Oklahoma Politics & Policies: Governing the Sooner State

Oklahoma Politics & Policies: Governing the Sooner State

Oklahoma Politics & Policies: Governing the Sooner State

Oklahoma Politics & Policies: Governing the Sooner State

Synopsis

Oklahoma is a plains state exemplifying the Middle American virtues of family, lodge, and church; a southern state in the path of the power shift from the indus-trial East to the energy-rich sunbelt; a western state of modern cowboys and rodeos. Small wonder its political culture is so varied. The authors of Oklahoma Politics and Policies contend that Oklahoma is a paradox-a state struggling for a clear sense of identity where the old and new vie for the allegiance of its citizens. David R. Morgan, Robert E. England, and George O. Humphreys examine the history of Oklahoma and the place of Native Americans in this former Indian Territory; the state's links to the federal government; its executive, legislative, and judicial systems; political parties and interest groups; local government; and the current policy issues that confront its citizens. They assess the attempts of Oklahomans to revive their economy. The 1990s will be bright, the authors sug-gest, if Oklahomans can put aside internal conflicts and the politics of negativism in approaching economic and social problems more pragmatically.

Excerpt

Robert H. Henry

Foreword

A young man returned to rural Oklahoma after completing college and law school. Armed with his law degree, he set about to open an office. Realizing that he was largely unknown after his scholastic absence, he decided, as any knowledgeable rural Oklahoman would, that the best way to get his name known was to run for political office.

He knew he wouldn't win; it was the publicity that was important. So, to the amazement of all, he filed against the long-time, incumbent county commissioner, the most powerful politician in the area.

At the first "speakin'," virtually the entire county gathered to see what the young upstart with no experience or organization could possibly have to say. the lad knew it would be an uphill battle, so he closed his speech with a powerful peroration appealing to the presumed universal disdain for corruption: "Ladies and gentlemen, good voters of this county, I remind you that there is only one, only one hard-paved road in the entire county, and that runs straight from the incumbent's farm right to the county seat. Now is that the kind of county commissioner you want?" "It damn sure is!" a voice cried from the back. "Why, he's already got his road."

As shown by this story, Oklahomans are afflicted with what historian Danney Goble might call a "bucolic tradition of negativism"; they frequently display a defensive cynicism produced by their often painful history of strife, overburdened land, and poverty. These hardships, perhaps allied with a failure of vision by early leaders, conspired to create political and economic systems that frequently broke down. the Sooner story is unquestionably one of conflict-- conflict between people, between Sooners and their environment, and now, as this book clearly explains, between Oklahoma's past and its present.

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