Sunday, June 28, 2020

A century ago, America faced a similar challenge!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     There are four months until the November general election.  That is an eternity in politics.  This election cycle has been challenging for candidates and voters alike.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face campaigning has been virtually non-existent.  Direct mail and social media have been the vehicles of choice in a quarantine environment.  Sorting through the campaign rhetoric has always been a challenge for voters, but in 2020 is especially difficult.  Here are four tips:
    First, every candidate puts their best foot forward.  They paint themselves as trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent- all traits in the Boy Scout oath.  They shy away from controversial issues.  So long as the voter understands that and doesn’t accept the candidate’s brag sheet at face value, no harm is done. 
     Second, pointing out how a person votes or conducts themselves in office is not dirty campaigning.  An elected official’s voting record is fair game.  They should be willing to defend their voting record and explain their conduct.  Any elected official/candidate that is unwilling to defend their vote or position on an issue is not worthy of your vote. 
     Third, candidates often attempt to define their opponent in an unflatteringly way.  In this COVID-19 climate, candidates are sending more ‘defining pieces’ to voters about their opponents than ever.  The pieces usually include some unflattering photograph that ties the opponent to an unpopular political figure or group.  Often the piece contains some truth, but it is so exaggerated/caricatured it is hard to take seriously.  Politicos like to say that dirty campaigning works only when you are ahead, behind or even in the polls.  The reason they are used is because low information voters are influenced by them.  Don’t be a low information voter.
     Fourth, don’t put a lot of stock in endorsements.  Every candidate has them.  Trusted, prominent community leaders are often included in campaign materials, touting the virtues of the candidate.  But like a job reference, it’s no guarantee the candidate can/will perform the job.  Take celebrity endorsements with a grain of salt.
    Here’s how to avoid being a low information voter: (1) Know the issues the candidate will encounter if elected.  A county elected official will encounter different issues than a state legislator or a Congressman.  Know the difference.  (2) Seek out the candidates and personally ask their position on issues important to you, (3) Ask knowledgeable people you personally trust who they are supporting., (4) Recognize that Party affiliation does help.  While it is not absolute, generally Republicans are more conservative and Democrats more liberal.
     One hundred years ago, the U.S. faced a similar pandemic.  Between 1918 to 1920, one in three people were infected with the Spanish Flu worldwide.  Estimates are that 5% of the world’s population died.  The Spanish Flu was the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Plague, but people voted.  The Republic continued.  COVID-19 won’t kill America, but low information voters who pay little attention to their government may.  Don’t be a low information voter.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Americans need to recommit to a Republic form of government!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone asked him, ”Dr. Franklin, what have we got- a republic or a monarchy?”  Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”  233 years later America may be losing the republic Franklin and the founders crafted.
    A republic form of government is one where elected individuals represent the citizens and exercise power according to the rule of law under the Constitution.  In America, those representatives are democratically elected.  In a ‘direct democracy,’ the citizens directly deliberate and decide on legislature. When elected officials in a republic abrogate their responsibility, citizens often take matters into their own hands.  True democracy is ‘mob rule.’  Based on the recent civil unrest, the U.S. is looking more and more like a true democracy.  
      Some believe the United States has moved from a republic to an oligarchy.  In a study by two political scientists; Martin Gilens, (Princeton), and Benjamin Page, (Northwestern), they concluded the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics.  Gilens and Page write; “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”  Gilens and Page are liberals and clearly had a predetermined outcome, but they are correct the wealthy are more engaged in politics than the poor.  But no oligarchy can survive mob rule.  The numbers just won’t work.  So how does America get back to a representative democracy?  How does the United States get back to the form of government the founders intended?  Three ways:
     First, the average citizen must actively engage in their government.  They have to do more than vote.  They must pay attention to what is happening all the time, not just every two years at election time.  That involves attending meetings, getting to know their elected officials, helping candidates, and contributing money.  The reason big money has taken over politics is because so few average people are engaged in the process.   
     Second, the American system of government must be taught to the next generation.  Most millennials have little knowledge of our system of government and the genius of the founders.  Pew Research, in a March 2020 poll, found two thirds of millennials want the Electoral College eliminated and the president be elected by popular vote.  They fail to not understand the EC is a fundamental principle of a representative democracy.  Eliminating the Electoral College will result in large states having more and more control.  The genius of the Electoral College is it gives  power to individual states and not just population centers. 
     Third, Americans must commit to a democratic republic.  The mindset to understand the importance of being involved in a republic is critical.  Without wide-spread commitment from individual citizens taking equity in their self-governing system of government, America will not survive.
     The U.S. Constitution’s first amendment guarantees the right of citizens to peacefully assembly, but not to destroy private or public property.  What we are seeing in America is mob rule because some elected leaders capitulate to a mob.  Until citizens hold them accountable at the ballot box, America’s system of government is doomed.

