Civics Lesson

by Donna Schoenkopf

Of course, I lost my way.

This time I only had to backtrack twice. A great improvement over the last time I was in Oklahoma City and trying to find my way to my destination.

I swear to God, Oklahoma must take great pleasure in confounding those of us who are newly arrived or haven’t been here in 42 years. Yes, I was turned around because of (altogether now) BAD Oklahoma signage, which happened to include signage for the place I was going to, which is the Oklahoma Democratic Party Headquarters.

Does it say Oklahoma Democratic Party Headquarters on the sign out front? No. It does not. It says George Krumme Building.

I swear to God.

Anyway, I was not late this time and deduced that the building I was looking at must be the building after I spent $1.75 in calling Information on my cell phone (my Credo cell phone, the nation’s most socially responsible phone company) and getting the address of the aforesaid destination. 4100 North Lincoln Boulevard. There it was.

I parked, grabbed my laptop and purse, and walked up to the building and entered.

As I came in the front door I saw a huge, wonderful, smiling photograph of my man, Barack Obama, on the wall facing me. It filled my heart with warm feelings and I forgot to even complain to the first human I saw about the bad signage.

I was there, on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, to do my duty as Pottawatomie County Resolutions Committee Chair. I was the Resolutions Chair because I was the only one to submit a resolution at the Pottawatomie County Precinct Meeting. The word “politics” has become such a pejorative that not many people stick their toe into the political waters of our beloved nation. What a shame. I often wonder how our democracy is going to survive in a culture that despises its own mechanisms, ones made to respond to their thoughts, wishes, dreams. Cynicism abounds. Inertia rules. Disinterest is the emotion of the day. Back in the day, people talked about politics and religion and philosophy. Folks sat around the cracker barrel at the country store and exchanged ideas, argued, listened, were part of the fabric of decision making. What the hell has happened to this country?

And, Dear Reader, that is why I am writing this story. I want to share with you the sheer fun and excitement and the tickling of brain cells when one gets involved with politics and maybe, just maybe, you’ll go to your next political meeting and speak up and begin to participate in the life of your community.

Say “Amen!” brothers and sisters!

Anyway, I walked into a large room that was set up in a U-shaped arrangement of tables. There were four men there and me. Because of the extra cup of coffee I had been drinking on the long drive there, I needed a restroom right away. I was directed to a clean and lovely one, returned, sat down. A tall, young woman entered with her laptop and sat down, and the meeting began.

Introductions all around. We were:

I felt extraordinarily happy to be there. I was eager to start. I was in my element with my people.

Oh, boy!

We began by getting a packet of resolutions from Seminole County, Pottawatomie County and Oklahoma County, which comprise the Fifth District.

Oklahoma Democrats

Here are some of the more interesting resolutions and their arguments, pro and con:

Resolution: The electoral college should be abolished.

Lots of argument for (a small state like Oklahoma benefits from the electoral college) and against (in this day and age with all our technology, there is the ability to have a direct vote and we should allow democracy to work).

The resolution passed 3-2.

Resolution: Support the re-election of President Barack Obama.

The actual resolution had a lot of language that was apologetic and kind of defeatist, such as “The Oklahoma Democratic Party realizes there are no immediate solutions to the economic and political problems ... and there has never been a perfect president ... and opponents have ridiculed his agenda, etc., etc.”

I find language like this to be a real turn-off to most people and one of the reasons so few people get involved with politics, so I recommended we scrap the whole first paragraph and use a modified version of the final paragraph which read: “We, the Oklahoma Democratic Party, acknowledge President Obama’s strong and effective leadership and support his re-election in 2012.”


Resolution: The next resolution was about supporting candidates whose values were the same as the Progressive wing of the party. It was all about the things I support and love, such as “supporting the rights and well-being of the least fortunate among us.”

I love those standards. But the resolution called for withholding our party’s endorsement if a candidate didn’t follow the whole agenda. Well, in Oklahoma, that would pretty much be impossible.

I am still mad at the Blue Dogs in the Senate who made Obama’s life so miserable, but the very fact that they called themselves Democrats probably saved the day for the first national health care plan, ever. There is value in numbers. One should try not to exclude anyone. Unless they are ... Satan!

It was defeated 3-2, even though we all loved the philosophy set forth in the resolution.

Resolution: A sticky one about Democrats being opposed to the cheap lease of federal, state, and municipal lands, especially to large corporations.

Lots of argument. The argument against was essentially that the wording was terrible. I was for it because one of the things that just sticks in my craw is the enrichment of the rich through these rotten plans that call for no taxes if the rich build a sports arena or a convention center or some such. DAMN, that makes me mad!

But the resolution lost 3-2 because it was too vague.

Resolution: Repeal Right to Work legislation that was enacted in 2000.

