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Catastrophe and the crutch



Well, it could have been a lot worse. But for the petulance of Sen. Nancy Riley, Republicans would have the first majority in Oklahoma's state Senate in history. In the House, the GOP lost one net seat and Rep. Lance Cargill is measuring the drapes in the speaker's office. Mary Fallin has solidified District 5 as a safe Republican seat. However, statewide elections were " let's face it " a catastrophe.
I cannot get one picture out of my head. The statewide candidates of the Democratic Party stood in the shape of a V, looking up with a grin at the camera. The V surely stood for victory as a united party swept into office with merely a small bump at the Corporation Commission and a few landslides. Just try to imagine a similar picture with the GOP candidates. I would be surprised if they even could have been forced to be in the same room together.
Disunity was not the only problem. The six-year itch doomed the GOP across the nation (coupled with drift, corruption and incompetence), and the effect certainly reached the borders of Oklahoma. One facet of that tidal wave needs to be addressed. The Democratic Party reached out to rural voters with great success. I spent the weekend on my uncle's farm in Kentucky and saw the loss of one swing district up close. The Democratic commercials were tough, but they were effective.
It has been debated whether Oklahoma is a Midwestern state or a Southern one. The longtime dominance of Democrats in rural areas, outside of the northwest of the state, is the greatest proof to me that we are indeed a part of the South. Republicans have done a very good job of breaking into the Democratic strongholds in rural areas, but national and statewide Democrats are no longer ceding those areas.
In the very near future we could witness an environment where every part of the country and our state is aggressively contested by the Democrats. It is incumbent upon the GOP to do the same by pursuing urban voters. The rise of Republicans in the South has depended on a suburban base and reaching out to rural voters. This was enough to break out of the "Solid South" days of the past, but not enough to establish a reliable Republican majority in statewide elections, as we see all too well in Oklahoma. In order for that, the cities must be won.
Oklahoma City, and Tulsa as well, can serve as laboratories for a new urban Republicanism. Kirk Humphreys, Mick Cornett and the recently defeated Bill LaFortune of Tulsa have set us on this road. Much more is to be done. This means breaking out of the small government mantra and talking about how government can be run better. Along with that, it means reaching out to black voters and other minorities with an opportunity agenda.
Republicans cannot afford to leave the population centers as Democratic strongholds. Analysts often complain about the effects of redistricting causing the demise of swing districts. I say that the parties have used gerrymandering as a crutch that prevented them from reaching out to, not only floating voters, but even the base of the other party. The Democrats have thrown away the crutch; Republicans must do so as well. - Jason Reese 
 Reese is an attorney in downtown Oklahoma City and lives with his wife and son in Mesta Park.

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