It's tough to imagine what Sen. James Lankford did that was bad enough to get him skewered by his own party. Perhaps it's the fact that as the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol unfolded, he was speaking, and he called that act for what it was: an assault on members of Congress, which included Lankford himself.

At least initially, Oklahoma's junior senator was shaken. And the riot changed his mind about his intended vote that advocates of President Donald Trump hoped would keep him in the White House. For the Trump team, Lankford isn't extreme enough, or loyal enough, and they intend to make him pay for his refusal to declare the election results fraudulent.

Among the group out to get Lankford is Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, who is challenging the senator in the Republican primary. So is State Sen. Nathan Dahm, but Lahmeyer may have an advantage: He’s counting on an endorsement from Trump. Lahmeyer says all he has to do is prove to Trump he is “worthy” of his endorsement.

When a new poll from an Oklahoma City firm gave Lahmeyer a slim chance of defeating the incumbent, Lahmeyer called it “trash” and produced a summary of his own poll: "With as strong of a Pro-Trump state as Oklahoma is, ... if Lahmeyer earns the endorsement from President Trump and educates voters... about the things that Senator Lankford has done, Lahmeyer could outright win the GOP primary.”

That was reported by the Norman Transcript, which also published the data from the OKC poll, conducted Dec. 15-19. It surveyed 500 registered voters, 253 of them Republicans, and had Lankford’s share of the votes at 56%, down from the 62% logged in October. No wonder Lahmeyer is miffed: He’s riding drag. Dahm is polling at 9% and Lahmeyer at 8%, a drop from his 21% netted in October. Lahmeyer’s “internal polling” was managed by Roger Stone, who is familiar to anyone keeping up with current events. He’s the far-right consultant who worked for Trump, and was later charged with seven felonies, though Trump commuted his sentence.

There are several troubling aspects to this entire situation – the least of which is the fealty to Trump some candidates place over and above the people of the United States. Even Lankford, normally sanguine and mild-mannered, has moved farther to the right and has adopted a tone of urgency, sometimes denouncing bipartisan principles he once touted. His press releases – which every newspaper in the state receives several times a week, whereas they were rather sparse before – are replete with adjectives that conflate opinion with fact.

Lankford may believe he has to fight fire with fire, since his approach is far different from the one he has used in the past. He, like most other GOP candidates, is investing barrels of digital ink to lump Democrats together into one evil entity, and figuratively tying them to a pole and lighting a fire at its base. The strident tone is unfamiliar to those who have followed him for years, but perhaps he intends to move back toward the center once he dispatches Lahmeyer.

Many local Republicans hope that's what happens. Lahmeyer's rhetoric is so far to the right it smacks of fascism. And to be fair, some Democrats have marched so far to the left they'd get a nod of approval from Chairman Mao, were he alive to give it. It's a sorry state of affairs for those who yearn for a healing of the country's breach.

Voters need to pay attention to what's going on, and decide whether they care more about one man, or the country as a whole. The notion that a Republican can win only if he or she is in Trump's pocket should be disturbing to any rational human. Unconditional allegiance to one man, be it Trump or President Biden, should not be tolerated.

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