We all agreed with this resolution but the wording was kinda convoluted and we rewrote it to say, “We believe that strong unions make strong economies and endorse repealing Oklahoma’s Right to Work legislation.”

Resolutions for supporting Wisconsin Democrats and union members, reforming the criminal justice system, promotion of peaceful solutions in our world, and promotion of Hispanic interests all passed unanimously. (I had a hand in stopping an effort to rework the Hispanic resolution to read “diverse” communities because I have seen more prejudice and draconian legislation in Oklahoma toward Latinos than any other community and felt that we should not water it down.)

My very own resolution, the one that made me Pottawatomie County Chair of the Resolution Committee, passed, too. Here it is:

Whereas Oklahoma is one of only five states in the Union which has a sales tax on food (4.5%) causing an unjust and disproportionate burden on the poor and

Whereas Oklahoma tax law has just reduced the state income taxes for the highest income bracket from 5.5% to 5.3%, resulting in the wealthiest 20% of Oklahomans receiving 73% of the recent tax cut and 43% of households not receiving any benefit at all and

Whereas the estimated loss from the reduction of income tax will be $120 million by 2013 and

Whereas Oklahomans in the lowest tax bracket have paid 9.9% of the state and local taxes, while the wealthiest Oklahomans have paid only 4.8% and

Whereas the State of Oklahoma earns $230 million in said state sales tax on food and

Whereas the Democratic Party of Oklahoma believes in justice for all

Be it resolved that the Democratic Party of Oklahoma endorses ending state sales tax on food and raising the income tax on the wealthy from 5.3% to 6% to recoup the loss of revenue from tax cuts for the wealthy and sales tax on food.

It passed unanimously.

Amen. And hallelujah.

Then we had our picture taken, said good-bye, and went our separate ways.

It was a terrific day. You gotta try it sometime. Seriously.

Donna Schoenkopf recently retired from teaching at 61st Street School in South Central Los Angeles, and has moved back to Oklahoma, where she spent her teens.


First I’d like to say thanks.

And a big “CONGRATULATIONS” on getting your resolution passed.


2011-04-26 by Frank Briggs

Donna, thanks to you for this civics lesson and for your enthusiastic participation on the resolutions committee.  I especially agree with the resolution to get rid of the sales tax on food.  I could not believe it when I first went to Homeland after moving to Shawnee in 2002 and saw that sales tax had been added to everything that I bought…..lettuce, apples…..everything, not just on non-food items like paper towels and soap, as was the custom in California.  The result is that my grocery bills are actually higher here in Oklahoma than in California.  This is an unfair tax, especially on the poor, and it really needs to be changed.

2011-04-26 by Rosalyn Kalmar

You were a great asset to the Resolution Committee as I knew you would be. I too have mixed emotions about withholding support from the blue dogs but I decided it might actually be the right thing to do.  It will not hurt the blue dogs but it will show working Oklahomans that there is a party that supports their interests first.

2011-04-26 by Jo Davis

Hey, nice platform, mama! But “diverse communities” would include Muslims too, and aren’t they getting a ration of shit in OK right now?

2011-04-26 by rebecca

I spent time in Oklahoma in 1981, working to pass the ERA.  I definetly learned a few things.  One was that OKlahoma City was the largest city in the country with regard to physical size.  Another was that people in Oklahoma assumed that even if they weren’t concervtive that everyone else was.  I think though, that Oklahoma was the state that put Suffrage over the top.  There are other strange things about the state.  It is the only state that has been bombed from the air, which was in a white race riot, in the thirties, I believe. It wiped out a prosprous African American town.  The KKK was a dominant social organization.  But that earlier, socialists played a domanant social role.  That there were and still are people like Donna working on progressive causes. I imagine it’s a tough row to hoe.

2011-04-26 by don cannon

Hi Don, I worked with Wanda Jo Peltier on the ERA. We didn’t pass it but we only lost by one vote.  She developed the 2nd largest state organization of the National Women’s Political Caucus (only NY was larger) to provide support for passing the issue.  I was a local chapter president.  Several of us went to legislative districts belonging to legislators we thought could be swayed every weekend armed with postcards for the voters to sign asking the legislator to pass the ERA.  Who did you work for when you were here working on the issue?

2011-04-26 by Jo Davis

Sales tax on food?  That’s what I don’t get.  The largest majority of people are made up of poor, poorer, and not-so-rich, which are particularly unfairly hit on such a food tax, yet they either vote for it or don’t rise up and say, the heck with that.  Instead, they sit there being robbed blind and say not a word.  I don’t get it.

2011-04-27 by Ann Calhoun

Heres a buzo video to celebrate the occasion:

2011-05-2 by robert hagen

Here’s an exotic Chilean video that’s guaranteed to satisfy:

2011-05-2 by robert hagen

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