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OKLAHOMA CITY - Two months ago, I wrote a commentary lamenting the lack of direction and the increasingly conservative slant of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, describing their platform as “Slightly left of Far Right.” In that article, I cited Oklahoma’s populist roots, and predicted that if Oklahoma Democrats didn’t reclaim the moral, economic, and populist high ground that the party would be “doomed to become nothing more than a political footnote in Oklahoma history.”

At the time, the only declared Democratic candidate to challenge Governor Mary Fallin was R.J. Harris, a Ron Paul Republican turned independent turned Libertarian turned Democrat. Harris was a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, and supports eliminating the minimum wage and doing away with the Department of Education. Enough said.

On Tuesday, another Democrat was wooed into the race. Oklahoma Representative Joe Dorman hit the ground running, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show that same night to discuss his drive to issue $500 million in bonds to build storm shelters in every public school in Oklahoma.

His new website calls Dorman “A governor for all Oklahomans.”

From all accounts, Dorman is likable and cares about the people of Oklahoma. He promises to focus on public education, where Oklahoma has been dead last in spending under Governor Fallin.

After meeting Rep. Dorman Tuesday evening at the Oklahoma Democratic Party Christmas bash, I felt encouraged. Dorman assured me that he would go hard to support Democratic principles. Maybe we finally had a real Democrat to carry the banner in 2014. Maybe populism wasn’t on life support after all.

There’s only one problem. Dorman might be talking the talk of a Democrat, but for the past few years, he’s voted like a far right Republican ( Among other things, he voted for one of the most oppressive immigration laws in the nation and for every bill (most of them declared unconstitutional) that denies a woman’s right to choose, including personally invasive laws requiring a woman considering an abortion to get an ultrasound and to fill out questionnaires.

Not content to just protect our right to bear arms, Dorman co-sponsored Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law and supports arming teachers in our public schools. He might have an open door policy as a governor, but enter at your own risk.

Dorman somehow managed to avoid voting at all on the bill to prohibit the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. He did, however, vote to turn down between $300 and $500 million a year in federal money that would have expanded Medicaid in Oklahoma, even though Oklahoma consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the nation in health care.

In 2009, Dorman voted for the Voter Identification Law requiring a photo ID to vote, which would have made an estimated 78,000 citizens, mostly the poor, the elderly, and minorities ineligible to vote. The bill was co-sponsored by 29 Republican lawmakers. It was clearly a biased, right wing attempt to deprive Oklahomans of their constitutional right to vote.

Then Governor Brad Henry vetoed the bill, stating:

“Oklahoma already has a model state election system, one that has earned national praise for its accuracy and efficiency and has operated without the taint of voter fraud.

At a time when it is difficult to attract more than half of the registered voters to the polls at any given election, we must make voting easier and more convenient for registered voters, not more difficult and confusing.”  (

Dorman is, as one Oklahoma Democrat said, “A Tea Partier in Democrat’s clothing.” Another frustrated Oklahoma progressive said, “I cannot support a DINO (Democrat in name only). I’m sick of having to choose between the ‘lesser of evils’”.

I have no idea how Rachel Maddow’s people failed to vet Rep. Dorman’s voting record before offering him a public forum on national TV. Nor can I explain how Rep. Dorman has been touted as our Democratic savior in the race against Mary Fallin. With a little less than a year left before the general election, Oklahoma now has three candidates whose ideologies will barely fit in the space occupying the extreme right of the political spectrum.

There exists in Oklahoma a strong populist movement waiting to be tapped into, a movement that believes in being inclusive instead of divisive, a movement driven by the belief that Oklahomans truly do care for each other and not just the interests of the rich and privileged. The national reputation for compassion that Oklahomans once took pride in has been systematically dismantled by special interest groups and an every man for himself mentality.

And what about Joe Dorman’s chances? As one voter put it, “While he’s not my first choice, I would still vote for anyone who is left of Fallin. Even if it is only by a few inches.” Others hope that he can be swayed towards real Democratic values on a few key issues. But for an increasingly frustrated majority of caring Oklahomans, choosing between three candidates whose political beliefs all lean to the extreme right is no choice at all.


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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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