In 2017, I ran for the chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. I made it to a runoff, but did not prevail in that contest. Nonetheless, I traveled the state and made a strong argument for change. This was my initial written message to the delegates who would chose the party’s leader.
This document is not intended to be exhaustive, and is offered to commence the conversation about how to resurrect the Oklahoma Democratic Party — by giving it an emergency transfusion of progressive-populism.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party has gone from near total dominance in Oklahoma to virtual irrelevance. Reactionary Republicans control all statewide executive positions. They hold super majorities in both chambers of our legislature. The entire federal congressional delegation consists of right-wing, social Darwinist Republicans. This reality is due in large part to the decision of the Democratic Party to abandon its traditional role as the party of working people and its attempt to appeal to conservatives. This strategy has been a failure.
We believe the Oklahoma Democratic Party should take the fight to the Republicans. We must become a progressive alternative. We should state clearly what our values are and we should demand that Democratic candidates embrace a progressive-populist agenda, based on economic and social justice, as a condition of our support.
Our belief is that the strategy of attempting to appear slightly less reactionary than the Republicans has been a failure as measured in public offices held by Democrats, voter registration, and impact on policy.
Simply put, as our party has attempted to appeal to conservative voters, the conservatives reasonably chose the Republicans who endorsed those policies without reservation rather than the Republican-lite Democratic alternatives.
The March 1, 2016 presidential primary results in which Senator Bernie Sanders carried the state by double digits are evidence that the Oklahoma Democratic voters are ready to embrace a progressive-populist alternative.
We argue that a progressive agenda will motivate an entire new generation of supporters to express their frustration at the ballot box and that within a few election cycles progressive policies can be implemented for the benefit of Oklahoma.
The 2016 election was the most divisive since the Civil War. We confirm that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion. As advocates for the middle class and the poor, we affirm that our party values people of all races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, or level of capacity. We will fight any effort to weaken us by pitting one group against another.
We believe that in any grassroots movement, the platform must come from the bottom to the top. Therefore, we realize that any attempt to set out issues can only be a beginning. The members of this shared movement should bring forward the ideas important to them and be prepared to argue for their inclusion in our declaration of what we as a Party believe. However, a starting point probably includes the following:
The above issues identify only a handful of the policy concerns within the progressive community. They are only a start in our mission of defining what it means to be a Democrat.
Together we can make the Oklahoma Democratic Party become the Progressive, Populist alternative. We believe that Oklahomans will reward us at the polls.
This document was submitted for the consideration of Our Revolution OK by Mark Henricksen, Susan McCann, Darcie Woodson, Melody Ball, Bill Dower, Betty Jean Harris and Amanda McLain-Snipes.