- Ada, Oklahoma

January 15, 2014

An island of blue in a sea of red

Carl Jeffcoat Guest columnist

Ada — A thought brings to mind a lonely desert island. It is easy to envision this for a liberal living in Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma has been described as one of the reddest states in the union. I don’t believe this entirely. I have seen and heard some very disparaging and ugly remarks about our president and other progressive or liberal political leaders in newsprint and on television. It seems to be all the rage to make sexist, racist, or crude remarks about political leaders.  

This seems to have taken an abrupt rise in the past five years. The long-standing advice never to argue religion or politics has always been a good one but of late I have decided that if the opportunity arises I’ll say something positive about our political leadership. What really surprises and encourages me is the number of positive responses this has produced. Someone told me a few months ago that there are more Democrats registered in Pontotoc County than Republicans. With only one source I cannot say that is factual but the county has not voted Democratic in many years.

When I consider continuing subsidies to very profitable oil companies versus cutting huge amounts from (SNAP) food stamps the answer is easy for me. 

Since the defense budget has doubled and then doubled again in the past 12 years, and we seem to be spending huge amounts of money on politically correct cosmetic measures such as the TSA or providing tanks to domestic law enforcement, then it is not entirely a liberal meme to cut defense spending and corporate hand-outs and be financially prudent. Supporting education, supporting the increase in minimum wage, and immigration reform have varying amounts of bipartisan support and therefore are not strictly liberal issues. So why do I feel like a little small blue Island in a sea of red?

I think that in part it is because of the overly inflammatory conservative, almost cartoonish, rhetoric of people and groups in media whose income is dependent on direct money raising or indirectly through advertisement and purpose in to invoke an emotional response. The days of conservative intellectual discussion exemplified by James Madison or William Buckley have disappeared.  

As a person who tries to study both sides of an argument I see American intellectual conservatism in crisis. The reasons involve a deeply flawed pragmatism and an insufficient appreciation for the importance of philosophy and history or the appreciation of humanity as a whole.

Our experience gained becoming adults and our ability to step back and deal with problems logically is the quality needed.  

The rhetoric that labels a poor or marginalized group of people as lazy or their plight as self-inflicted shows a lack of insight and homogenizes the problems to fit short-sighted 140 character sound bites.  Some would say we need more thoughtful and less dogmatic leaders who are more interested in doing the job than extending their tenure.

Becoming a liberal was a slow process, but then the self-awareness was abrupt.  I overreact to being lied to and the Iraq war pushed on my conscience and then became a central force when the WMD story became a fantasy.  I felt abandoned when the very people that created the debt and deficit started blaming others in January of 2009.  

The complete divorce from economic reality during the initial slide into recession by Conservatives did not help.  And there I was, a liberal in a sea of red.  

Dr. Ray Quiett did an excellent editorial in September about my primary concern, our desire to hate. I must actively work not to react to the hate and racism that is poured onto the airwaves and wood pulp.  

Politics is not supposed to be a war that divides our populace, but a discussion of differing opinions followed by compromise.  I believe most of us live and make our choices in the middle philosophically but allow ourselves to be inflamed by wedge issues in order to suppress our common sense when it is time to make choices or feel satisfied with a compromise.        

(Carl Jeffcoat is an area resident living in Fittstown.)