If the 2006 election cycle has proven anything, it is that Oklahoma voters are sick and tired of the status quo and that they are tired of the wicked nature of political attack ads. So much so, it appears as though the electorate has begun to recognize that the experiment in self-government we call democracy is about to be diagnosed with terminal illness.
Voters are following the pattern of the five stages of the grieving process, even though our democracy is not quite dead just yet. Low voter turnout in the midterm elections last year began with the stunning reality that the Oklahoma City mayor’s race saw merely 14,000 people casting ballots ” and they didn’t even have to wind their way through insurgents’ improvised explosive devices to get to the polls. Following up with that historic low, the 2006 elections in November saw approximately 42 percent turnout of all registered voters.
In the recent municipal elections, Oklahoma City Council Ward 5 saw 11 votes be the difference between a runaway victory for George Washington and a runoff with Brian Walters. Voter turnout was an abysmal 5 percent. In Edmond, the voter turnout was just over 9 percent, and this when the citizens had the opportunity to select City Council members as well as a new mayor. Voters apparently already are mourning the loss of democracy in Oklahoma, finding themselves in the midst of various stages of the grieving process.
Denial: “State government grew by 31.6 percent under so-called conservative leadership? Surely this cannot be the case. Certainly we’re not funding fire ant research before critical infrastructure! My elected officials aren’t really bought and paid for by lobbyists ” that’s just a ploy from the liberal media trying to trick me. Sean Hannity told me so.”
Anger: “So we did, in fact, fund fire ant research before roads and bridges, and lobbyists do have powerful influence over my elected officials. And now I remember that whole ‘bridge to nowhere’ thing a couple years ago, and I hate that members of my own party are spending so much time and money beating the heck out of fellow partisans in the primary. That really pisses me off. I’m voting for the opposition and then they’ll listen to me.”
Bargaining: “Maybe if I send my elected officials e-mails or make a call, my voice will be heard and government will concentrate on the constitutional roles of government. I’ll tell them how nice I believe them to be and that they’re really not scumbag politicians, but are just really busy right now.”
Depression: “My elected officials never returned my calls. No matter how hard I try, it is as though the establishment talking points are much more important than what little old me wants from government. My government is failing me, and I simply do not know what to do.”
Acceptance: “To hell with it. I’m staying home on election night because ‘American Idol’ is on, and at least there, my vote really counts.”
There was a time when politicians depended upon the ignorance of the electorate to ensure their power base remained intact. Now that we’re far beyond that looking glass and voter ignorance reflects the recent U.S. Department of Commerce “F” rating for Oklahoma education, politicians no longer need to depend on ignorant voters.
They count on lazy, apathetic voters.
Black, the artist formerly known as “The 400-Pound Gorilla,” is a political consultant and former talk show host living in Edmond.