IF Barack Obama does better in Oklahoma this year than he did in 2008 — which is to say he wins a county or two rather than none — it won't be due to Obama's increased popularity here. It would only result from lower enthusiasm among Democrats for Mitt Romney as compared with John McCain.
The Oklahoma Democrats gathered in North Carolina to nominate Obama this week don't represent the party as a whole. The president lost the 2008 Oklahoma presidential primary and had an embarrassingly poor showing in the 2012 primary here. The last Democratic governor (lame duck Brad Henry) and the last Democrat to hold a U.S. Senate seat from Oklahoma (David Boren) were enthusiastic supporters of Obama four years ago. We doubt they'd be so enthusiastic today if they were still in office.
Democratic politicians in other states where Obama is unpopular, most notably West Virginia, declined to participate in the convention. The same would be true, no doubt, of statewide officeholders here. But there aren't any Democrats holding statewide offices. A key reason for that is Barack Obama.
Democrats still hold a voter registration advantage here. It's slipping away. The longer Obama stays in office, the more it will slip. According to Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins, the reason is racism. He's talking about racism among Democrats, not voters as a whole.
Collins is in Charlotte and expressing optimism about reversing the Democratic slide here. Instead, the only seat in the Oklahoma congressional delegation held by a Democrat will likely be held by a Republican next year.
The key to a Democratic resurgence is recruiting young people, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a convention delegate, told The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel. Edmondson couldn't win his party's nomination for governor in 2010 despite having a huge political advantage. He was perceived as the more liberal of the front-runners for the nomination.
Edmondson's advice to “think generationally” needs a reality check. Obama was helped by the young demographic in 2008, but this is the same group suffering from high unemployment under Obama's administration. The young man in this campaign isn't Obama. It's GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Collins is 71 years old. One of the least controversial things he's said since taking the chairmanship is that “there's too many gray hairs and bald heads” at party functions. His Republican counterpart, Matt Pinnell, was just 30 when he took over the party in 2010, the year Republicans won every statewide office and increased their clout in the Legislature.
If thinking “generationally” is the prescription for reversing Democratic fortunes in Oklahoma, that drug had better be dispensed soon. Nationwide, young people supported Obama by a 2-1 margin in 2008. This won't happen in 2012. The young, like the rest of us, have seen what “hope and change” is all about.
In Oklahoma, it's about to result in the most Republican state government in history because the distaste among Democrats for what Obama has to offer is palpable. No matter how old you are.
Thinking generationally? How about thinking rationally and admitting that the national Democratic Party is destroying what's left of the party in Oklahoma?