There's Even Hope for Pro-McCain Oklahoma
Republican John McCain made his best electoral showing in Oklahoma, winning the state by 66%-34%. Reporter Kirk Johnson, who finds right-wingers wherever he goes on his Midwest beat, can't seem to get his mind around the fact that some places didn't fall in line behind Barack Obama in 2008, and implicitly chides the "staunchly Republican, conservative" state for marching in an "orderly phalanx" behind McCain. But for Johnson there are signs of hope even in that benighted place, as he documented in his Inaugration Day story, "McCain Country Warms to Its New President."
"I voted for John McCain and still would," said Tim Driskill, in a flatly drawled declaration of certainty that still speaks for many in this place underwhelmed last November by the charms of Barack Obama, then the Democratic nominee for president.
Not a single county in Oklahoma stirred from the orderly phalanx marching behind Mr. McCain, the senator from Arizona who was the Republican nominee, and Mr. Driskill, the owner of an insurance agency in downtown Tulsa, said he was proud to be in those ranks. Statewide, two out of three voters supported Mr. McCain, the highest percentage in the nation.
But that staunchly Republican, conservative Oklahoma is harder to find now. While there are countless Mr. Driskills here - and hardly anyone doubts that Mr. McCain would easily win again in a redo of the vote - there are also new fractures and fault lines as some voters have shifted toward accepting what the rest of the country wrought in giving Mr. Obama a lopsided victory.
In interviews in the week leading up to Mr. Obama's inauguration, many people here said a tolerant spirit toward his presidency has been hastened, paradoxically, by some of the same groups that voted mostly Republican in the election. Those include active or former military personnel, and people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians, two groups with traditions of respecting hierarchical order and strong leadership.
But some people have, in fact, changed their minds. Leonard Nelson, 63, a 23-year veteran of both the Army and the Navy, said he had voted for Mr. McCain mainly through military fealty, believing that Mr. McCain's own military record would make him a better commander in chief.
"But I've come to think the better man won," said Mr. Nelson, owner of the Humidor Cigar Shop, an aromatic haven of pipes, blended tobaccos and customers on a first-name basis. Mr. Nelson said that Mr. Obama, through his cabinet selections, sent a signal of centrist government intention that feels all right to him.
Mr. Nelson's customers like Cliff A. Stark, a lawyer and pipe smoker, were more representative of the spirit of pained resignation that is common here. "It's just something you can't do anything about," Mr. Stark said.
Johnson concluded by hinting at racism, while describing white-owned businesses who refused to ante up money for an inauguration party:
Princetta Rudd-Newman is living through that mix of hope and anxiety. She exults one minute over Mr. Obama's election, she said, and frets the next over the future of the city she loves.
Her family has a long history here - an uncle began one of Tulsa's oldest black-owned businesses, a funeral home, in 1917 - and Ms. Rudd-Newman has been trying this month to organize an inauguration party in the city's historically black north end. But the money has not been coming in, especially at the $150-a-ticket Patriot level, pitched to local white-dominated corporations.
Ms. Rudd-Newman said she did not think it was about race. "It's financial, in my perception," she said. "It's hard times."