One can only wonder about the course of the many promises grabbing headlines now. In these days prior to Monday, the start of this session of the Legislature, platforms, caucus agendas and leadership priorities are a daily staple on our diet of television, print media and radio.
My own “aha!” experience concerning the vying for leverage between Republicans and Democrats came three years ago. John Woods, former district manager for U.S. Rep. Tom Cole and recently policy adviser for state House Speaker Lance Cargill, and I were featured speakers on a program at the University of Oklahoma. The topic was faith and politics.
John and I had time to visit prior to the program. In getting to know each other and our obviously different backgrounds, suddenly the world became smaller and clearer. Suddenly, I was more informed and wiser.
That moment of understanding is simply this: John’s father taught him from an early age that his responsibility was to pull himself up by his bootstraps and make something of himself. My father taught me from an early age that my responsibility was to make the world a better place than I found it. Aha! Still today, I hear John’s father instructing John early about the essence of Republican philosophy. Still today, I hear my father defining a central value of Democratic philosophy.
Indeed, both fathers (and both parties) value sufficiency as a standard of living and faith as fuel to get there. Both fathers instilled a sense of personal responsibility, a persistence in the face of hardship and a confidence in oneself. Could I not just as easily be this kind of “Republican” or John this kind of “Democrat”?
Monday is upon us. Will this Legislature address the issues that matter to the majority of Oklahomans from an essential bipartisan position of faith, confidence and responsibility? Or will officials pander to their “base,” relegate their finest moments to the agenda of special interests (particularly those who can pay to play), and use the bully pulpit for political power, personal gain and re-election protection?
What does matter to Oklahomans? Quality common and post-secondary education systems that are affordable and accessible to the state’s current and future workforce? Adequate pay and resource materials for teachers of that workforce? Health care that is available to all economic classes of workers? Courts and corrections systems that can fulfill their purposes of public protection and justice? Support for economic and business development beyond the rancor of debating immigration laws? Mental health and substance abuse services in a state with high percentages of depression and addiction among its people?
Will my father and John’s father be proud of our lawmakers when the gavel falls on sine die? Or will this be a year of electioneering and party politics?
The proof will be in the pudding. I will do my best to urge our leaders to serve Oklahomans a finely crafted pudding, not a watery or scorched pablum, at close of session. Will you join me?
Boyd, a former state legislator and 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, is owner and chief executive officer of Policy and Performance Consultants Inc.