August 6, 2012 | 12:40 pm
Why Oklahoma’s Medicaid Expansion Fight Isn’t Like Its New Deal Fight
Arthur Rothstein / Library of Congress
A Cimarron County farmer works to raise a fence to keep it from being buried under drifting sand. Oklahoma's Dust Bowl exodus fueled voter support of Oklahoma governor E.W. Marland's and his campaign motto, "Bring the New Deal to Oklahoma," in 1934.
Oklahoma is once again wrestling with the federal government, this time over whether it should accept funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Does this feel familiar? It should, writes the Tulsa World‘s Wayne Greene, because it recalls “one of the great turning points in Oklahoma political history:” the transition from Great Depression politics to New Deal politics.
So is the fight against ACA a modern-day version of the Dust Bowl dust-up over the New Deal?
No, Greene writes: “… things are different than they were in 1934.”
Oklahoma’s Great Depression governor — William “Alfalfa” Bill Murray — distrusted big government. “Murray was a lot like Oklahoma at the time: ornery, countrified and politically volatile,” Greene writes.
Murray did everything he could to keep Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal out of Oklahoma. “As a result, the bitterest years of the Depression were even more bitter in Oklahoma,” Greene writes. “Residents by the thousands lit out for the dusty western horizon.”
Murray was replaced by E.W. Marland in 1934. Marland’s campaign was simple: “Bring the New Deal to Oklahoma,” a promise that trounced Murray’s “handpicked” successor, Greene writes.
But Great Recession Oklahoma is not like Great Depression Oklahoma. People are moving to the Sooner State, not fleeing it. Most Oklahomans, Greene writes, are more worried about taxes and the deficit than they are the “social safety net.”
Expanding Medicaid under ACA is a hard choice for Gov. Mary Fallin. But it’s more political than historic, Greene writes:
… anger low-income Oklahomans who want health care and hospitals that need the Medicaid money or run the risk of igniting a prairie-fire tea party revolt against her re-election campaign – and one that she has sidestepped for now.