Took 48 minutes yesterday to listen to the OK Observer folks interview State Chair Alicia Andrews. Here are some observations – hers, theirs and mine.

          Her first challenge when taking over was an “amazing amount” of “unexpected” debt, including $30,000 in back rent for the state office. They eventually moved. She said that poor financial reporting was part of the problem.

          She said that the Will Rogers quote about not being a member of an organized party (he is a Democrat) is her least favorite quote. Countered by saying that the many different voices might sound  unorganized, but was part of our “big tent.” My follow-up question would have been, “How big is our tent?” if we’re picking up 35 percent of the state voteAnd, to be fair, we don’t want to embrace the racism that is the bedrock foundation of the GOP.

          Andrews touched on this by pointing out that many local politicians in OK and other red states find themselves running against national, not local, issues – and also being branded with the perceived radical views of our left wing.

          Getting the message particularized to different demographics across the country is needed. Her example was to find a way to convince the minimum-wage ($7.25/hr.) workers that voting red is not in their best interests. (And, let’s face it, most Oklahomans are not rich enough to be Republicans.)

          Andrews pointed out that the far right seemed better equipped to militarize Dem missteps such as “Defund the Police” than we are in gaining traction pointing out the far right crackpots. Of course, with Faux News and hate radio blaring 24/7, they do have megaphones that we don’t.

          She took a shot at the 70 OK GOP legislators who sent a letter and recommendation to the AZ lege on how to suppress future voting. Pointed out that OK has sufficient problems – the pandemic and its economic ramifications — of its own that our reps shouldn’t be meddling elsewhere.

          State issues that could be pushed should be pointing out how Stitt’s opposition to Medicaid expansion and his futile fighting with the tribes over gambling are directly harmful to small towns throughout the state – where those small towns and rural areas keep voting red (even those places which lost hospitals because of unexpanded Medicaid). She wondered how to make the voters’ synapses connect.

          (I have a future column percolating on the possibilities of educating anyone about anything. It’s not hopeful at present – and hasn’t been throughout the centuries.)

          According to Andrews, while OK had 70% participation among registered voters, only 65% of eligible voters are registered – giving us the worst turnout in the country. The AOC wing says that our way forward is to get these new voters registered and voting Dem is the way to go. But, that assumes that the non-voters are Dems. There is no evidence for that. Others say to change the voters’ minds.

          Andrews said her priorities in 2019 were to eliminate the debt, keep spending within our means and recruit viable candidates. She evidently got the fiscal problems solved, but the problem isn’t that we don’t have good candidates. Just look at some of our recent local candidates – superior in all ways to those with the R beside their names — lucky to approach 30% of the vote.

          Priorities for the next 6 months and maybe a new term – she’s planning to run again – would be to continue to find good candidates and work on voter registration.

          Talking about the Abby Broyles campaign, Observer Editor Arnold Hamilton expressed frustration at the lack of assistance from the national Democratic funding sources. “They just didn’t give her a look.”

          Andrews said that state donations didn’t “meet the criteria” for national money – and now knowing these criteria will tell candidates what they need to do. (She also pointed out that the lack of support is just as contagious as a groundswell of support.) She and Hamilton both advocated “the Howard Dean 50-state plan,” not just writing off red states as hopeless. She said she and chairs from other red domains are trying to change this attitude.

          Asked for a word of hope, Andrews said, “Democrats are always hopeful.” The way forward, she said,  is to get behind our candidates early enough to get them national support. She said a non-presidential vote might swing the Fifth District back to blue and offered hope for two state races.

          Of course, her complaint about the disconnect between the national party and our state, sort of echoes my constant complaint about the disconnect between the state party and rural Oklahoma. She hasn’t tried to bankrupt us as did the last chair, but, yeah, I’m still (mad) about that attempt last year to disenfranchise west and southwest OK with that Tulsa nominating convention – which would have necessitated increased fuel costs and expensive lodging requirements since most of us wouldn’t be able to participate on a daytrip basis as in OKC – the state capital and center of state politics. And starting that convention at 8 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. would have put a similar bind on southeast OK Dems. Somewhat of a disconnect.

Gary Edmondson