If the definition of political leadership in Oklahoma means doing things the same old crude, shallow, sickening way, then James Inhofe should get the Nobel Prize for Pathetic. His television ads against opponent Andrew Rice should render him unfit to represent Oklahoma any longer, regardless of what he thinks of global warming.
Just when the national polls show Americans are increasingly tired of negative ads, Inhofe clings to the GOP’s old school fear tactics ” don’t vote for me, be very afraid to vote for the other guy.
If we are all so proud of Oklahoma, then why do we continue to put up with this nonsense? What is noble or patriotic about voting for a man who finds an old picture of his opponent in a black bomber jacket with long hair (looking like a café revolutionary or, I get it, a terrorist), and then tars him with the broad brush of Senate votes which are listed in print too small to read and accompanied by a voiceover that lies about what they mean?
If Jim Inhofe is a Christian, why does he use fear and loathing of the “other” to attack his political opponent? Jesus did not say, “be afraid, be very afraid.” And who is that woman in the anti-Rice ads, standing at an unrecognizable distance, scolding Rice for being “everything Oklahoma is not.” Is she your grandmother? Is she a condescending high school teacher? Is she the mythical “values voter” who knows what is godly? Or is she Freud’s id, the voice from the basement of our fears that prefers to remain anonymous?
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson opined in 1775, then what do you call politicians who, when they are behind in the polls or their grip on power is fading, resort to using nothing but fear tactics to hold on to power? John McCain, like Inhofe, has released the demons at his rallies, and then acts indignant when someone shouts “kill him!” or “terrorist!” in reference to Barack Obama.
When you put the word “DANGEROUS” across a picture of Rice, you have done something unethical, even immoral. Criminals are dangerous. Drug dealers are dangerous. Real terrorists are dangerous. But Rice is only dangerous if you regard those with new ideas as dangerous. Otherwise, he is simply articulate, idealistic, well married to a remarkable woman and the doting father of two beautiful sons. Sounds dangerous to me. Besides, aren’t we sick of this?
People can’t pay their mortgages and the most anti-government administration in history is now nationalizing the banks to try to stop an economic bloodbath. Jim Inhofe is a card-carrying member of that administration and an anti-regulatory zealot. He has been knee-deep in the me-first politics of Washington for nearly three decades. Yet he has the unmitigated gall to suggest that a Harvard Divinity School graduate who is trying to help people who actually need help, who lost his brother on Sept. 11 and who went into politics for all the right reasons is dangerous?
Guess what? It’s not working. The political tectonic plates are shifting. It’s not only time to say good night to Bush, but time to turn out the lights on the fear-mongers. People are waking up to the reality that they have been conned, distracted and amused to death.
In just two weeks, the nation’s first black family will be given permission to move into the White House and we will send the world a glorious message: We vote for the best candidate, not for the politics of fear.
Good night, mudslingers.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower UCC Church of OKC, and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.