I was born and raised in the Bible Belt and attended church much of my life, so being a Republican was just a given. In Oklahoma, Republican is considered synonymous with Christianity. Christianity, to me, is about caring for the least of these: the marginalized. Scripture refers to it literally as the sick, those in prison, the poor. In Oklahoma, liberal was always a term that was equated with atheist, promiscuous, uncaring, odd people, who were airhead hippies or angry, masculine women. This is still the view of many. It’s a strange cartoonish misconception.
There was a paradigm shift to come, but it took a long time. I was busy; too busy to have a clue what was happening in politics. I didn’t even watch the news. And there was a level of trust. I assumed that elected officials, by and large, were working for the good of the people, with the exception of the rare corrupt politician who hit on his young female staffer. So I voted, every time, straight party Republican. The catch phrases sounded good as well: less government, lower taxes; welfare queens. Personal responsibility.
The lead-up to the paradigm shift (the first crack in the wall) were the videos of police brutality and shootings from 2016 spread across my Facebook feed. I began to see a split amongst my friends: some who cared, others who felt the victims deserved it. Some who cared for the families who lost loved ones, others who labeled those who died as thugs. I started noticing when I disagreed strongly with my most conservative friends. Fast-forward to Obama speaking at the memorial of the fallen officers in Dallas. It was a moving speech, and I so agreed with Obama’s comments regarding discrimination and implicit bias. Once again, my most conservative friends disagreed. Those experiences greased the wheels of my paradigm shift.
The real game-changer for me was the day Donald Trump came down that escalator, surrounded by the outdated orange marble and brass-trimmed lobby – a place I knew and had traveled to for business. It seemed like a joke. Admittedly, I said to friends that it was refreshing that he was so outspoken and one didn’t have to wonder what he was thinking. It wasn’t too long before I realized that, sure, you knew what he was thinking – but that wasn’t a good thing. Each day became worse. He stirred up hatred and racism that I thought this nation had long been past. It became a firehose of stupid comments that were sexist, racist, and authoritarian. I began reading all of the past interviews and reports of Trump over the years, and found him to be a disgusting person in so many ways: the greed, the lies, how he treated his wives, how he treated workers, his utter lack of knowledge and unwillingness to learn.
My most conservative friends excused his flaws. The more outrageous Trump behaved, the wider that gap between all of us became – the most conservative on Trump’s side, the liberals on the other side, and all of the rest of us falling in the trench between. We felt concerned, bewildered and injured in many ways. We were questioning what we believed, and looking at our friends and families in a completely different way. Things became dicey. I lost friendships, many did. To this day, there are times I can’t talk politics in my parents’ home, depending on who is in the room.
The good part: the saga of Trump enabled me to take a look at what I believed, at my core values, and how they align with both major parties. It sounds dumb, but I had no idea, no idea at all that most of what I cared about was being fought for every single day by the Democratic party. I care about the environment and climate change. I believe science is important. I care about education, about discrimination. I care about laws regarding animal welfare. I care about immigrants. I care about the poor. I have friends who are Muslim and don’t see them as terrorists or evil people. I care that people have serious illnesses and can’t access medical care (my own sister couldn’t see a cardiologist because they wouldn’t accept patients who don’t have insurance, not even if you pay cash). This was the paradigm shift: I had no idea that compassion was a progressive value. I was in the wrong party my entire life.
So thank you, Trump. You made me discover that I was in the wrong party. I voted for the first Democrat in my lifetime (and I’m 53) on Nov. 8, 2016. As a registered Republican, I voted straight party Democrat. In December 2016, I officially changed my registration to Democrat. Now I feel like an evangelist – an evangelist spreading the news to Oklahomans. My goal is to find every single like-minded Oklahoman, every Republican who is compassionate and appreciates facts, every citizen who is asleep, every lazy Independent and Democrat who is not participating. Every disconnected person – like I was – who is uninvolved in politics. Now is the time to change Oklahoma. We can’t change the world, we can’t change America, but we can change Oklahoma. It’s our responsibility. It was people like me, people who were not paying attention to what was really happening, who created this mess. It’s our responsibility to fix it.
After crying for 24 hours following Trump’s win, the fighter in me woke up. No way will I take this lying down. I went online and started following every journalist, every media source and every thought-provoking leader I could find on Twitter. I also found a couple former congressional staffers on Twitter who were giving advice on activism. I created a Facebook group, and began sharing all of the tips. Eventually, those former staffers were part of the team that created the Indivisible Guide. When the website went up, I immediately went on and registered Indivisible Oklahoma. IO was amongst the first groups to be registered. People from all over the state began joining. It was a natural outgrowth to form satellite groups so that the members could meet in their cities and towns. We are now 40+ groups across Oklahoma and growing. Trump and the hard right conservatives are our best recruiters. Every outrageous thing they do and say, every lie told, every new tie to Russia exposed, works in our favor. We are now 6000 and growing, growing our leadership and have a 501(c)(4) in process – all in the reddest state in the country. We are #RedStateWoke. Oklahoma is a desert. Indivisible is the water.
Indivisible Somerville is proud to stand beside our friends in Oklahoma and the incredible work they’re doing. We’ve started a lab to work with Beverly and her team, sharing ideas, strategy, and technology. If you’d like to be part of this project, send us an email.