Okie Populism

One of the most vexing questions in the political scene today is how a majority of voters in the South, Southwest, and Midwest consistently vote against their economic interests on the national level. Oklahoma, for example, has voted Republican on the national level for two decades now, yet the conservative agenda consistently rewards a wealthy elite over middle-class and poor people.

Take President George Bush's recent tax cuts which heavily favored the most wealthiest people in the nation and consider the new corporate welfare state in which we live. Yet Oklahoma has one of the lowest per capita income levels in the nation and has recently suffered through high unemployment rates and cutbacks in education. How does granting huge tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations help the average Oklahoman?

Pundits argue the reason for this contradiction is that conservatives "play" Okies and beyond by emphasizing such emotional cultural issues as abortion or family values. Consequently, Okies may well feel such social issues outweigh their rights and success as professionals, workers and farmers.

Yet if Okies are not empowered financially and socially, how can they expect to have any voice at all in the national debate? It's a paradox.

The neocons currently in power wouldn't give the time of day to an impoverished or underemployed Oklahoman who wants to rant against abortion or the decline of family values. Conservatives support the measurement of capitalism in terms of bestowing power and voice to people. If you have the money, you get to have some say.

So why vote against your economic interests if you really want to change the culture?

The time is ripe for a new populist movement in our state, one based on the realities of our life here in this state, not one based on cultural issues we can never really resolve, that only serve to divide us.

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