Recent years have seen concerted efforts by the American left to divide Americans along racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic lines. In this endeavor, the left is aided, abetted and even encouraged by far too many of the key institutions in American life, from the permanent bureaucracy to academia to Hollywood to the federal judiciary.
Conservatives understand the threat this effort poses to the foundational principles of a country whose national motto, “e pluribus unum,” signifies the melding of diverse identities, backgrounds and perspectives into a citizenry united by shared reverence for liberty, the Constitution and equality under the law.
In Oklahoma, these fundamentally American concepts are being tested by a wrongly decided U.S. Supreme Court case that is wreaking havoc on our state and dividing Oklahomans on the basis of ancestry. In McGirt v. Oklahoma (2020), the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, joined by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, sided with Jimcy McGirt, convicted of repeatedly raping a 4-year-old girl, to rule that the eastern half of Oklahoma remained Native American land and, therefore, thousands of criminal convictions under Oklahoma law were void.
The consequence of this disastrous jurisprudence is hard to overstate, both practically and philosophically. Over 18,000 criminal cases have been moved to Federal jurisdiction since McGirt, overwhelming a federal court system that is completely unprepared to handle this volume of cases traditionally handled at the state level. Justice is also being undone in numerous cases, with murderers, rapists and more being let out of prison, free to commit additional crimes. The victims are Natives and non-Natives alike; too often, it is tribal citizens who are bearing the brunt of this crime wave unleashed by the nation’s Highest Court.
The chaos caused by McGirt now threatens to undermine Oklahoma’s economic foundations. Local businesses in the area covered by the ruling are encountering multiple tax bills, one from the state and another from the tribe whose land the Supreme Court says they are on. Uncertainty abounds as to where this will end, and whether mineral rights, critical in an oil and gas state like Oklahoma, will be subject to state or tribal law. In an era of Washington-induced regulatory confusion, this is the last thing Oklahoma’s businesses need.
Oklahomans are rightfully proud of our unique heritage, blending the tradition of tribal sovereignty and profound respect for Native American culture with an unwavering commitment to equal justice for all. That means, regardless of ancestry, that Oklahomans receive the same treatment before our courts. No one is above the law, and every victim of crime is entitled to the same redress in our system. There is nothing more American than that.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has been courageous in his efforts to see McGirt overturned at the Supreme Court or addressed by Congress. While the former effort appears promising, with the court scheduled to hear arguments in a related case, it will ultimately require Congress to step in and address the flawed reasoning of the original McGirt case and provide the certainty all Oklahomans require. Powerful special interests oppose the governor’s efforts, and it will require strength and determination in Congress to resolve this crisis.
Yet this is not simply an Oklahoma issue or a matter of updating obscure early 20th-century legislation. McGirt is merely another example of the left’s attempt to divide Americans along demographic lines, using ancestry to create separate systems of justice at odds with the American belief in equal justice for all. What happens in Oklahoma will not simply remain here; how Congress and the courts respond to this unprecedented assault on our nation’s commitment to equal treatment for all Americans will echo loudly in the years and decades to come.
• Alexander B. Gray is a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Oklahoma. He served as chief of staff of the White House National Security Council under President Donald Trump, 2019-21.