Bennett, intra-party conflagration threatens GOP – the Journal Record


Arnold hamilton

Republican State President John Bennett’s 15 minutes of fame threatens to create headaches for two of the GOP’s top elected officials.

Governor Kevin Stitt and US Senator James Lankford are considering re-election next year. The last thing they want is uncertainty, especially unnecessary and avoidable distractions.

Bennett is more than a distraction, of course. It’s a loose cannon with a megaphone. And he represents what is arguably the most energetic wing of the state’s dominant political party.

It’s a minority within the GOP, of course. But it’s a rabid mob that could undermine Stitt and Lankford’s ambitions if turnout in next June’s primary drops below normal – think: apathy, overconfidence, COVID-19.

Anyone paying attention to Bennett’s often unbalanced rants during his four terms at Oklahoma House could have predicted that his state party presidency would not end well for Republicans.

Who knew it would explode so fast?

Bennett’s doubling and tripling on his absurd and offensive coronavirus vaccinations and comparison of the Holocaust forces Lankford and Stitt to speak out. How will this play out with Bennett’s travel companions?

In many ways, Lankford and Stitt are both products of this militant wing that features outright evangelism and communist paranoia a la John Birch.

Yet Lankford, a Southern Baptist pastor and former director of the Falls Creek parish camp, finds himself in the sights of the group, vilified as RINO (Republican In Name Only) for voting to certify Democrat Joe’s victory. Biden at the Electoral College. Indeed, Bennett and Co. openly support Lankford’s main challenger, Owasso’s minister, Jackson Lahmeyer.

Stitt, on the other hand, appears to have avoided the group’s wrath – until now. But the more stunts Bennett does, the more likely Stitt is to be drawn into the intra-party conflagration. How good are Stitt’s tap dancing skills?

Most voters pay little attention to intra-party dusting, of course. And that may be the case in this case. But Bennett’s antics are not without danger for Republicans in Oklahoma, in general, and Stitt and Lankford, in particular.

For Stitt, this keeps him in the headlines at a time when he’d better keep a low profile, given his hands-off approach to the realities of the fourth wave of COVID-19 – maximum hospital intensive care and stressed parents, students, teachers and administrators are concerned about school safety this fall.

Health professionals and school leaders urge the governor to declare a health emergency. This would give hospitals the flexibility to absorb the peak of cases and schools the temporary power to require masks. But such a statement puts Stitt in a difficult position as his most rabid political base views masks and vaccinations as tools of authoritarian regimes – not public health measures.

Do you doubt it? Well, consider this: The Cotton County GOP in southwest Oklahoma alerted social media subscribers this week that it is making “no trespassing” road signs available that warn “Vaccine door knockers will be continued or the 2nd amendment will be applied”.

Or this: the tweet from Oklahoma Second Amendment Association President Don Spencer comparing mandatory vaccinations to sexual assault – “It’s rape to force a person to put something in their body that they don’t want to keep.” his work. “

For Lankford, far-right pressure is pushing him even further to the right … which, in at least one case, has left him looking like a run-of-the-mill political pimp – check out his social media post urging him to ban ice cream Ben & Jerry’s. in Oklahoma.

That kind of misfire could stir up the Bennett-Lahmeyer’s crowd even more and give GOP primary voters a break who would otherwise be inclined to support Lankford.

For the party itself, the longer Bennett remains president, the more at-risk independents will be deactivated. Which for Democrats would be the best of times.

Stay tuned. It is a captivating political theater.

Arnold Hamilton is editor-in-chief of The Oklahoma Observer;


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