Elections 2012: All Indians Are Democrats? Not in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is not a swing state. Four years ago, when Obama was much more popular, he did not carry a single county. That’s likely again. Plus some.
And Oklahoma should also dispel the idea that all American Indians are Democrats. Nearly nine percent of the state’s population identify as American Indians yet much of that Native population is as conservative as the rest of the neighborhood.
There are some 24 members of the Oklahoma legislature who identify as tribal citizens, the most, by far, of any state. Most are Republicans, and are represented as members of the party’s leadership (as are the Democrats).
Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, recently told Indian Country Today Media Network that it’s important to educate members of Congress who are both Republican and Democrat. “We shouldn’t be creating division where there is none. Look, we still underfund Indian country from my point of view—and I think both parties have a lot to answer for in that regard—but both parties can be proud of what they’ve done in the past three years,” he said. “What we need to do is build on that.”
Mullin describes himself as a “rancher” and as a “businessman.” He took over his father’s plumbing business and expanded it several fold. His web site lists a variety of conservative causes, ranging from too much foreign aid to repealing ObamaCare. Mullin’s campaign material does not mention his membership in the Cherokee Nation, but that became an issue when The Associated Press reported that Mullin was awarded $375,000 in federal stimulus money even though he described that type spending as a “horrible waste of money.”
A YouTube video shows Mullin saying that he did not get the stimulus money, “the Cherokee Nation got it. I did the job for the Cherokee Nation.” He adds, “the stimulus money was never paid to us.”
However his opponent, Rob Wallace, a Democrat, said Mullin is trying to have it both ways. The Cherokee Nation has now donated $5,000 to Wallace, according to FEC records.
While the Chickasaw Nation has donated $5,000 to Mullin (and even more, $22,290 to Cole) according to OpenSecrets.org.
Four years ago Sen. John McCain trounced Obama in the state by a margin of 65.65 percent to 34.35 percent. McCain carried every county in the state. But this was far more Republican than most elections.
The New York Times built a great map that shows what the state looked like in the last election: Every county in the state was red. In fact the nearest counties carried by Obama are in Dallas, Texas, or the Kansas City, Missouri, area. However that same map in 2004 reflects then Vice President Al Gore winning votes in Tulsa and in Okmulgee County (where the population is nearly 13 percent Native American). And eight years before that, in the 1996 election, candidate Bill Clinton essentially carried the eastern part of the state. (Of course Arkansas is literally next door, but the votes from the five eastern tribes also Indian contributed as well.) So Oklahoma still ended up red, but not nearly as much as today.
But if Oklahoma is a deep, dark red (I hate to say reddest state because I live in Idaho) the Democrats remain active and viable. Bill John Baker, recently elected Cherokee principal chief, was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and he endorsed the president for re-election, telling The Oklahoman newspaper that Obama “is the best president for Indian country in the history of the United States.”
The Oklahoma Indian Bar Association has been working to increase Native American voting in this election cycle in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians and Rock the Vote.
Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.