Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​


This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

There is, in the first place, a history of antipathy among Republicans toward education, information, and intelligence. This has been going on for decades. And consider the breadth; while it is easy enough to note public appeals to stupidity or policy hostility toward education and information, the ignorance requirement for Republican politics perpetually grows.

Consider that when it comes to the schools themselves, conservatives demand broad accommodation, including fake science, dangerous health education, and false history.α

It is a long comparison of historical liberalism and conservatism. Progress is often messy and complicated; objecting to progress is a lot easier. In the end, it seems any rational argument can be effectively challenged by fearmongering. Just scream that they’re coming for your wallet, gun, Bible, or childrenβ.

But this is something else. This is an appearance of incompetence on par with political legend, the sort of stupidity shown by former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Gov. Sarah Palin, Gov. Jan Brewer, and Gov. Rick Perry, among others. That is to say, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has achieved legendary stupidity.

And while it certainly isn’t the sort of stupid corruption accused of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Maine Gov. Paul LePage, nor winding tale of seeming insanity akin to Gov. Rick Scott in Florida, nor Govs. Brownback and Jindal―Kanas and Louisiana, respectively―genuinely trying to create laws by executive order, it really is problematic. Ms. Fallin is the executive of the Oklahoma government, and we are supposed to somehow believe she is unaware of this fact?

This is iconic stupidity. At some point, yes, we do in fact get to wonder what the hell is wrong with Oklahoma. Not everything in the world is so easily blamed on Texas.


α In order: Creationism and “intelligent design” as science, abstinence education they already know doesn’t work―hint, it’s about greed and pride and getting into Heaven―and Texas history textbooks. While the Creationism crusade is fairly well known, and the conservative need for revisionist history nearly as infamous, that middle point, about the dangers of abstinence education, cannot be reiterated enough. Author Michelle Goldberg recalled in 2007, one Pam Stenzel, a career fearmonger and moralist cozy with the most recent Bush administration who proudly recounted her response to a businessman who asked about the success rate of abstinence education:

“What he’s asking,” she said, “is ‘does it work?’ You know what? Doesn’t matter. ‘Cause guess what? My job is not to keep teenagers from having sex. The public school’s job should not be to keep teens from having sex.”

Then her voice rose and turned angry as she shouted, “Our job should be to tell kids the truth!” And I should say that up ’til then, I agreed with her. But here’s what she means by the truth:

“People of God,” she cried, “can I beg you to commit yourself to truth? Not what works, to truth! I don’t care if it works, because at the end of the day, I’m not answering to you. I’m answering to God.

“Let me tell you something, People of God, that is radical, and I can only say it here,” she said. “AIDS is not the enemy. HPV and a hysterectomy at twenty is not the enemy. An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy God and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy! I will not teach my child that they can sin safely!”​

β Nor can we reasonably pass over the observation that it is, in fact, conservatives who are coming for the children.

Image note: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

Benen, Steve. “GOP governor flubs Civics 101 test”. 10 July 2015.

Goldberg, Michelle. “The Rise of Christian Nationalism”. KUOW Speakers’ Forum. 18 October 2007.

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