August 23, 2010

A Political Tsunami in Oklahoma? Then What?

[This Marlin Oil advertorial appears in the upcoming issue of The City Sentinel.]

American elections normally move in tides: surges that follow generally predictable trends. The first congressional elections after a new president’s initial election, for instance, are almost always good for the opposition. Hence, the widespread assumption that Republicans will see gains in Congress this fall.

Tides occasionally become outright tsunamis, and that seems possible this year. To give just one example, Charles Cook, a Democrat-leaning writer in Washington known for the fairness of his analyses, recently revised upward his projections for Republican gains in November. He now believes the Grand Old Party will narrowly take control of the U.S. House, and will dramatically close the gap on Democrats in the Senate.

Around America, Republicans are optimistic about races for governor and in legislatures. In Oklahoma, they anticipate modest gains in the Legislature. In statewide elected races, where Democrats won every contest except one in 2006, Republican hopes are brightest.

Republicans nationally, and perhaps in Oklahoma, could “blow it,” but odds are quite good that Republicans will have a good year, regaining some or all of the ground lost to Democrats in 2006 and 2008.

There is even speculation that Republicans will sweep statewide elected offices in Oklahoma. Jari Askins for governor, Kim Holland for insurance commissioner, and Steve Burrage for auditor might be the best chances Democrats have to hold ground. Yet, Mary Fallin leads in the top race. Holland and Burrage will have to fight to keep their jobs.

What will follow a Republican “tsunami” this November? Former Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau, the first Republican and first woman ever elected to her post, always asked this question about elections and legislation: “And then what?”

Here's what: Republicans at the national level will reap the whirlwind if they fail to reverse much of the shocking growth in federal debt – which began in the second Bush era and exploded in Obama’s fiscal adventures. National pundits of all stripes are speaking candidly that Republican success this November could, if conservative governance is not the result, yield permanent damage to the GOP “brand.”

In Oklahoma, GOP prospects for delivering are brighter than they are nationally. But rather than triumphalism, Republicans must use any opportunities voters give to fashion effective policies. If they don’t, they will invite the rise of a libertarian or Tea Party-based alternative that many voters will be prepared to embrace.

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