily coast to victory in Oklahoma’s current conservative political environment, but that narrative has now been shattered by the Rasmussen Poll and an earlier poll by SoonerPoll, which showed a steep drop in Fallin’s approval ratings.
It’s difficult not to see the polls, given the dramatic drop in support for Fallin, as a seismic shift in the governor’s race. It appears Fallin is vulnerable at least partially because of her support of controversial and outgoing State Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, a hardline, high-stakes testing advocate. Barresi came in a lowly third in her recent primary reelection bid and is now serving out the remainder of her lame duck term.
Rasmussen Reports points out that Dorman’s main problem is his lack of name recognition throughout the state, but there’s still time to deal with that issue as he travels around Oklahoma. It’s also interesting to note that what some pundits consider Dorman’s greatest liability in Oklahoma—he shares the same party affiliation as President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular here—has not manifested itself in any particular manner so far. Dorman is a centrist Oklahoma Democrat in the tradition of former Gov. Brad Henry. One reading of the Rasmussen Reports poll—admittedly one favorable for Dorman—is that voters recognize this is a local election with local repercussions that has very little to do with Washington.
Have voters here simply become numb or indifferent to the Obama-bashing among state Republican leaders, such as Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt? Has the bashing become stale, in particular, because Obama only has two years left in his last term as president? What’s going to be the point in bashing Obama, for example, once the 2016 presidential campaign gets underway?
The Dorman campaign has greeted the new polling with aggressiveness, specifically attacking Fallin on education issues. Meanwhile, the Fallin campaign, in a defensive posture, had to deny rumors that if reelected Fallin might appoint Barresi as Secretary of Education.
Fallin’s recent campaign style in her political career as a former U.S. Representative and now governor has been to use at least some extreme Tea Party rhetoric and stylistics. How will voters respond if she now softens her approach and tacks to the center in response to the new poll numbers? It could be problematic for her.
I think it’s fair and bipartisan to say that overall Oklahoma could benefit greatly by a close governor’s race because local policy and issues could ultimately decide it. Just fully discussing the issues—like funding for education—might help the state find solutions to some of its pressing problems.
Could recent protests against the oil and gas drilling process known as fracking trickle up I-35 to Oklahoma from the north Texas city of Denton?
A group of anti-fracking protestors in Denton has forced the city council there to take their concerns seriously after a petition drive calling for a ban on the process collected about 2,000 signatures. The council recently voted 5 to 2 against issuing the fracking ban, but the fact such a vote was even taken in a Texas city—just north of Dallas—has the oil and gas industry paying attention.
Those opposed to fracking in the area argue it can create heath problems. Environmentalists have long contended that fracking leads to water contamination. Wastewater disposal wells used in the fracking process have been linked to earthquakes here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
In the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process, chemicals and water are injected by high pressure into rock formations to release gas and oil. The wastewater from the process is then often stored in underground wastewater disposal injection wells.
In the Denton case, government officials had to weigh the rights of mineral owners in the Barnett Shale area against the health and pollution concerns of the wider public. In Oklahoma, the issue has seemingly become narrower. A dramatic surge in earthquakes over the last three years or so has been tied by scientists to disposal wells. A recent town hall in Edmond about the issue attracted several hundred people concerned about their property and safety. Some people have suggested the state place a moratorium on injection wells.
The larger point is that these protests against the fracking process are most likely to continue as the oil and gas boom continues here in Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere. The oil and gas industry, for now, has no motivation to admit any culpability when things go wrong and no amount of scientific evidence will probably convince it to do things differently. It’s going to take coordinated grassroots protest movements like the one in Denton and the town hall in Edmond to change things.