On Tuesday night, a handful of folks in Kingfisher, Oklahoma held the first regular meeting of the Kingfisher County Democrats that had been held in quite some time.
You might expect this to be a story about how we have to water down the party to make gains in places like rural Oklahoma. You might expect this to be a tale of sadness and woe and misery, or another heaping helping of Oklahoma put-downs.
Well, follow me below the fold, and instead you'll hear about how Nate Silver helped set the tone for this meeting in Sam Walton's hometown.
At Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters, we caught wind of this meeting just a few days before it was set to take place. In the interest of supporting Democrats everywhere - and, to be completely honest, in the interest of stopping for some of the world's best fried chicken on the way home - we decided to make the trip to Kingfisher and see how the meeting went.
A little background on Kingfisher... In the last election, here's how Kingfisher County voted:
KINGFISHER - McCain/Palin: 5,372 [84.2%] | Obama/Biden: 1,009 [15.8%]
84-16 was bad even for Oklahoma, where Obama received over 34% statewide. In the race I worked on in 2008, Andrew Rice's U.S. Senate campaign, we didn't fare too much better - 74.6% of Kingfisher County voted for incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe, while Rice received 21.5%.
Last night, at about a quarter to 7, we pulled into the parking lot of the meeting place - a bank right on Main Street with a community room for different groups to use. The meeting was supposed to start in 15 minutes, and not a soul was to be seen in the parking lot. At that point, I didn't know which outcome I'd prefer - for us to have the wrong night for the meeting, or for us to have the right night and have nobody show up.
Well, it turned out we did have the right night, just the wrong parking lot. On the other side of the building, we found the right door and a couple of cars just arrived.
When I entered the door, the sole figure in the room was Worth, the county vice-chair, who was setting up an American flag in the corner. Worth is well over 6 feet tall, and with his glasses and his build, I could have believed he was Garrison Keillor's long-lost son. He greeted us warmly, and we went to work getting out some materials and sign-in sheets for whoever might follow us in the door.
I told you this wasn't a tale of woe and misery, but it's not a tale of shock and awe, either. In the end, the meeting was a dozen people - four of us who rode in from Oklahoma City, three people from an adjacent county who came to show their support, and five residents of Kingfisher County - including Worth, his wife Paula (also a county officer), an older couple who may have started life as Roosevelt Democrats, and a middle-aged gentleman who had run for the legislature in 2008. Five county residents and seven out-of-towners would normally not be much to write home (or write Kos) about. In fact, Paula mentioned that most of the people in the county were working on harvest and might not be able to come to a meeting until fall.
Though we had a loose agenda, Worth had clearly prepared his opening remarks. And the first thing he said was:
"Back in September, I was watching the Daily Show."
I turned my head. This was about the last way I'd expected this meeting to start. I was too intrigued to even exchange a glance with our state party chair, Todd Goodman, who was sitting next to me.
It got better. Worth started talking about this one pollster who had accurately predicted longshot teams to win in baseball, then predicted a longshot win for Barack Obama in 2008.
In Kingfisher, Oklahoma is one of the last places I expected to run into a Nate Silver junkie. But that pretty much ties in with the moral of Worth's story - and the moral of my own story: if we are to make gains as Democrats, we must never, ever write off the longshot.
Most of the meeting we talked about how you go about starting a county party from the ground up. Not one person suggested we had to pander. Not one person suggested we should hide from some issues. No one, no one, floated the idea of running from our Democratic principles.
Quite the contrary. We talked about engaging people we disagreed with and writing letters to the editor of the local paper. We talked about email lists and call lists and registering people to vote outside the supermarket.
We talked about doing the one thing that is going to bring about change anywhere - we talked about talking to people.
Change always starts somewhere. Usually the biggest changes start with the smallest ideas, and that's what I felt like we were doing in Kingfisher last night. In Oklahoma, where the Democratic Party frankly has nowhere to go but up, starting small and working hard will get the Democratic Party back on its feet in the years to come.
So here are the people who started something last night in rural Oklahoma. I think you'll be hearing more from us in years to come.
- Karina Henderson
Communications & New Media Director
Oklahoma Democratic Party