Governor Kevin Stitt seems determined to write a counter-narrative to Dale Carnegie. Suggested title: How to Lose Friends and Ignite Enemies.
Yes, it’s a decidedly old-school reference. But devotees of Carnegie’s success strategies would no doubt be confused by the governor’s recent behavior.
Think about it: First, he instigated criminal justice reform advocates by forcing the resignation of State Pardon and Parole Board Chairman Adam Luck, whose sin apparently raised questions about death penalty cases and state execution protocols. Next, Stitt enlightened the tribes with a bizarre Martin Luther King Jr. vacation claim suggesting the slain civil rights leader would be “disgusted” by the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling that historic borders of eastern Oklahoma of the Muscogee Nation were never removed. And finally, he angered legions of teachers and administrators with what they saw as his cavalier plan to deploy untrained state employees as substitutes in classrooms uncovered because of the rise sudden omicron.
All this, as his re-election campaign kicks into high gear.
Isn’t the idea to win as many friends as possible?
Stitt, who rarely voted before winning the governorship, is of course not a conventional politician – a fact which no doubt appeals to some of his supporters who are disgruntled with their government, but who do not know who to blame or hold responsible. The governor clearly enjoys serving as the chief troublemaker — piecing together the headlines generated by tribal feuds, hiring and firing appointees, opposing an often imaginary federal reach.
But at some point, shouldn’t Oklahomans expect him to actually help fix things, instead of just breaking or stirring them?
Unfortunately, Stitt has been MIA when it comes to associating with tribal nations, instead settling for throwing Molotov cocktails via press releases and lawsuits rather than doing the heavy lifting of face-to-face negotiations. face-to-face aimed at creating lasting partnerships that could benefit all Oklahomans.
Also, what is his plan to help solve the state’s teacher shortage, reduce class sizes, and close the technology and programming gaps between affluent suburban neighborhoods and their rural and downtown counterparts? ?
The governor and his supporters will point to the state’s generous Rainy Day Fund, low unemployment, tax cuts and successful challenges to federal vaccine mandates.
Serious question: how do these “achievements” contribute to the creation of a Top 10 state?
Oklahoma was already a low-tax state. If that was all we needed to unleash economic prosperity, wouldn’t we be seeing it already? Wouldn’t Elon Musk have expanded to Oklahoma, not Texas? Couldn’t Canoo have located its headquarters near its new factory in Pryor, rather than in northwest Arkansas?
The truth is, Oklahoma’s lopsided tax structure benefits the few at the top of the economic ladder at the expense of those struggling to achieve (or maintain) middle class status.
How? ‘Or’ What? You cannot build large-scale prosperity on the cheap. You must harness the resources of the four million Oklahomans behind a plan that gives everyone a chance to reach their full potential – not just those already in the upper socioeconomic tier. This requires full long-term investment in the state’s K-12 and higher education systems, the key economic drivers if we are to become the Top 10.
Overcrowded classrooms and emergency teaching replacements will not suffice. Neither will continue to shift higher education costs onto the backs of future Oklahoma workers and leaders, already saddled with student loan debt.
Simply talking is not enough to make Oklahoma a Top 10 state. It requires visionary and stable leadership that unites, not divides.
It’s an election year, the perfect opportunity for Oklahomans to think deeply about what they want their state to be. And vote accordingly.
Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer; okobserver.org.