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Friday, May 29th, 2020Last Update: Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 02:21:47 PM

From the General Manager

By: Ron McWhirter

From the General Manager

Looks like there is well over a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties, even in Oklahoma.

In 1968, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, ran for the Presidency of the United States under the American Independent Party banner. As a third party candidate he opposed Republican Richard M. Nixon and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey in the general election. He was previously a candidate for Democrat nomination for President twice. In the 1968 campaign, Wallace famously remarked, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican parties.”

When I turned 18 in 1971, I registered to vote as a Democrat. Back in those days, most Oklahoma voters were registered as Democrats. It was a fact at the time that many races were decided in the Democrat primaries. Even if there was a Republican candidate in the General Election, they were unlikely to win.

Following the 1972 Presidential Election between President Nixon and the Democrat, George McGovern, I changed my registration to Republican. I determined there was in fact a difference between the Democrat and Republican parties. As Ronald Reagan, who had also switched parties would often say, “I did not leave the Democrat Party, they left me.”

By 1974 I was the lone Republican candidate in my legislative district. I would lose that race, as well as the next two. Eventually, a Republican would be elected to the seat.

Political historians and journalists may debate the veracity of Gov. Wallace’s statement in 1968. But, there is no doubt that during the past half-century, and certainly over the last decade, the two major parties have moved apart. This is exemplified by the vote for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) during the previous Administration, and the recent vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Democrat and Republican members of Congress vote differently. Some may attribute this to just partisan politics, but it actually goes much deeper. There is a real philosophical difference between the two major parities.

As the chasm between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party continued to widen, Oklahoma Democrats would claim that they were different from the national party. It would often be said that a Democrat here would be called a Republican in another state. However, that difference in philosophy (conservative versus liberal) can be seen in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Each year we publish the Oklahoma Conservative Index rating members of the Oklahoma Legislature based on their votes on ten significant bills which exemplify the conservative versus liberal philosophy. As reported in our Summer edition for the 2019 legislative session, the average Oklahoma Conservative Index score was 48% in House and 61% in the Senate. But, breaking out the scores by political party shows a vast difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in the Legislature. This analysis has not been previously reported in these pages.

The average score for the 78 Republicans in the Oklahoma House was 61 percent, while the 23 Democrats averaged only 4 percent. Two Republicans (Tom Gann of Inola and Jim Olsen of Roland) in the House scored a perfect 100 percent, and the lowest score for a Republican in the House was 23 percent (Carol Bush of Tulsa). The highest score among the Democrats in the House was 26 percent (Matt Meredith of Hulbert), while 12 of the 23 Democrats scored zero.

In the Oklahoma Senate, the average score of the 39 Republicans was 72 percent. Two Republicans (Mark Allen of Spiro and Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow) scored a perfect 100 percent, and the lowest score for a Republican in the Senate was 50 percent (Ron Sharp of Shawnee). The average score for the 9 Democrats in the Senate was just 12 percent. The highest score for a Democrat was 43 percent (J.J. Dossett of Sperry), while 3 scored zero.

Looks like there is well over a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties, even in Oklahoma.

Ron McWhirter is one of the founders of the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper and serves as the General Manager. He may be contacted at the newspaper email:

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