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CANDIDATE MEADE: The All American

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Fifth Congressional District candidate Tyson Todd Meade outside the offices of Red Dirt Report.
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OKLAHOMA CITY-BASED CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE WANTS TO "ROCK CONGRESS"

OKLAHOMA CITY – Popping into the offices of Red Dirt Report on a recent weekday, musician-turned-political-candidate Tyson Todd Meade was all smiles, almost as if he had come out of a very satisfying meditation.

“I just left my place of Zen. Guestroom," Meade says, wearing a Rolling Stones tongue logo V-neck sweater and a swell-looking hat.

Of course, Meade – the former Defenstration and Chainsaw Kittens frontman - is referring to independent vinyl dealer Guestroom Records over at 36th and Western. He admits that  - like this writer – he spends too much money on records and today only looked around, rather than actually buying anything. It’s an addiction Meade will never give up, I suspect.

Meade sits down and begins talking. He says that now, at age 55, he felt that “this is the time” to run for political office. And when he talks to folks, particularly young people, like a few he ran into at Guestroom, Meade echoes their sentiments – that right now is an exciting time to be alive.

Indeed. And Meade simply beams with joy and optimism. Relaxed and with a mischievous glint in his eye, Meade is clearly ready for the challenge of running a political campaign for the first time, surrounding himself with folks who are equally passionate about improving the lives of fellow Oklahomans.

"I want to represent everyone," Meade said. "Even the people who don't like me, I'll represent them."

The theatrical Meade, it would seem, is always ready for a challenge. And when he approaches a challenge he happily does it with an “Oscar Wilde, outlandish” flair.

As the godfather of alternative rock – having influenced alt-rock gods Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) – Meade is already a proven trailblazer, inspiring nearly everyone he comes across, while also acknowledging those who had come before, like Marvin Gaye and Iggy Pop.

You may recall Meade telling Red Dirt Report back in 2014, when he was promoting his solo record Tomorrow in Progress, that he moved to China to become a teacher there because he “wanted excitement” and that “there was something that sounded exotic and strange and sort of mythological about Shanghai.”

And while he was in China he says his students were sometimes in awe of him and his teaching style and American accent.

One student, Meade said, would just stare at him and say: “You’re like a Hollywood movie.”

Hollywood, Meade noted, is like a “PR agent” for the United States in that a “version” of America is seen by international audiences, including China.

And it works in our favor, for the most part, Meade said.

“China is in love with us,” Meade said. And yet, those who “want to keep us paranoid” try to ramp up hate and division, painting the Chinese as a potential enemy to be thwarted. Having lived in China and Saudi Arabia, Meade - who earned a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oklahoma - sees it as ugly propaganda on the part of war profiteers and those who relish in America having enemies, because it’s “good for business.”

Meade is one of six Democrats running in the 5th District’s congressional candidate primary on June 26th. He admits he has come into the race late – virtually last minute – but he doesn’t mind. Meade is focused on running a positive, educational campaign.

And even if he does not win the primary, he intends to support the eventual Democrat candidate who will be going up against Republican incumbent Steve Russell of Choctaw, an anti-wasteful-spending politician, in the mode of Tom Coburn, while also sharing many of Coburn’s rigid stances on issues like abortion and the Second Amendment and government’s proper place in the lives of the people it serves.

REBEL REBEL

Tyson Todd Meade showing off his newly-acquired RDR coffee mug. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

While the 5th Congressional district has not sent a Democrat to D.C. since Meade’s musical hero David Bowie released his glam-rock classic Diamond Dogs in 1974, polls are showing the district is moving away from conservatives of the Russell variety – right-wing hardliners still stuck in the irrelevant “God, guns, gays” culture wars of the 1970’s-90’s. Politicians who tend to pay more attention to their donors than they do to their constituents.

Meade is well-aware of the political landscape in Oklahoma. And evangelical Southern Baptists like Russell will be working hard to keep that constituency in his corner once again. Still, Russell, a likeable “military guy” has not been known as a strong fundraiser. He is, as another Democrat opponent, Tom Guild, likes to say, a politician who seems to have access to “God’s unlisted phone number.”

And yet that does not discourage him at all. He recognizes that fellow Democrat Kendra Horn, who is leading in fundraising right now, has been campaigning for approximately one year. And yet Meade just keeps on smiling, offering up a sincere “heartlight” akin to E.T. communicating with Elliott in the Steven Spielberg classic.

Pollsters note that OK-5 is less Republican than it has been. Stranger things have happened.

Last fall, when the Chainsaw Kittens reformed to play a gig at The Opolis in Norman, which was celebrating its 15th anniversary, Kittens drummer Eric Harmon, 48, seemed tired during practice and it was learned that Harmon had stage four colon cancer. Harmon would die a few weeks later.

Harmon, Meade says, should have had better access to medical care, even making a point on his introductory web page, noting that more could have been done to help heal and save his friend.

Meade says: “Heaven knows that (Harmon) needed healthcare prior to his diagnosis and after.  But Eric’s story is not a singular one, but rather one that so many Oklahomans have experienced simply because our politicians left us as pawns in their heartless game.  I want to change that.

