In their decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the Supreme Court of John Roberts twisted the knife in for the kill of representative democracy in this country. Literally giving paper entities, corporations, more rights than actual persons by allowing unlimited, unregulated and unsourced money into political races resulted in political carnage in federal and gubernatorial races across the country in 2010, as pro-corporate and anti-worker candidates won the race for money and the election.
The aftermath has been a rampage of laws and deregulation that, without CU, might have taken a decade or more to accomplish. In quick order, the corporate money backed candidates have been gleefully wrecking rights that past generations struggled to gain — their actions running the gamut from disempowering unions to “just” dehumanizing and demoralizing them.
But if you thought that corporations were only interested in federal and state government for their takeover, or thought that it might take a campaign season or two to work its way down to the city level, well, I’ve got some castles made out of red dirt to sell you.
Tomorrow, April 5, there is a runoff election in Ward 2 of Oklahoma City for a seat on the eight-member city council. How much do you think that seat is worth? Well, if you are among the regular power players in Central Oklahoma, apparently the answer is: half a million dollars.
These folks are used to getting their way around here for a lot less, I assure you. But they hit a little road bump back in March when their favored candidate in Ward 2 failed to get more than 50% of the vote in a six-way election. Instead he, Charlie Swinton, a banking lobbyist (yes, really), was put in to a runoff against the second highest vote getter, Dr. Ed Shadid, a spine surgeon (and cousin of journalist Anthony Shadid).
The runoff race has really pealed back the pretty facade of corporate benevolence to reveal an ugly reality — they want their selfish deals with decisionmakers kept secret in the back rooms and out of the media (which the local press, with rare exceptions, is quite content to allow). They know that Ed Shadid, even if if his sole vote can’t stop such shenanigans, he will bring transparency and outside voices to the process.
So a lot of money has been funneled into shadowy 527s and paid for mailings and push polls with distortions, lies and twisted reality that would be funny if it wasn’t so deadly serious. Shadid is a vegetarian! He believes in sustainabilty and community gardens! Heavens, hide the children!
Fortunately, in response to this deluge of political spin, and sniping within both the Democratic and Republican parties about this non-partisan race, there has also been a groundswell of grassroots and sensible voices responding and fighting back, and it’s been a wonder to behold in this conservative region.
Here’s a sampling from local bloggers:
Kurt Hochenauer (who runs Blue Oklahoma web site)
I had intended to remain neutral in the Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council race between local physician Dr. Ed Shadid and Charlie Swinton, but that was before a shadowy, secret group started viciously attacking Shadid with bogus, clichéd right-wing mailers.
I urge everyone in Ward 2 to vote for Shadid on Tuesday, April 5 for many reasons, but mainly because at least we know who has supported him and what he stands for. We know who he is. At this point, Swinton and some of his major, anonymous backers, don’t pass a political “smell” test when it comes to transparency or openness.
Basically, some undisclosed people spouting the right-wing mantra want Swinton elected and are willing to spend money to make sure it happens, using their money to fund typical fear-mongering tactics that denigrate some basic Democratic Party ideals and positions. The only possible reason they’re doing this is they believe Swinton will do their bidding. What else could it be?
Doug Loudenback, chronicler of all things Oklahoma City on his blog Doug Dawgz
MAPS 3. I want it to be done, and I want ALL of it to be done. I don’t want city council members even saying that a MAPS 3 project should be changed (like Pete White did in December 2010 and early January 2011). I want council members to regard the concurrent City Council resolution which was impliedly but not legally a part of the MAPS 3 ballot to be regarded as sacrosanct — don’t tread on me. I want MAPS 3 to be done exactly as the voters were promised and with maximum citizen input and transparency. No deals behind the scenes and no secret handshakes.
OKC “enthusiast” Nick Roberts
Dr. Shadid talks about bringing a unique perspective the other 7 can’t offer onto the “horseshoe” — that of a physician. He talks about his insight into OKC’s health and lifestyle problems, and how OKC needs to focus on not being dead last on almost every health index of major U.S. cities. Or even 500 cities in the case of walkability..
