Yet, rather than convince fellow citizens that they shouldn't choose to sign the SOS petition — an action the union has every legal and political right to undertake — the OEA is asking its members to become the thought police at stores and malls in the state.
A recent email alert urges OEA members to, in effect, falsely report that they are being bothered by Stop Over Spending petitioners. The idea is to have the petitioners removed from stores and malls and anywhere they might be able to speak to their fellow Oklahoma voters. The message from Brenda Snider, the union's "membership accounts consultant," reads:
While you are shopping, going to the post office or sitting at a football game please be on the lookout for the petitioners. If you see a petitioner while shopping this weekend contact the malls at the numbers listed below and tell them that you are being bothered by their petitioning. Print a copy of the message and take it with you this weekend.
"Oklahoma's organized left is now officially panic-stricken," offered Brandon Dutcher, vice-president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, sizing-up the union's ringing call for an enforced political silence. And Dutcher added, "Well, I would suggest they're right to be concerned about a spending limitation. A statewide survey conducted two weeks ago by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass found the idea is ridiculously popular, at 74 percent to 17 percent."
OEA's call for harassment of petitioners is having an impact. Here's an interesting reply from Steve Hunt of Oklahoma City to an article about the spending cap initiative on the website for the OU Daily:
The other day I saw one of these people outside a store. I went into the store and told the manager that he cussed me and my mother out for not signing. He called the security people and they ran him off. Now, sure this isn't true . . . he didn't cuss me out. But the way they are subverting democracy is a heck of a lot worse than me dealing with them in a manner I did.
I guess it'd be a waste of time to explain to Mr. Hunt that the end doesn't justify the means. But he should think again about who's subverting democracy.
And there is that lingering odor of totalitarianism. Sure, I know that's too strong a word. It's just that squelching speech and strong-arming people to prevent the free exercise of individual rights are the hallmarks of totalitarianism.
On the other hand, the American way is to peacefully persuade people in open debate. Oklahomans should be free to decide for themselves if they want to Stop Over Spending.