Our Michelle Obama Legislature
By: Steve Byas
When we started the Oklahoma Conservative Index in 1979, we had about 20 Republicans in the state House and less than ten in the Senate. Over the years, as the Republican strength slowly grew, I told folks that it would be different when the Republicans took control of the Legislature.
I was wrong.
The Republicans now have roughly the same number of seats that the Democrats enjoyed back in 1979, yet the scores are in free-fall. In fact, I think the Legislature may have actually been more conservative in those early years than it is now.
Clearly, candidates for the Legislature now run as “Republicans,” knowing that the Democrat label is associated with Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Gore is the last Democrat candidate for president to even carry a single county in Oklahoma.
Knowing that, if you were wanting to run for public office in Oklahoma, and you either had a liberal philosophy, or more likely, no philosophy at all, other than to get elected, how would you file? You would not file as a Democrat, but as a Republican. Sure, Emily Virgin can get elected as a Democrat in central Norman, probably the most liberal square mile in the state, but otherwise you do not want to be associated with the national Democratic Party. Not because you don’t agree with them, but rather you just know you cannot win, if you are associated with them.
In this past session, a “Republican”-dominated Legislature overwhelmingly passed the Healthy Food Financing Act, which gives taxpayer dollars – your money – to grocery stores and small food retailers to open grocery stores in “underserved communities.” The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture will administer the program. I don’t know what Karl Marx would have thought about this socialistic scheme, but one might recall this was the brainchild of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Now it is the position of the state of Oklahoma, thanks to our supposedly Republican Legislature. It passed the House 71-7 on April 18, and the Senate on March 22, by 31-11. Governor Mary Fallin, another Republican, signed it into law.
Michelle Obama persuaded some food retailers in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 grocery stores and convenience stores in what she called “food deserts” – poor areas with no nearby supermarket – by 2016. It was estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2010 that 18 million people live in these “food deserts.”
This bill was authored by Senator Stephanie Bice, a registered Republican. This woman is a fighter when it comes to liberalizing the liquor laws, but not for conservative principles. She and another legislator I call the Chamber Twins. When she spoke at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in 2015, I did a double-take. I thought that I must have wondered into a Democratic Party meeting. She bemoaned the fact that we do not have more women in political office – not Republican women, mind you, women. Does that mean if we had 50 more like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Elizabeth Warren, that would be better than Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee? One wonders. But not too much.
During this past session, the Legislature passed tax upon tax, arguing that the state government was woefully short on money. They even tried to pass a smoking cessation tax of a dollar and a half a pack, but that failed, so they just re-named it a “fee.” This was, of course, to get around the constitutional prohibition of raising taxes without a vote of the people, or by a super-majority. You read that right. Ignore the Constitution. Ignore the free market. Ignore limited government and individual liberty.
They passed tax increases in the last five days of the session, also in violation of the Constitution. They raised taxes on new and used car purchases, on oil and gas, and ended the income tax cut trigger. All because they needed more revenue to fund what they called the “core” services of state government.
But other than scaling back the wind energy tax credit, they largely left the corporate welfare give-aways alone. They do not want to offend their donors, I guess.
They found money for Michelle Obama’s pet project, though. How many legislators really believe in the free market?
It appears that they think if they vote for a bill that says I like guns, that makes them “conservative.” Or, they vote for some watered-down pro-life bill, so they can campaign as a conservative. I think some believe if they quote a Scripture it will convince the gullible that they are real conservatives.
This Michelle Obama bill demonstrates that most legislators either do not know what conservative means, what free enterprise means, what limited government means, what individual liberty means, or what following the Constitution means – or they do not care, sort of like what Clark Gable said as Rhett Butler to Scarlett in Gone With the Wind.
At least with this Obama-Oklahoma Legislature bill, Scarlett would never have to go hungry again. (See the movie).
As bad as the Michelle Obama bill is, it is not the only bill that powerfully demonstrates that we’ve been “had.” It was tax and tax, spend and spend, the people are just too dumb to understand philosophy. We may have a Republican Legislature in name, but not in fact.
I am sorry I told people it would be different. I was misled. Please forgive me.
The only solution I can offer is to look at your legislator’s score, and if it is a 6 or a 10 (typical scores for these “Republicans” this session), either find someone who is willing to run a primary campaign against them, or run yourself. It will not be easy. There are those who benefit from what the Legislature is doing now, and they have loads more money than what you and your friends have.
When Emily Virgin scores more conservative, or just as conservative, as over 50 Republican members of the Legislature, we have a problem. A big problem. The mask has come off – most of those folks who ran as Republicans are about as much Republican as Bernie Sanders.
Steve Byas is editor of the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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