Monday, November 28, 2011

Are we again in the midst of Darkest Ohio?

SOME YEARS AGO, New Republic, then a liberal magazine, ran an editorial that snapped at the right-wing politics of Ohio's capital, Columbus. The headline above the piece was "In Darkest Ohio". As the editor of a small political magazine in Columbus who had written a couple of articles for New Republic, I had provided some of the grist for the editorial. The headline is worth recalling only because it could easily apply to the political culture of the current General

The folly of the Kasich Era should alarm anyone who cares about the Buckeye State's much maligned post-modern image.

The daily mash arriving from the Republican governor and his coterie of theocratic lawmakers is fearsome enough to forget about the legislative days when Democrats and Republicans vigorously argued their viewpoints and then shook hands and moved on to the next issue. (I can recall sitting down to late after-hours dinners near the Statehouse with both parties at the table and not fearing for my life.)

If there is a single word to describe the current political class down there it would have to be overreach - a serious illness, come to think of it - that has infected the ruling powers in the House of Representatives in Congress, too.

But for the time being, let's stick to the overreachers at the Statehouse. Despite the slaughter of Issue 2, the collective bargaining law (Senate Bill 5), there are actually voices in the legislature overreaching for more, insisting that the time has come to make Ohio a right-to-work state. It went to the ballot in 1958 with disastrous results for the proponents. But the anti-labor lawmakers are getting strong signals from an outfit called the Liberty Council (patriotism reigns with these groups that keeping dropping into the news) to add it to the Ohio Constitution.

There are also steps being taken for another constitutional add-on next year, the so-called Personhood Amendment that declares the creation of life at the nanosecond that the human egg is fertilized. It would be the most-restrictive anti-abortion measure in the nation. (Mississippi voters earlier this month overwhelmingly rejected a Personhood Amendment.)

Since things are believed to happen in threes, we've already seen the fatuous emergence of a restriction on the national health care law on this November's ballot and was passed 2-1. It would eliminate the mandate for everyone to buy health insurance. It played to the voters like a silent movie; even its opponents largely ignored it. Why? Because a state law can't override a federal law, that's why. But it will give Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine, who hates that national health care law, something to crow about.

What's going on in Buckeye Land? Unless you are a Tea Partier or right-wing religionist with a stranglehold on the Republicans in Columbus, you'll never be able to fully explain it. Nor will your state representative, who may not represent you at all.

1 comment:

David Hess said...

It is a hard lesson to learn, and over the past 30 years, Democrats and moderate-minded independents have been very slow to learn it. The lesson is that right-wing, social conservatives are tireless, uncompromising and sometimes ruthless in their political tactics. Simply stated, they never give up. In league with economic conservatives, who have formed epoxy-like bonds with their social-minded counterparts in the Republican Party, they have formed a voting bloc that now controls most GOP primary elections and shapes a firm coalition of true believers in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as many Statehouses. Polling over time has indicated that the views they espouse make for a minority of voters, though significant in some states. But it is a vocal, well-financed and unbending minority, exercising political strength and determination beyond its numbers. Center and left-of-center voters, like the party they usually adhere to, are fragmented and lack a coherent counter-ideology to blunt or foil the relentless push of the Right. As long as this dynamic prevails, the growing gap between the rich and the middle-class and poor will continue to widen, the use of government power to restrict the reproductive choices of women will spread, the access to adequate health care by all Americans will be impeded, the needed reforms to improve education and vocational training for our young will be retarded, the switch to alternative, renewable energy sources and technology will be sidetracked, the degradation of our environment will proceed, the tax breaks and other forms of corporate and agricultural welfare will flourish, and the enormous sums we spend on bellicose foreign adventures will not shrink.