Sunday, June 14, 2020


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     State Question #802 will be on the June 30th primary ballot.  It is an initiative petition supported by those who want to expand Medicaid program for low income Oklahomans whose income does not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level.  If passed, it would become a part of the state Constitution. 
     Oklahomans Decide Healthcare is the group supporting SQ #802.  They contend that expansion of Medicaid will make Oklahoma families heathier and the economy stronger.  The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs(OCPA) opposes SQ #802, partly because federal bureaucrats set the federal poverty level.  Governor Kevin Stitt opposes SQ #802 saying, “If SQ#802 passes, our state agencies will experience deep cuts because the ballot measure offers no mechanism to pay for it.”  Four observations:
     First, health care funding should not become part of the state Constitution.  That is the primary fishhook in SQ #802. There are those who support expansion of Medicaid who oppose having it into the state Constitution.  Having it in the Constitution forces the legislature to fund it, no matter what.  Bad idea.   
     Second, Oklahoma taxpayers can’t afford Medicaid expansion.  With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, gross revenue tax revenue is down.  Unemployment is up in the Sooner state and couple that with the pandemic, it is certain that other sources of revenue will be down as well.  Oklahomans Decide is wrong- putting more tax burden on hurting, struggling people doesn’t strength the economy, it cripples it.
     Third, the federal matching funds are not guaranteed to be there forever.  OCPA says,  "Oklahoma would be obligated to provide medical assistance to adults at or below 138% of the federal poverty level regardless of whether Congress continues to pay a large portion of the costs. Congress would dictate how much money actually leaves Oklahoma’s treasury.  Congress currently appropriates the federal matching funds for Medicaid, but they can quit at any time.  With SQ #802 in the Oklahoma state Constitution, Oklahoma taxpayers will have to pick up the slack if Congress quit funding the expansion
     Fourth, it is still unclear how many are eligible and will sign up if Medicaid is expanded.  State health officials estimate that 220,000 will be eligible and 180,000 would sign up.  In several states, the actual numbers who signed up for Medicaid expansion was much higher than the estimates and created funding issues. 
     According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending in the US is estimated to grow by 5.4% annually for the next eight to ten years.  Projections indicate health care spending will cost an estimated $6.2 trillion by 2028.  Much of that is due to the aging population in the US. Healthcare will continue to be a topic of discussion for the foreseeable future and Medicaid expansion may be necessary in Oklahoma, but SQ #802 is not the way to do it.
    Vote no on SQ #802 for the following reasons: (1) Healthcare funding should not be a part of the state Constitution, (2) It is an unfunded mandate.  It doesn’t increase taxes to pay for the expansion- it just mandates it, (3) Oklahoma taxpayers simply can’t afford it.   

