An Arkansas Conservative Provides Perspective on the 2019 Oklahoma GOP State Convention By Dante Duran
As a recent graduate from John Brown University with a degree in Electrical Engineering, it may seem odd that someone new to intra-party politics from Arkansas wound up at the 2019 Oklahoma Republican state convention. Yet, after finally graduating, I wanted to involve myself in politics in some way. I had been volunteering with the Benton County chapter of Americans For Prosperity in Rogers Arkansas for about a month prior to the Oklahoma convention. The week of the convention I got a call from a friend, a delegate to the Oklahoma GOP convention, and she invited me to the convention. I thought for a few days, but finally resolved that I would feel very disappointed in myself if I let this opportunity slip past me. I did not know what to expect. Honestly, I did not carry any expectations either.
Among the agenda items brought to the vote was the consideration of an amendment to the party rules proposed by Tulsa county which would require candidates to give statements on where they agree or disagree with the party platform. It was not intended as a litmus test disqualifying anything other than total ideological purity, but to promote clarity on where candidates stood on issues important to the state GOP party.
Unfortunately, due to administrative error on the part of the outgoing state party chair the counties were not notified of the proposed amendment sufficiently in advance. A debate ensued on whether the amendment was thus disqualified by the notice requirements, or whether it should be considered anyway since it was not the fault of the proposing county. In fact, it became a matter of investigation whether the late notice was accidental or political “sleight-of- hand.” Some considered it an accident, but others strongly objected that it could have been under-handed. Many delegates came forward who spoke on either side of whether to consider the amendment. Both sides had respectable positions.
Those opposed to the consideration strongly valued integrity and commitment to the rules. Their concern was that if the representatives could not even be faithful to basic rules, which provide a way for the county parties to organize as a state party, then the Oklahoma GOP was no better than the Democrats, and the party would not succeed.
Those in support of consideration also valued the rules. They cited the state party rules which stated that if the county properly submitted a proposal within a certain timeframe that it “shall” come before the convention, and they argued that this rule meant that it is a responsibility of the chairperson to send notice sufficiently in advance, but it could not interpreted that consideration by the delegates at the convention depended on the chair’s advance notice. A lot of delegates, however, did not see it that way. Yet, both sides valued what was right and the integrity of the rules.
The outgoing chair made a most honorable statement regarding the matter. She was concerned that if they decided to not consider the amendment due to her late notice, a precedent would be set which would allow a future party chair to intentionally, maliciously send notices late to the counties in order to sabotage an amendment that a future chair might oppose. Even though the counties decided not to consider the amendment, the outgoing chair’s statement revealed that she was taking full responsibility for her mistake (as would seem proper for any leader) and that she was concerned about the future of the state party, and that she wanted to ensure that the counties were in control and not the political whims of the party leaders. She stressed that a party leader cannot be allowed to thwart the will of the counties by making clever use of rules and technicalities. By this, she demonstrated wisdom, goodness, and integrity. The convention took a voice vote and though close, o my ears and in the opinion of the acting chair the nays had it.
Another issue on the agenda was the adoption of a new state GOP Party platform, which was the result of a long arduous deliberation, hurt, anger, and vast communication between the counties leading to the convention. Since the party had assumed the goal of making Oklahoma a “top-ten state,” there was concern that if the counties voted the new platform point-by-point, it would result in watering down one of the most conservative and most pro-life state platforms ever. To the celebration of many, the counties decided to vote upon the new platform on an all-or-nothing basis. The counties then voted with an overwhelming “Yea” that resounded in the large worship hall capable of seating a few thousand. This meant that the Republican party of Oklahoma officially adopted an “abortion-abolition” platform instead of an abortion-regulation platform.
During the credentialing report, where the party validates and announces county by county how many approved delegates have arrived from each county to the convention, the computer operator had some difficulty in understanding Excel and the commands from the chair on how to display the sum total of the delegates to the convention. The sum from the operator wasn’t matching the sum totaled by hand by the party leaders. The disruption caused a bit of a commotion, and had the effect of weakening the perceived integrity of the convention. Although I was but a guest at the convention, I found myself helping the operator to use Excel. Later, I was personally given the opportunity by the outgoing chair to be the operator during the vote tabulation for the elections. It was pretty stressful having six people watching over my shoulder and a thousand delegates watching every move of the mouse, quick to shout in frustration at any error or delay however slight.
The election of the vice chair proved to be a close race and the counties’ faith in an accurate election was vital. By the grace of God and with help from others I was able to serve Oklahoma, and quickly and accurately tabulate the votes for the new state party leaders.
During the convention, I had an insightful conversation with a group of abortion-abolitionists. The key feature of abortion-abolitionism is the rejection of any policy less than a total ban on abortion from conception to birth. My personal philosophy leading up to the convention was that of abolition-gradualism where pursuit of abolishment was the long-term goal, but acceptance of short-term compromises, as long as they aligned in a right path leading to abolition.
The abortion-abolitionists stood firmly that by accepting compromise, the position unintentionally gave weight to premises that actually make it more difficult to abolish abortion. For example, a gradualist policy such as banning abortions after a detectable heartbeat (often known as the “heartbeat bills”) define life at a detectable heartbeat. However, a belief that life begins at conception, way before the heartbeat, is a compromise on life. It makes it more difficult to argue for abolishing abortion for the reason that apparently there is no life before a heartbeat. Thus, why should that life be protected? A heartbeat bill sets a precedent that human life begins at a detectable heartbeat. So for conservatives to pass a heartbeat bill and then continue to attempt to further restrict abortion apparently even before it is life, it can seem to many who are undecided that that the left is correct when they claim that “Republicans just want to control women’s bodies.”
A follow up question considers whether it may be harder to take the second step once, the first is taken, but would it not be better to have taken that first step instead of waiting for enough support to take both steps at once? The response of the abortion-abolitionists was to ask how anyone would even know if there is enough support to abolish abortion outright instead of a small gradualist step, if nobody takes a hard stand for life in the first place! Perhaps we do have the support for abolition but too many people are quitting the race early and advocating for compromise right off the bat!
There was much more to the considerations, but a new perspective on abortion abolition exists within the younger generation, at least in Oklahoma! We must press on for life. We must be the voice for the voiceless. We must guard the image bearers of the Almighty. We must faithfully protect the innocent. We must roar like lions and demand abolition instead of quivering in shaking boots politely asking” “Pretty please, could at least some abortions be banned?” And, while there is merit for compromise-in-the-right-direction bills when they pass, it may no longer be acceptable to advocate for anything less than the total and utter abolition of abortion.
At the 2019 Oklahoma GOP state convention, a thriving and richly conservative Republican party stood up. Especially, many delegates gained new perspectives on the Abortion-Abolition movement, and have been inspired and empowered to extend the Kingdom through civic participation in government.