Editor’s Note: As expected, the Oklahoma House today overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s vetoes of two anti-abortion measures. The real battle, however, is expected in the State Senate, where only 13 votes are needed to sustain the governor’s actions. Kalyn Free, founder of INDN’s List, has written senators urging they uphold Henry’s vetoes.
BY KALYN FREE
This is the FIRST time I have ever written our Democratic Senators and asked you to vote a particular way. There are a myriad of reasons for that, chief among those is that I know that each of you who know me, would not be surprised by my position on “hot button issues” and would not be swayed in the least by my request for you to vote a certain way.
However, I am writing now for a couple of reasons. First, our Democratic governor has shown true leadership and courage in exercising his veto power against HB 2780 and HB 2656. These bills are unconscionable and rip at the heart of our judicial system. Secondly, I am, like thousands of other Oklahoma Democrats, disgusted and disappointed in some of our Democratic elected officials and believe that the reason our state is so “red” is because we have too few Democrats who will speak the proverbial “truth to power.”
So, I am asking you to do stand with Gov. Henry and with “Us” [your party and your Democratic constituency throughout the state] and sustain the governor’s vetoes on HB 2780 and 2656. Not just because of these particular bills, but for the larger issues as well, which I touch on below.
Some of you [and a handful of House members] have said to me, “Kalyn, I am as pro-choice as you, but I just can’t vote that way.” Really? Why not?
What is next? What is your “sacred cow?” What is “something worth fighting for?” When the public loses faith in government leaders, and we hear “There is no difference between a D and an R,” how do we respond? We, the foot soldiers in the Democratic Party are supposed to have your back. And, we want to. But, your positions have made it increasingly difficult to continue to support some of you with the passion that we [and you] would like.
You have the ability, power and position to change the hearts and minds of some [granted, not all] of your constituents. Look at your districts, look at your campaign war chests, get real. Are you REALLY in danger of losing your seat because of a single vote or a couple of votes?
And, even if you can convince yourself that you will LOSE your next race if you vote to sustain the governor’s veto, is that the right thing to do? You were elected to lead, not to follow.
We know we live in the reddest state in the country and there are lots of reasons for that. I believe that chief among those is the lack of visionary leadership in our Democratic elected officials. This didn’t just happen overnight, it’s been decades in the making.
It was only with the help of Democrats that a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was put on the ballot, and then we lost the House. And, we wonder why? Because that ballot measure brought out all the right wing nuts and boosted their turnout.
Democrats controlled the House and the Senate in 2002 and we LET Gov. Keating draw our redistricting Plan. Now we have a single Democratic congressional district instead of two.
It was the Democrats who voted for massive tax breaks for oil and gas companies, when BP, Chesapeake, et. al, were reaping record profits. Today we face massive budget shortfalls and basic services to those most in need, our elderly and our children, are on the chopping block. We have no one to blame but ourselves. The Republicans couldn’t have done that without us.
We expect Democrats to fight for those who need a voice at the Capitol, those who need a helping hand; not credit card companies, and pay day loan sharks.
I hope you will read the governor’s veto statements [the last sentences set forth below]:
HB2780: “ . . . State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma. To do so amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.”
HB 2656: “It is unconscionable to grant a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform a pregnant woman in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on his patient.”
Tell me: Are these family values? Are these democratic principles? Is allowing a medical doctor to lie, under any circumstances, and escape legal and moral responsibility EVER the right thing to do?
I ask you to show courage, show conviction, do the right thing and vote to sustain the vetoes.
If you are still reading, please know that those of us in the “progressive community” are deeply respectful and forever grateful for those among you who stand up for us and the values of our party.
And for those of you who have let us down in the past, think on these things. It really is EASIER to do the right thing. And, it’s got to be easier to look in the mirror the next morning. The Republicans are NEVER going to support you. You can earn our support and we would love to canvas for you, phone bank for you, host fundraisers for you, donate to you, essentially work our hearts out for you. There is strength in numbers – you know that – and leaving your brave colleagues to twist in the wind, not only hurts them, our party, and our state, it ultimately hurts you to.
In closing, what if you were our Democratic governor and members of your own party in the State Senate didn’t support you in sustaining a veto?
What if you were me or an activist or donor in Oklahoma – would you want to continue to support a candidate that turned their backs on the least among us, on their party, on their values?
Or, what if it is your wife or your daughter or your granddaughter or your sister or your mother or you that is lied to by a doctor and you or they lose their life because of that lie? And, then you are told that the state Legislature, with the help of Democrats, prevents you from taking legal action against them, how do you think you would feel?
– The author lives in Tulsa, OK