Sunday, June 7, 2020


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

      On Saturday, the New York Times reported former President George W. Bush, former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice along with Utah U.S. Senator Mitt Romney will not support President Donald Trump’s re-election.  The article implied former Speakers of the House Paul Ryan and John Boehner will not vote for Trump.  They also said that up to four other GOP U.S. Senators plan to not support the president’s re-election.  Four observations:
     First, a vote isn’t about personality- it’s about policy.  When President Bush and the others oppose the president of their own Party, they reveal their lack of commitment to the conservative movement.  Trump’s abrasive personality is polarizing, but as Dr. Gerald Beasley once about an abrasive elected official: “We send them up there to vote.  Little else matters.  Watch how they vote, not what they say.”  That is great advice.  It’s about the cause, not the person.
     Second, a vote is always the lesser of two evils.  Until Jesus Christ is on the ballot, we are always voting for a fallen human being.  In every election, voters make a choice between the lesser of two evils.  They should base their decision on which candidate they believe will govern or implement policies most closely aligned with their convictions, values and political philosophy.   President Trump has appointed more conservative judges, cut taxes and cut government regulation more than any president- Republican or Democrat- in modern history.  Vice President Joe Biden has said he will do the exact opposite- raise taxes and appoint liberal judges.   Trump’s personality and may be course and blunt, but his policies are conservative- Biden’s will be liberal. 
     Third, this fight/conflict is really over economic globalism.  Every Republican mentioned in the Times article believe all the countries of the world should collectively operate as one system.  President Trump has vocally opposed America being dependent on foreign manufacturing (much of which happened during the Bush presidency) and has encouraged manufacturing to return to the U.S.  
     Fourth, the rank and file Republican base remain behind Trump.  Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd incident and the protests, Trump supporters are firmly supporting the president.  That is the good news.  The bad news is Democrat conservatives, many of them union workers, who supported the president in 2016 are not as enthusiastic about Trump, but aren’t in Biden’s corner yet either.  With five months until the election, a lot can change- and will.
     When candidate Trump was running in 2016, he promised, if elected, to ‘drain the swamp.’  That meant he wasn’t going to go along to get along.  He vowed to be unconventional and to govern different than tradition dictated.  That is why he makes career politicians and bureaucrats nervous.  The Washington establishment, including many elected Republicans, have opposed his governing style and policies since his election.  No president in modern history has been criticized, critiqued, and condemned more.   
     The fact is, none of those Republican listed in the article have enough influence to sway the election to Biden.  They lose all creditability with conservative Republicans when they say the prefer Biden over Trump.  Conservative Democrats won’t listen to them either.  They have lost their relevance. 

Monday, June 1, 2020


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     On Memorial Day evening, an African American man named George Floyd died during an arrest in Minneapolis.  Four police officers were arresting him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli.  According to police, Floyd resisted arrest and would get into the car.  Ultimately he was cuffed on the ground and Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee into his neck.  A bystander recorded video on their phone and Floyd is repeatedly heard saying on the video he can’t breathe and begging Chavin to not kill him.  Chavin had his knee in Floyd’s’s neck for nearly nine minutes and did not remove it until the ambulance arrived.  Floyd was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.  Charges of third degree murder have been filed against Chavin, who was fired the next day along with the three other officers.
     On Tuesday, peaceful protests were staged in Minneapolis, but since that time, they have escalated to violent and destructive protests.  Protesters have burned the Minneapolis 3rd police precinct building, looted several businesses, including a Target store and according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, an estimated 255 businesses have been vandalized or entirely destroyed in the Twin Cities area.     On Saturday and Sunday, protests sprang up at more than 100 cities across the world, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  In downtown OKC, two restaurants were vandalized.  All stories are like a pancake, there are two sides, but this incident should cause all Americans to be outraged.  Three observations:
     First, overzealous law enforcement should not be tolerated.  The deli manager called 911 and described George Floyd as drunk and trying to pay with a fake bill.  Floyd wasn’t threatening the deli manager, didn’t have a weapon, but it appears the Minneapolis police dispatcher sent four officers to the scene, including one(Chauvin) who has a history of complaints against him for overzealous enforcement.  Law enforcement leadership know there are some in their midst that ‘love the action’ and often will try to create some ‘action.’  Chauvin appears to be one of those and his superiors knew it.  By not dealing with him earlier, they bear some of the blame for Floyd’s death. 
     Second, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Peaceful non-violent protests are sometimes appropriate, but when thugs co-op a tragic event, use it as an excuse to loot and destroy private property, they do the cause harm.  Looting a Target isn’t protesting- it is larceny.  Torching a public building owned by taxpayers isn’t complaining- it is arson.  Tossing a brick through a plate glass window isn’t objecting- it is vandalism.  Destroying other people’s property is not peaceful assembly, it is a riot.
     Third, all Americans should be morally outraged by Floyd’s death.  Righteous indignation is anger fueled by divine or moral law.  Aristotle called righteous indignation a mean between envy and spite.  Believers can and should be angry over the exhibit of depravity and inhumanity on the video, but it should never lead to more violence- it should lead to thoughtful action to punish the evildoers, which in this case includes not only the four officers but those who left an overzealous officer on the street.
     America is a nation of laws and when laws are broken- by an overzealous police officer, a looter or an arsonist, that person should be punished.  God ordained human government to do just that- punish evildoers and reward those who do good.  Violent, destructive protests do nothing but continue the cycle of violence and destruction.  America, we can do better.  Pray God changes hearts.