POSTED ON MARCH 7, 2012:
It's indisputable that Oklahoma's Super Tuesday shootout was more interesting than most of our recent presidential primaries.
Who you kiddin'? You've already forgotten the Barack-Hillary dogfight four years ago?
No, but 2008 just felt different: Back then, most Democrats could see either Obama or Clinton as president. They agonized over which thoroughbred to choose as the party's standard-bearer.
Haven't you heard the GOP's unofficial campaign score: I'm Dreaming of a Brokered Convention?
Sorry, Jeb, not gonna happen. The candidates and their backers have worked too long and invested too much. This isn't 1880 when Republicans chose James Garfield -- who wasn't even seeking the nomination -- on the 36th ballot.
The primaries and caucuses will play out and the GOP will end up with a standard-bearer from the current crop.
Even the Democratic primary in Oklahoma had some drama, eh?
No drama for Obama. But we certainly learned something: one-issue-wonder Randall Terry has a Mount Rushmore-sized ego.
Terry scraped together enough money to air about 100 anti-abortion ads in an anti-abortion hotbed. He was going to convert more to his cause -- in Oklahoma? What a waste. His campaign epitomized the old saw about someone with more dollars than sense.
As he told the Tulsa World, "Oklahoma is the perfect state to do this. If I get double digits here, it will be a massive embarrassment to Obama."
How embarrassing for a sitting president to be shown up by a two-bit would-be theocrat-in-chief, right?
Hate to break this to you, bucko, but Obama isn't losing any sleep over what happens in Oklahoma electorally. This state hasn't supported a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
And it showed four years ago it wasn't yet ready to embrace a black man for the White House. You may muster all the faux outrage you like, but you know I'm right. If you don't believe me, I'd been happy to introduce you to Democratic activists who were appalled in 2008 that party leaders in rural areas openly refused to work for, much less vote for, an African-American nominee -- often invoking racial epithets in the process.
Sad to say, but Obama wasn't in danger of being embarrassed by a double-digit Terry showing.
OK, but you have to admit that lots of folks are unhappy with the current state of American politics -- Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Indeed. Did you ever think you'd live to see the day that Congress has a nine percent approval rating?
Republicans, as we've discussed, are sharply divided over their presidential choices. Hard-left Democrats, including me, have complained that Obama is often too corporatist, too centrist and too damned conciliatory when dealing with the GOP's plutocrats and social conservative wingnuts.
The overall frustration is perhaps best illustrated by these two facts: One, polls show an increasing number of Americans fear that our best days are behind us. Two, the serious growth in voter registration is among independents -- refusing to identify with either of the major parties.
So what can be done to get our political system back on track?
University of Oklahoma president David Boren thinks he has an idea: He's signed on with a group called Americans Elect that hopes to produce a bi-partisan ticket that will appear nationwide on the November general election ballot.
A bi-partisan ticket? What does that mean? And how would it work?
Americans Elect is planning a June on-line primary that would be open to any voter, regardless of party affiliation. The idea is to produce a ticket that includes both a Republican and a Democrat as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
If one of the chief complaints about American politics is that Republicans and Democrats no longer work together for the common good, how could you expect a bi-partisan ticket to be effective in the face of a splintered Congress?
Boren believes that electing a bi-partisan ticket would be the equivalent of "shock therapy" -- in effect, reframing the entire political system and saving America from otherwise certain decline.
"The two parties are just fighting -- they're not working together to serve the country," the University of Oklahoma president and former U.S. senator and governor told a recent Capitol news conference.
"I believe in the two-party system, but I believe it needs some shock therapy. Shock therapy not to replace the two-party system, but to save the two-party system by allowing it to work again and allow it to work together."
Sounds pie-in-the-sky to me. Anyone buying it?
It's capturing the imagination of some. In Oklahoma, the group delivered petitions to the state Election Board with about 90,000 signatures -- nearly twice the number required to secure the Americans Elect ticket a slot on the November ballot.
So far, the group claims to have collected 2.5 million signatures nationally, securing spots on ballots in 17 states.
It's difficult to envision that Americans Elect could substantially impact the 2012 elections, but its signature-gathering success reflects a deep and abiding angst in the body politic that must be addressed.
Wait a minute: Didn't Boren endorse Obama four years ago?
Yes, he did -- and he still serves on the president's intelligence advisory board. He insists this isn't a slap at any individual candidate, including the president, but rather an expression of his deep concern about America's future.
Congressional Republicans, of course, refused to work with the president -- think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's publicly stated goal of a one-term Obama presidency. Boren's involvement with Americans Elect suggests he doesn't believe Obama has been sufficiently effective.
One of the key planks in Boren's plan to revitalize the American system is campaign finance reform, right?
Yes -- and in my view, it is the key to a more responsive political system.
Thanks to the Supreme Court's shameful decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, the wealthiest one percent are flooding campaigns with more cash than ever.
Adelson keeps upping the ante for Gingrich. Foster Freiss is helping keep Santorum viable. Even Obama, who vowed not to play the SuperPAC game, relented, asserting he cannot expect to compete if he unilaterally disarms.
Say what you want about "free speech," but big campaign donors get more than an open door and a receptive ear for their donations. They get advantages the rest of us don't.
One man, one vote? Equal footing? Not in the America controlled by Citizens United.
What is required is that the 99 percent start paying attention and get involved, refusing to accept that we must submit to the best government money can buy.
--Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer; www.okobserver.net
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