These were controversial issues, with diverse viewpoints in the Sooner State. But the significance here was that Oklahomans had long trusted the Democratic Party en masse to represent their interests and beliefs, especially since the onset of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in the early 1930s. Now, Gary and an increasingly vast host of them were questioning whether that party was doing so.
Their growing dissatisfaction with the national party determined the outcome of several statewide and federal office races in 1960s Oklahoma. Not least was Bellmon’s landmark thrashing of three-decade Congressman and Senator Monroney in 1968. The Noble County farmer was the first Republican U.S. Senator in the state since World War II. Democratic presidential candidate and sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey simultaneously won less than a third of the Oklahoma vote.
On the other hand, the great majority of local and even statewide offices remained in the hands of a Democratic Party whose national brand was increasingly liberal. Voters who supported conservative candidates in some of those “high ballot” races had not connected the dots between them and their home races. Soon, however, attractive Republican candidates would contest the latter, and many of the Democrats’ own holders of these offices would, with many of their voters, switch their party registration and allegiance.
To paraphrase a couple of Scriptures, for the Republicans, gradually becoming the party of traditional biblical values, and increasingly the party of fiscal and judicial restraint and accountability, the fields were indeed white unto harvest in Oklahoma, but the workers in this case were becoming many.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
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