Many suspect all or part of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, except U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, were trying to finesse the voters when they agreed to protest several states’ electoral votes on Wednesday.
If so, it obviously didn’t work.
Some of the very people the Oklahoma lawmakers were trying to assuage stormed the U.S. Capitol and ransacked it. Five people had died as of Friday evening.
In the aftermath, 1st District Congressman Kevin Hern remained steadfast in his decision to contest the votes.
“I have a duty to stand firm with the millions of Americans across the country who share deep and legitimate concerns about the integrity of our election system and the unconstitutional changes to the election laws in certain states during the presidential election,” he said in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
But others couched their words and actions leading up to Wednesday in terms of constituent concerns. U.S. Sen. James Lankford dropped his objection altogether.
They weren’t really trying to keep President Donald Trump in office or deny Democrat Joe Biden the White House, they said. They just wanted some answers.
“Many have questioned my decision to support challenging states’ electoral college votes,” said 5th District Congresswoman Stephanie Bice, in office for less than a week. “Let me be clear — my vote represented my desire to ensure the security of elections across the country, not to overturn an election.”
On Thursday, Lankford told constituents, “My goal was never to put our constitutional system at risk, nor was it ever to overturn an election.”
At the moment the Capitol was breached, Lankford was speaking in favor of a delay in verifying the Electoral College certification.
His hope, he said, was that a 10-day audit by a 15-member commission would settle lingering questions about whether, as President Donald Trump claimed, the election had been “stolen.”
“I am well aware that some in our state have said — along with the national media — that more than 50 court cases have already settled this election,” Lankford wrote on Thursday. “The problem with that argument is that clearly they haven’t. Thousands of people still have questions.”
But Lankford has been very reluctant to say that anything irregular in the presidential election actually changed the outcome. Even 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who has perhaps been most forceful in saying there might be something to Trump’s claim, this week fell back on the argument that any irregularities were too many.
In truth, no court or election expert has said anything illegal or irregular materially affected the presidential election — or that there was anything really problematic about it.
But that message is a hard sell to tens and probably hundreds of thousands of Trump loyalists in Oklahoma.
“I have talked to friends who have told me this is such a critical and urgent moment that we should ignore the Constitution and the law to save the election and keep President Trump in office,” Lankford wrote Thursday. “I have even had people tell me that, ‘They cheated first, so we don’t have to follow the law anymore.’
“I have also had people tell me that Congress is the last line of defense from our nation becoming a socialist nation so you need to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening, including overturning the state’s electors. I wholeheartedly disagree. I will not violate the Constitution to save the Constitution.”
James Fields, an Enid truck driver interviewed as he drove toward Washington on Wednesday, expressed the fear and in some cases panic many Oklahomans feel at the prospect of a Democratic administration.
“Biden wants to shut down the refineries and put oil and gas out of business,” Fields said. “This country was built on oil. Every member of my family going back generations has worked in the oil field.”
President-elect Joe Biden has, in fact, dismissed the idea of shutting down fossil fuel production, but his agenda does include transitioning to cleaner sources of energy.
“They talk about creating 70,000 clean energy jobs, but they’ll be putting millions out of work,” Fields said.
Whether or not that would prove true, it is believed. That belief, fed by politicians and media across the political spectrum, created the fury confronting Lankford and the others.
Almost every member of Oklahoma’s delegation said at some point after the Nov. 3 election that they believed that Biden, a Democrat, would become president on Jan. 20. But in the end, they agreed to something they knew probably wouldn’t work, perhaps in the hope that it really would clear up some things, or that they would at least get credit for trying.
The suspicion is strong that Oklahoma’s Republican delegation — except Inhofe, who at 86 says he’s run his last campaign — mostly wanted to avoid primary challenges from the very sort of people who were tearing down the doors to the U.S. Capitol.
In fact, in a few cases they may have been the actual people. An Oklahoma flag was spotted among the crowd, and several activists from the state were seen near the Capitol entrance, though it’s not clear they actually went in.
To be clear, only a very small portion of the pro-Trump protesters in Washington on Wednesday were involved in the attack on the Capitol. But the same can be said of other protests where violence has broken out.
And in no other protest have participants broken into the nation’s Capitol.
As Mullin said on Thursday, there is a lot of blame to go around. But a Capitol police officer died in the melee. House members saw a young woman shot to death — and saw a Capitol police officer shoot her to protect them.
So, no, whatever the plan was, it didn’t work.
Video: Sen. James Lankford decries ‘rioters and thugs’ in speech after Capitol breach