2. Dr. Shadid talks about being an advocate for BUY LOCAL and truly supporting small business, not just throwing government money at big businesses in the name of “subsidies.” He talks about the harm it does to the local economy and local business when we throw money and advantages at these out-of-state businesses and retailers (i.e., BASS PRO). He cites the difference of 70/30 and 30/70; the ratios of money reinvested locally when you buy local! That is refreshing for a candidate to proclaim because it is so true.
Sustainability advocate Shauna Lawyer Struby
I’m voting for Ed because our democracy was founded on “we the people.” That’s not “we the people with a lot of money and power,” but “we the people” with no regard for how much money any of us have. “We the people” is working families just barely scraping by. It’s the just-out-of-college young adults who can’t find decent jobs, and lonely seniors who can no longer drive and have no safe place to walk or a grocery store to walk to. It’s moms and dads working multiple minimum-wage jobs just to make ends meet. It’s people living in neighborhoods with bars on their windows and doors where it takes 45 minutes or more for the police to respond to an incident.
“We the people” is kids who go to schools without working kitchens, where the lunch menu is high-fat, high-sodium, processed foods; kids who — unless we change the school food system — are far more likely to become the first generation to die at a younger age than their parents. It’s the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to get a decent, well-rounded education, make a living wage, take care of themselves and their families, be happy. “We the people” is me, you, us.
GI Rights lawyer and radical Mennonite James Branum (member of the small Green Party of Oklahoma)
Ed Shadid’s campaign is based on a hopeful vision of what OKC could be. Charlie Swinton’s campaign is based on fear and paranoia.
And the Shadid wave issn’t just limited to academics and treehuggers, as it was joined by self-described “right-of-center” (what passes for moderate in these parts) blogger Charles G. Hill who runs the universally popular blog, Dustbury.
The Ward 2 runoff is Tuesday, and I can hardly wait: it will mean an end, at least for the moment, to some of the nastiest politicking in the history of the state, and if you’re familiar with the history of the state, the bar for Nasty has been set pretty high.
The Minority Leader in the Oklahoma Senate, Democrat Andrew Rice, used his Twitter feed to make his endorsement for Shadid when the shady money led to Swinton, an avowed Democrat, becoming BFFs with some of the most grubby Republican operators in the state.
Other Democrats followed, like up and comer Brittany Novotny (who ran last year for state house against homophobe Sally Kern)
We talk about the need to become a more business friendly environment and to be able to attract the 21st century jobs that will diversify our economy. Yet, we are so far behind on anything resembling protections for our LGBT citizens, that we have actually had companies indicate that they were passing on Oklahoma City because they want to choose a location where they feel all of their employees are safe.
I’ve talked at length with Ed, and I know that he is someone who truly believes in making Oklahoma City a great place to live for all of our residents. He has told me that he won’t just guarantee to vote for LGBT protections, but he will be an advocate on the Council who will do the heavy lifting to make it happen.
I join this wave and say, vote Ed Shadid if you are so fortunate as to live in Ward 2 and thus have this unique opportunity to give all of our city’s citizens a real champion for democracy and justice on the city council.
Update: This just in, another blogger joins the wave:
James Cooper of U-Out a most excellent film and culture blog.
This Tuesday, the young people of this city—my friends, my neighbors, and my classmates—have an amazing opportunity to set aside their cynicism, to set aside their apathy.
One month ago, only 32 voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the City Council election for Ward 2. 73 percent of voters were over 50 years old. In other words, that 73 percent determined the election.
James ends his post with some important info that I neglected:
Where to vote (enter your name and location in form)
OKC Ward map (Ward 2 in green – just a coincidence, I’m sure LOL)
Update 2: From spoken word artist Lauren Zuniga, on Facebook:
I have seen Ed at every important community gathering. From the Local Food Meet and Greet to the Women’s Bodies, Women’s Freedom Poetry Show we did at Church of the Open Arms. The only time I have seen Charlie Swinton is at the Capitol where he works as a lobbyist. I am not sure how Swinton would be able to help me and my neighborhood if the only time he visits is on a cardboard mailout bashing Ed Shadid. We need someone who cares. We need Dr. Ed. If you are an Oklahoma City Progressive who threatens to leave every week, now is your chance to take action!