Elections have consequences (Capitol Updates)

voting boothSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.
Tuesday’s primaries gave us our first indication of whether this year’s elections will significantly impact politics in our state.  I’m not talking about partisan politics.  In that regard, what goes around comes around.  I was part of a large Democratic majority when I served in the legislature.  Taking the House and Senate together, there is currently an even larger Republican majority.  It took many elections and, frankly a change at the national level that Oklahoma followed, to arrive where we are today.  Who knows how long the partisan makeup of our state government will remain the same? 

But I learned during my decade as a legislator that the makeup of the membership is not just divided between Democrats and Republicans.  The real division between members is between those who want to make things work and those who don’t.  In the legislative process it takes a lot of work, a lot of patience, some tolerance for diversity of opinion, and a little bit of willingness to compromise to make things work.  There are always a few members who just really don’t care.  They’re there for the ride.  If things aren’t working, they probably don’t even realize it. 
But believe it or not, most members are quite principled, and they do want things to work.  But the ship of state can run aground when too many want things to work only according to their own rigidly held principles.  To them, nearly every issue is a matter of conscience.  Unless a proposal conforms with their view of the world they unalterably oppose it.  If it’s going to take compromise to make things work, they’d just as soon burn the place down.  Let someone else work out the compromise and vote for it.  They’re off the reservation.
This is not to say there’s no place in the legislative process for firmly held conviction.  There are just some things that can’t get worked out.  There’s no place in the middle, and that’s the way it ought to be.  When reasonable minds differ, people have to move on and find another way.  That’s why elections have consequences.  Elections set parameters beyond which we cannot proceed.
Some people seem unhappy with the parameters we’ve set that produced last year’s legislative results.    Which brings me back to the primary election.  It really doesn’t require a majority of legislators to have the skill and the temperament to make things work.  But it does takes enough of them to get the job done.   The system makes allowances for those who just don’t care and for those who can never agree to a solution unless it fits within their own ideas.  But if there are too many of those types, things just don’t work.  Beginning Tuesday, we’ll find out not just what people are saying.  We’ll learn what the voters will do.                  


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

One thought on “Elections have consequences (Capitol Updates)

  1. Thank you for commenting on this problem. As I have been campaigning for senate 47, I have promised my constituents, that I will work with anyone in the legislature! I am a former teacher and know what it is like to collaborate ideas. It has a win-win outcome!

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