Helen Swope considers herself a traditional Republican, skittish about paying higher taxes for what can seem like the ever-growing role of government.
But after Oklahoma City spent hundreds of millions of dollars building new parks, bicycle trails, elite recreational facilities and a soon-to-be-completed streetcar network, Swope thinks maybe the state government can learn something from the city’s former four-term mayor, Mick Cornett, a leading Republican candidate for governor.
“The whole city has been transformed,” said Swope, who lives in the suburbs but now travels into the city each weekend to new indoor tennis courts paid for by city taxpayers. “You get a lot of promises a lot of the time and nothing happens, but now there were a lot of promises and things happened.”
Even as Republican voters nationwide continue to lurch to the right, Swope’s assessment of Cornett reflects a surprising trend in Oklahoma politics this year: The pro-government Republican is making a comeback, as GOP voters at least in some places reject hard-line anti-tax policies.
After years of upheaval in state government, including chronic budget shortfalls and this year’s teacher walkout over low pay, Oklahoma Republicans veered toward moderation when they selected two candidates from the state’s urban centers — Cornett and Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt — to advance to an Aug. 28 runoff…
In 2009, he campaigned aggressively for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax to fund $771 million in economic development and wellness projects…
The sales tax revenue has paid for a $228 million downtown convention center and nearby 70-acre park, and a seven-mile streetcar system that connects downtown with neighborhoods transformed with new apartments and condominiums.
Another $45 million was spent constructing a man-made white-water rafting and kayaking center along the waterfront, which is billed as the first facility of its kind in the heart of an American city.
That sort of public works spending traditionally hasn’t been associated with Republicans, but in last month’s primary, Cornett racked up big margins throughout the 34-county Oklahoma City television media market, which makes up about half the state’s population.
This is another reason why I’m not a huge fan of the jobs guarantee (to be clear, I will support one, I just don’t think it should be the centerpiece of Democratic efforts). We can build nice, public things, accessible to all, but the emphasis should be on the nice things–and these shouldn’t just be for poor people, but for everyone. As some asshole with a blog put it (boldface added):
…we need to learn from the ACA (‘Obamacare’). One political problem with it is that most people’s healthcare insurance situation didn’t change. To be fair, millions of people’s did for the better (though some others’ did for the worse), but most didn’t experience much difference, one way or the other. While this is touted as a success, it’s also a problem: all of that political fuss, and most people gained nothing by it. Had insurance premiums dropped (and ‘not increasing as fast as they might have otherwise’ is not dropping), it would be immensely popular. If Democrats are going to create a large program, the effects have to be noticed by those not in the program. The best way for that to happen is to focus on, as we like to say around here, fixing all of the broken shit. That is, infrastructure, construed incredibly broadly. A massive increase in the non-security domestic discretionary budget, combined with a $15/hour minimum wage would go a very long way in combating joblessness and increasing the quality of life for middle class people, while at the same time, it would improve the quality of life for those not employed by the program.
I’ll just add that if Democrats ever regain power (including killing off the Senate filibuster so a handful of New Democrats or conservatives won’t drive the party’s agenda), and if they fix all of the broken shit, maybe even make some nice, shiny stuff, they can’t run away from it like they did with the ARRA (the Obama stimulus package). Any time the president or a high-level cabinet official visits an area, they need to visit something or some program that was funded by the New Shiny Stuff Act. Make it clear to people who made their lives better (and gave them shiny stuff).