What momentum?

As we move into Gov. Kevin Stitt’s second term, many Oklahomans are wondering whether we live in the same state he describes in his speeches.

Just after the election of Kevin Stitt for a second term as Oklahoma’s governor, the photo and headline in The Oklahoman said it all: RED WAVE IN OK! Stitt is seen raising his arms high above his head, his mouth open in a kind of sport’s happy primal scream, hoopin’ and hollerin’ over his good-old-boy butt-kicking of Joy Hofmeister. The mythical red wave did not sweep over the rest of the country, as moderates won the day, but in Oklahoma, Democrats were swamped again.

For those of us who were born and have lived most of our lives in Oklahoma, it was no surprise. After all, a red wave is all that can come out of a red sea. As a “bottom ten” state led by Oklahoma’s corrupt governor, we can expect things to get even worse in the next four years, which is what made Stitt’s self-congratulatory rhetoric so strange—so reminiscent of Orwellian double-speak. His focus, he said, was on “continuing the momentum” of the last four years. What momentum?

“Oklahomans stated loud and clear [that] they are proud of how far we’ve come,” Stitt said.

How far we’ve come? Is he talking about that “top ten” thing again? Has anybody looked at how far we’ve actually come, or in what direction we are actually moving? We are 43rd in quality of life, and in some measures, now 50th—dead last—in education. So, if we continue the Stitt “momentum” on education, we have run out of room. We are 47th in education spending per student, so there is some room for Stitt to make a little more downward progress here. Stay tuned.

Our economy ranks 37th in the nation, so we might make the top ten someday, but only if enough secret deals are made with taxpayer money behind closed doors. Not even bribery works these days, because to get companies to move to Oklahoma, you need to be the kind of place where people want to live and raise their kids. But the barbecue is good here, especially Swadley’s. Has anyone heard anything lately about the real price of that brisket?

We are the seventh least-educated state in America, behind only Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia. God bless those kissin’ cousins for stopping Stitt’s “momentum” in its tracks. Our crime rate per capita is higher than New York or California (look it up—it is actually true, despite Stitt’s ignorant guffawing at the fact). Our public transportation system is almost nonexistent, but our worship of guns is a priority.

To add insult to injury, the top three states for quality of life, educational excellence, and health and well-being are all blue states where apparently not everyone is a Satan-worshiping pedophile. Taxes are higher, but so are the services that people want and need. As for Oklahoma? We are a welfare state, meaning that we receive more from the federal government than we pay in federal taxes. Does Stitt’s “momentum” include closing that gap?

The three largest urban counties voted for Hofmeister, but the rural counties voted overwhelmingly for Stitt, proving that the thesis of Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? also applies to Oklahoma—people vote against their own economic self-interests because they are perpetually foaming at the mouth over culture war issues. Once the fever breaks, and they feel safe from the radical “woke” crowd, they also wake up to poorer schools, more foreign-owned pot farms and human trafficking, and teachers who must carry guns to class to feel safe—that is, if we can even find enough teachers. Is this the educational momentum that Stitt is talking about?

“We want to relook [sic] at education and give parents more options,” Stitt said. Translation: We want to give vouchers that allow more people to use tax dollars to send their kids to white, urban, private schools, while rural schools continue to wither on the vine, and we mock the separation of church and state. Stitt is a Christian, so he must be thinking of Matthew 25:29: “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Now that’s biblical momentum!

We are definitely number one when it comes to the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, which really means that we are dead last when it comes to our respect for the dignity and autonomy of women. How’s that for momentum? Or consider Stitt’s war against the state’s largest tribal governments , first over casino fees and later over matters of tribal sovereignty. He might want to read David Grann’s bestseller, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murder and the Birth of the FBI. It might remind him what white people have been doing to Native Americans since the beginning. Is that the momentum we need to continue?

Perhaps the biggest challenge Stitt will face now is to decide whether to support an insurrectionist for president and a party that wants to sweep the treason of Jan. 6, 2021, under the rug. You can’t be for the rule of law unless it applies to everyone. Imagine if President Barack Obama had refused to accept the results of an election and engineered an attack by his all-Black followers that resulted in the death of police officers and the desecration of the Capitol? He wouldn’t be running again. He’d be in prison.

So, what exactly is this “momentum” that Stitt wants to continue? The continued collapse of public education? Setting women back another hundred years? Praying as the self-declared spiritual leader of Oklahoma that God would, “Claim Oklahoma for you. Every square inch,” he prayed, “We claim it for you in the name of Jesus.” How’s that for interfaith momentum?

God will no doubt instruct Stitt to cut taxes and reduce regulations so that the divine myth of trickle-down economics will continue the momentum of the rich getting richer. Perhaps he can also continue the dangerous momentum of banning books and firing teachers for telling our kids the truth about the diversity of the human experience or the brutal reality of racism?

With this kind of momentum for friends, who needs enemies? Or maybe Pogo was right: We have met the enemy and he is us.

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers is pastor of First Congregational Church UCC in Norman and retired senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City. He is currently Professor of Public Speaking, and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice Emeritus in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, and the author of eight books on religion and American culture, the most recent of which is, Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age. Visit robinmeyers.com.

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