A Proposal to Save the Oklahoma Democratic Party

This document is not intended to be exhaustive, and is offered to commence the conversation about how to resurrect the Oklahoma Democratic Party — by giving it an emergency transfusion of progressive-populism.

THE PROBLEM:

The Oklahoma Democratic Party has gone from near total dominance in Oklahoma to virtual irrelevance.  Reactionary Republicans control all statewide executive positions.  They hold super majorities in both chambers of our legislature.  The entire federal congressional delegation consists of right-wing, social Darwinist Republicans. This reality is due in large part to the decision of the Democratic Party to abandon its traditional role as the party of working people and its attempt to appeal to conservatives.  This strategy has been a failure.

 

THE PREMISE

We believe the Oklahoma Democratic Party should take the fight to the Republicans.  We must become a progressive alternative.  We should state clearly what our values are and we should demand that Democratic candidates embrace a progressive-populist agenda, based on economic and social justice, as a condition of our support.

Our belief is that the strategy of attempting to appear slightly less reactionary than the Republicans has been a failure as measured in public offices held by Democrats, voter registration, and impact on policy.

Simply put, as our party has attempted to appeal to conservative voters, the conservatives reasonably chose the Republicans who endorsed those policies without reservation rather than the Republican-lite Democratic alternatives.

The March 1, 2016 presidential primary results in which Senator Bernie Sanders carried the state by double digits are evidence that the Oklahoma Democratic voters are ready to embrace a progressive-populist alternative.

We argue that a progressive agenda will motivate an entire new generation of supporters to express their frustration at the ballot box and that within a few election cycles progressive policies can be implemented for the benefit of Oklahoma.

The 2016 election was the most divisive since the Civil War.  We confirm that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion.  As advocates for the middle class and the poor, we affirm that our party values people of all races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, or level of capacity.  We will fight any effort to weaken us by pitting one group against another.

 

THE PLATFORM

We believe that in any grassroots movement, the platform must come from the bottom to the top.  Therefore, we realize that any attempt to set out issues can only be a beginning.  The members of this shared movement should bring forward the ideas important to them and be prepared to argue for their inclusion in our declaration of what we as a Party believe. However, a starting point probably includes the following:

  1. All Democratic officeholders and candidates should address the revenue failure which is crippling schools, health care and infrastructure. We demand repeal of the income tax and gross production tax give aways which are the direct cause of the current crumbling of state government. These tax cuts were gifts to the wealthy.  If we expect citizens to accept their government we must have a  tax system which requires everyone to contribute fairly and demands social and economic justice for all, not just the well connected.  The Republican tax cuts have gutted core services only to improve the lives of those least in need of help from the government.
  2. We must take steps at the state level to reduce the influence of money on formulating fair policy. As a state we cannot abolish the pernicious effects of the Citizens United decision, but there are things which we could do:
  3. Ban former public officials from any form of paid lobbying for ten years after leaving office.
  4. Ban public officials from receiving any gift of any value from lobbyists.
  5. Provide funding for the State Ethics Commissions, with adequate resources to investigate and prosecute abuses of office by public officials.
  6. All Democratic officeholders and candidates should endorse the fundamental constitutional right that women have control of their own reproductive choices. Although we believe that issues such as wealth inequality and providing jobs  should be our chief message, we must never retreat from the Democratic party’s fundamental pledge to protect our constitutional rights for all.
  7. Democrats support a state increase in the minimum wage. No person working full time should be in poverty and the legislature has the power to fix this.
  8. Democrats must stop the Republican efforts to privatize the core functions of government. Things such as education and criminal justice are not proper subjects for contracting out to the private sector.
  9. Democrats should oppose all laws which divert public funds from the public schools and their historic role in educating children.
  10. Democrats should lead the way in ending our use of private prisons. Expensive jail cells should be used only for those humans of whom we are reasonably afraid and not as part of a profit scheme where we have to incarcerate citizens to meet our contract commitments to corporate America.
  11. Democrats support restoring to cities the power to regulate both the minimum wage of a community and the ability of the fossil fuel industry to engage in hydraulic fracking within municipal boundaries.
  12. Democrats must demand election reform:
  13. We demand creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw the congressional and legislative districts for the 2022 elections.
  14. We must enlarge the window for early voting.
  15. We should support the elimination of straight party voting.

The above issues identify only a handful of the policy concerns within the progressive community.  They are only a start in our mission of defining what it means to be a Democrat.

 

PARTY REFORM

  • Within the Democratic Party, we call on our representatives to the Democratic National Committee to seek elimination of all unpledged superdelegates for the 2020 Presidential selection process.
  • Our party officials should remain scrupulously neutral in the nomination process.
  • Our party should make its chief function to secure funding for strategic voter registration, early voting, and absentee voting.
  • And we must recruit candidates who embrace a progressive voice in Oklahoma.
  • Work with the new DNC officers to improve data collection and information management.
  • We confirm as a matter of strategy and of principle that we will continue to permit independents to vote in our primary selection process.

WHAT’S NEXT?

  • You should run for party office.
  • You should bring your own platform ideas to help us define what it means to be a Democrat.
  • You must hold Democratic candidates accountable to how their campaigns and conduct in office comport with this new and clear definition of what it means to be a Democrat.
  • We want to help you in this starting with your March 9 precinct meeting.

Together we can make the Oklahoma Democratic Party become the Progressive, Populist alternative.  We believe that Oklahomans will reward us at the polls.

 

This document was submitted for the consideration of Our Revolution OK by Mark Henricksen, Susan Mc Cann, Darcie Woodson, Melody Ball, Bill Dower, Betty Jean Harris and Amanda McLain-Snipes.