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Point: Fallin should ‘listen to her gut’


Is getting the politics right better than getting the policy wrong?

Chris Smith April 27th, 2011

I was proud to see Gov. Mary Fallin stand up to the more extreme elements of her party recently when she was in favor of utilizing the $54 million that the federal government returned to Oklahoma to implement a health care exchange.

However, my delight quickly diminished when she and state House Speaker Kris Steele caved to political pressure by extreme factions of the Republican Party, and decided to send back the money and fund our own insurance exchange with money we don’t have.

When I signed up as a Republican 14 years ago, I don’t recall checking my common sense at the door. However, it seems to be a “good Republican” today requires just that, with the utter fearmongering of those who couldn’t recognize economic development and progress from the man in the moon.

Gov. Fallin won the election on a clear 20 percent mandate; however, she’s out of the gate like a blindfolded freshman legislator. And why? This isn’t her first rodeo; in fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a more experienced politician in Oklahoma today. Or is that it? Is getting the politics right better than getting the policy wrong?

I think “Obamacare” is an awful concept; however, if Oklahoma sends back every federal dollar tied to a bad piece of federal legislation, where will our tax dollars go? Utah? Or Arkansas? Or, God forbid, Texas!

These are our tax dollars we’re sending back, and they’re going to go somewhere. Why not us? And for what basis were they sent back? So that Oklahoma doesn’t have to comply with the federal health care mandate. Good. But what happens when we have to? Can we get our money back, or is it already being sent to Austin?

Does principled, centered leadership include doing what is best for the principles at the expense of those you govern? This isn’t the first matter decided this year on the basis of politics over policy, but it is the first that involved a $54 million check.

Many praise the governor for doing the right thing and getting on board with the opposition, but where does she stop? Do we give back federal money for education and transportation, too? Or is that OK because it satisfies the new right?

A conversation is necessary regarding the expectations of the GOP and its leaders. Many within its ranks do not identify with the scorched-earth mentality of the more extreme factions; however, it seems they are steering the ship, and the water is very deep over the bow.

Philosophical differences are good, and the debate sharpens the sword. But when that sword is used to disembowel the greater masses, it becomes a danger. The elected are there to steer the ship so we the people are protected from the extreme elements among us. The minority is protected in the courts, or generally was, prior to this legislative session. The governor is there for the majority that elected her.

Gov. Fallin is capable of protecting us from those whose agenda places their own good above that of Oklahoma, but she must listen to her gut and let more of that Pottawatomie County stubbornness come out. If she does, she’ll be the leader we know she can be.

Smith is an attorney in Oklahoma City.

 
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