Even though I had been to Jimmy’s Egg at a previous blog meal with Stacy Dunn, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sit down with Ed Porter for a meal at the very place he and I first broke bread. Well, he had a meal that day back in 2013. I only had coffee.
I went in and grabbed a table near the entrance. The server came around and I asked her for couple of coffees. I knew Ed would want coffee. I’ve had hundreds of coffees with Ed over the years.
Ed is running for Congress in Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District. He is frustrated with the state of things. He said he’d love to invite Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell down to Oklahoma to see how everyday Americans are living.
So far he’s been impressed with the rural support for his campaign. He spends time stopping through small towns, chatting over coffee in diners, and getting to know folks. Ed’s campaign is grassroots to its core. It’s a campaign legitimately focused on listening to the electorate, and I can appreciate that. He visits the Mauds and Tecumsehs and Konawas of the state. He dips into the local eateries. He talks. And he hears what people are saying.
He’s working with limited resources, but has just begun to tap into a network of activists and thought leaders who are pulling for him. His message seems to resonate, which he believes is because he’s just expressing the same thoughtful frustrations as his fellow Oklahomans.
The Gazette recently ran an article on how Oklahoma is potentially trending blue. Ed has his reservations, but certainly sees the hope after all the recent Democratic special election wins.
I ordered eggs over easy, biscuits and gravy, bacon, and pancakes. Ed got medium eggs, bacon, raisin toast, and grits. The food came quickly and we dove in.
Ed certainly has an old school populist appeal. His office is decorated with imagery of MLK and the Kennedy brothers. He reads all the time – mostly biographies of notable civil rights and political leaders. It’s a theme for him.
He’s been researching small towns, looking at local newspapers, and meeting with journalists. He looks forward to facing the other primary contenders in the forums and panels that will take place early next year. He is excited to participate in the market of ideas and voice concerns he believes have been left out of the political conversation in the district for some time now.
Ed believes people should vote based on platform. They should ask hard questions. And if those hard questions aren’t answered, “Maybe they should pick another candidate.”
Ed believes Steve Russell is comfortable. Too comfortable. And that’s why he never comes into the sunlight to answer any hard questions.
“People being mad doesn’t get the job done,” Ed sighed. People have to get over their apathy. I talked for a bit about slacktivism in the modern era. Folks take to Facebook and Twitter to lob complaints and air grievances, but how many phones are they calling? How many doors are they knocking? Are they running for office?
Ed said the GOP has created too many obstacles for voters to engage with the process. He believes a few things sideline people from the process: non-compulsory registration, the effort necessary to become informed about the elections, and ID requirements.
Someone once said that politics is a bloodsport. Even more lately it’s become a team sport.
“Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a politician. Kennedy wasn’t a politician. No one is a politician until they get into politics,” Ed said.
Ed admits incumbent Democrats have to be careful in Oklahoma. Constituents can be fickle, and in some shaky legislative districts, saying the wrong thing with the wrong tone can be a tipping point moment. But he also believes Democrats should have more town halls. Take more questions. Listen more. Out-listen their Republican colleagues and opponents.
“The GOP doesn’t feel ‘unsafe’ enough to put themselves out there,” Ed joked. But feeling unsafe shouldn’t be a prerequisite for listening to those one represents in our government.
Messaging is important. Getting our legislators on record is important.
I remarked that it was the 46th week of my 52. A lot had changed for me so far in 2017. “Who are you going wrap up with?” Ed asked me.
I didn’t know. But I had five weeks to figure it out.
As we grabbed our things at the end of the meal, Ed lamented. “The sickness in our national politics may get worse before it gets better,” he said, “But sometimes you have to take your medicine.”
It feels like that’s what we’re doing now.