by Colin Newman
The kerfuffle about Mary Fallin suggesting that being a wife and mother qualifies her to be governor of Oklahoma has dominated the local news lately; rhe national media picked up on it because it gave them an excuse to talk about one of their favorite non stories, the “mommy wars” that allegedly are raging between stay at home moms and career women.
I find the whole thing to be objectively silly and a little over blown; being a mom doesn’t qualify you for political office any more than it qualifies you to fly a plane or paint landscapes; plenty of moms and non moms have done all three quite successfully. My best guess is that it was an attempt to paint herself as a “traditional values” kinda gal and her opponent as a scary feminist crusader. I don’t think that was wise strategy, and whichever one of Representative Fallin’s advisors thought it was a good idea to even bring it up should be fired for malpractice. I don’t think anyone should specifically not vote for Representative Fallin for uttering the boneheaded remark in question. I think you shouldn’t vote for her because she’s not right for the job.
I’ve gotten to know a little about the Representative in the past couple of years; I like her a lot more than her predecessor (the influential and annoying Ernest Istook), if only because she hasn’t managed to do as much in congress as he did. Her career in Congress is happily bereft of major accomplishments, which has no doubt been a positive good for the republic. I can say that every time I wrote to her with my crazy leftist rantings I recieved a thoughtful and coherent response from her office (as opposed to Rep. Istook, who would just send talking points.) I am also deeply gratified that the Republican party in this state hasn’t gone so far over the edge that they thought Randy Brogdon would be a good governor.
Mary Fallin strikes me as someone who is essentially a very ambitious career politician. She isn’t a crazy ideological extremist like Brogdon, but she seems to me to be every bit the cynical, calculating politico. Some of us on the left have tried to paint her as being stupid and vacuous; I don’t think that’s true (although her call for “more better” education and “more smaller” government begs the question.) I think she is actually a very sharp politician who knows what she needs to do to get ahead. I honestly think that if she were running for office in, say, Oregon, she would be running as a Democrat. She doesn’t strike me as someone who has firm convictions of her own.
My primary problem isn’t really with Mary Fallin at all. My problem is with the Republicans in the legislature. If her career in congress is any indication of how she will behave in the governor’s mansion, she would be little more than a rubber stamp for the republican leadership, and we really cannot afford that. Do you want Randy Terrill and his ilk to get everything they want, or do you want an executive who is willing to put the breaks on the crazy stuff, as Brad Henry has so ably done over the last 8 years?
You might wonder why a stark, raving liberal like myself is enthusiastically supporting a populist centrist like Jari Askins. I’m really a pragmatist at heart; I have my strong opinions, but I don’t demand that the whole world laugh with me. I’m enough of a realist to know that the only person who really agrees with me on everything is me. In lieu of a clone of me running for office, I look for a few qualities in a leader. I want someone who can make difficult decisions, someone who understands the issues, someone who isn’t blinded by dogma and partisanship, and someone who knows how to get things done. Jari Askins has all of these qualities. Mary Fallin, so far as I can tell, doesn’t.
I haven’t met Mary Fallin, but I have met Jari Askins. When she was campaigning for Lt. Governor a few years ago, I ran into her at some event or other. I walked up to her and said “I really hope you win!”
She beamed, and immediately, without any prompting on my part, gave me a big hug and exclaimed “Well bless your heart! I do too!”
I’ve met a lot of politicians, and most of them (democrats and republicans alike) are empty suits with a smile attached, at least when they’re in campaign mode. Jari Askins seems like a real person. Ask yourself this: Which one of these candidates strikes you as more genuine?