Meade told Red Dirt Report that said he wants the government to pay for Medicaid for those under age 65. He notes that legislators made a terrible mistake in rejecting federal funding for healthcare.

Meade noted his drummer friend when talking about health care, a subject he is most passionate about.

“Everyone I’ve talked to has these health care nightmare stories,” Meade said. He wants to help “rock Congress” and get that legislative body to make access to healthcare a right for all. Seeing marijuana legalized is also a priority if elected to Congress.

And then there are other key issues Meade would like to tackle, including our crumbling infrastructure and the fact that Oklahoma City and the 5th District is the fourth busiest human trafficking crossroads in America.

Meade would also like to highlight LGBT issues, reexamine the role of private prisons and the issue of justice reform. 

Knowing that he has a lot of work ahead of him and more monied candidates have an advantage, Meade still remains upbeat and optimistic, particularly with his campaign slogan of Love, Unity, Progress. He is using his contacts in the entertainment industry, gathered from his days in the Chainsaw Kittens to present day, to help highlight his political campaign, while looking into get interviews in LGBT magazines like Out and The Advocate.

“I’d rather lose with love than win with hate,” Meade says with a smile.

FREAK POWER

Back in 1970, when gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson was running for sheriff of Pitkin County in Aspen, Colorado, he documented his thoughts and wild campaign in a series of letters he wrote to friends and freaks who mattered. Over the course of several months, Thompson laid-out the blueprint for a better town and county – and even alluded to a possible 1972 presidential run against his arch-enemy Richard Nixon.

Of course that never happened, we are sad to report (but read about what did happen in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72).

But with his Freak Party candidacy, Thompson, a self-described “foul-mouthed, outlaw journalist,” had excited the “youth vote” in Aspen, getting 739 new registrants in a matter of a few weeks – whipping up support in a race that pitted Thompson against a reactionary, “law and order” incumbent who didn’t care too much for hippies.

In preparation for the campaign I have shaved my head right down to a bright bald dome. Very strange & menacing,” Thompson wrote in a letter to Paul Krassner at The Realist.

Sadly, the “cowboy cop” incumbent would win in a squeaker of a race in November 1970.

And yet as odd and seemingly dangerous as Thompson was in the eyes of the squares in Aspen – right before the “greedheads” and “land-rapers” made a killing – he was as all-American as they come, talking about how we had not lived up to Lincoln’s notion of America being “the last, best hope of earth,” a phrase Honest Abe directed at Congress in remarks he made in December 1862, in the early years of the American Civil War.

Meade, too, sees an America that has not lived up to its potential. Thompson often spoke of the "death of the American Dream." And Meade knows our image is damaged at home and abroad. But he is not about a Trumpian, nativist, retrograde vision of America as many in Congress are – mindlessly shouting “MAGA!” Meade is interested in helping build bridges rather than walls.

He knows mobilizing young and old alike will help. Getting them out to vote. It's worked elsewhere and can work in the 5th District as well.

Meade sees an already-great America not being allowed to show off its colorful patchwork quilt of creativity, ingenuity and that increasingly regained sense of community, teamwork and diversity.  

A place where all voices are heard and shared. People and not profits are put first. A place where refugees fleeing war and oppression are embraced and housed and allowed to contribute to society. A place that lives up to those words on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Said Meade: “I want to change our country for the better.”

COOTER? GOPHER? JELLO? MEADE?

Meade, we should note, is just the latest celebrity to throw his hat in the ring. Two presidents – Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump – were both well-known celebrities before moving into the White House. Many have been in TV and film and a few in the music industry. 

For example, lifelong New Yorker and Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon is running for governor or New York this year. Of course action star Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California in the 2000’s.

Al Franken was a U.S. Senator from Minnesota up until last year, having to resign in disgrace. And another Minnesotan, professional wrestler and political independent Jesse Ventura, was elected governor of that state in 1998.

On TV, there was Ben Jones (“Cooter” on The Dukes of Hazzard) who was a Georgia Democrat serving in the U.S. House from 1989-93, while Fred Grandy (“Gopher” from The Love Boat), was a Republican congressman from Iowa serving in the U.S. House between 1987 and 1995.

Jello Biafra of the punk rock band the Dead Kennedys – a guy who is well-known for utilizing shock value, direct action and pranksterism to highlight social justice and civil rights issues - ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 and later ran as a Green Party candidate for president in 2000.

And don’t forget singer/songwriter and one-half of the 1960’s pop duo Sonny & Cher – Sonny Bono – went from singing "I Got You Babe" to being elected mayor of Palm Springs, California in the early 1980’s to successfully serving as U.S. representative for California’s 44th congressional district between 1995 and 1998. Bono’s mysterious death in ’98 (a subject which led to one of Red Dirt Report’s most-widely-read stories) led to his widow, Mary Bono, serving in Congress as well.

To learn more about Tyson Todd Meade's campaign for the 5th Congressional District, go here.

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Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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