In The News
Ohio gets sanity ball rolling, Walker next to 'bounce'
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted Nov. 0
The United States’ first step back to sanity took place November 8 -- most prominently in Ohio but also from Maine to Mississippi. Citizens left and right have clearly had it with seeing their families served up as piñatas to extremist attacks on the middle class, so they are moving to wipe away the gains of a rabid minority in 2010 and exercise the powers of intelligence and common sense.
The next target on the road toward balance is the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Similar diverse forces within the electorate will launch Nov. 15 with rallies, more training in petition signups and seasoned legal combat to expected obstructionist efforts.
But Tuesday brought the first strike in the public’s coming of age -- refuting the ideas of Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich, who tried to strip -- nearly eliminate – bargaining rights of the state’s public workers.
He went further than Wisconsin’s Act 10 by including police and fire. But that was not the key difference in this case. Ability to respond was. Wisconsin voters had no opportunity to ask for a do-over. Ohio’s determined voters did and Nov. 8 they struck back in a referendum by voting no before Kasich’s law could go into effect.
It wasn’t close – with the night’s count ending, the vote against the Kasich plan was 61%, also sinking him lower in the polls, undercutting his political support and forcing his Republican legislature to go back to the drafting table.
For those who question the reference in the opening paragraph to the votes of 2010 being a “rabid minority,” consider: More people voted “no” in Ohio than voted in 2010 to elect Kasich.
Expect that recent vote to be explained away by the right as the power of union money, which suggests they are still angry that the unions almost balanced their considerable right-wing coffers.
But it was much more than a union victory, though clearly the unions were motivated and many came in from states like Wisconsin to support the effort. The numbers and areas of victory, both industrial and agricultural, reveal that this was the will of the people, involving far more than the private sector union workers and 350,000 public sector workers.
It was citizens of all stripes and backgrounds on the march – retirees, students, business owners, shop workers, all sensing that cutting into any worker's modest take-home pay was not a step to fixing the economy and was instead a major fabrication on the state’s fiscal problems.
The loss of anyone’s right to bargain, the lies about the size of state budget – all that may have driven the unions but it clearly resonated with a larger community that found Kasich’s approach ludicrous – and knew how easily they could become the next victim.
The money argument doesn’t fly either, though the AFL-CIO, union coalitions and other groups were open about their spending. They were up against a variety of efforts -- a pro-Kasich business coalition, several outside funded third-party hidden-donor networks, using mouthpieces like Liz Cheney and concocting warnings and misstatements that kept media watchdogs running to discredit.
Even if the power of money wound up even, though my survey indicates the right-wing still will have the edge when all the numbers come in, the Kasich defeat was lopsided. That deafening 61% dominance shows far more than cash at work.
Since Ohio is a key swing state in the 2012 presidential race no matter how you slice the calendar and the results, November 8 was akin to the first 2012 test of which way the public pendulum has swung. It is clearly swinging to reject the excess of the GOP, and excess right now is the coin of the realm of this dysfunctional field. The vote underscores the dangers if the GOP continues its “pity me” complaint that critics are engaging in “class warfare.” If true, the offended seem to have more votes, as well as more class.
In scrambling for a glimmer of hope, the GOP leadership pointed to a little noticed largely symbolic Ohio ballot issue where voters opposed a mandate for health insurance on all workers.
But any effort to paint that as anti-Obama was immediately shattered that day when a federal appeals court in D.C. – with an opinion written by a conservative jurist appointed by Ronald Reagan -- upheld the constitutionality of the entire Affordable Health Care Act. Even the dissent from another conservative jurist slapped down opponents of the health care bill, opining that the courts lack jurisdiction until 2015 when the full law goes in effect.
Aside from slightly coloring presidential politics, Ohio immediately puts the citizenry into opposition to the right-wing governors who interpreted 2010 as a mandate to behave like “petty tyrants” – a blistering piece of rhetoric that offends many lifelong Republicans.
Until you look at the vote. Many of those Republicans sided with the unions no matter how they felt about the words being used. What’s happening? Ask around and you’ll be surprised at how many regret that the moderate pragmatic party they once knew has evaporated into invisibility. So however they vote down the road, right now they want to restore decency by getting rid of Kasich, Walker and their ilk.
The election results nationally give further weight to how the current partisan extremism in the GOP is actually playing out in more conservative communities.
For instance, thinking emerged among the voters of Mississippi, a state where anti-abortion policy almost seems its own religion. If the initiative on the ballot had read, “Life begins at conception,” many observers think it would have sailed home.
Instead, the right-wing trying to manufacture a Supreme Court attack on Roe vs. Wade made it read “life begins at fertilization,” whether the fertilization lands in the right place or not. Despite much wailing and spending on the right, a grassroots uprising of voters recognized that most forms of birth control, any smell of incest and even in-vitro births were at risk and they soundly rejected the idea, by plus 58% as the night unfolded.
In Phoenix, voters recalled Arizona’s state senate president Russell Pearce, notorious architect of the controversial immigration law, replacing him with a Republican who condemned both Pearce and the state’s governor for the immigration attack.
In Kentucky, where Rand Paul’s 2010 election to the Senate was hailed as the big Tea Party win (followed closely by Ron Johnson in Wisconsin), that state may also see a correction at work as Democrat Gov. Steve Beshea readily won re-election by some 21%. And despite a well-heeled, celebrity dominated GOP attack on him because he opposed Paul, Atty. Gen. Jack Conway survived with 55% of the vote.
In Iowa, Democrats won a special election for a vacant state senate seat, clearly to keep Republicans from gaining control of the state government.
In Maine, where a Republican governor passed a law eliminating long-time highly regarded same day voter registration, angry voters by some 60% insisted on taking the same-day back.
If Walker can’t read all this handwriting on the wall, even in Wisconsin Nov. 8, the voters wrote large what is about to hit him. When Jennifer Shilling easily won a state Senate seat away from a Republican last summer, it left her Assembly District 95 vacant in the La Crosse region. The margin of Democrat Jill Billings’ win there was enormous – 72%. (The GOP still has a 59-39 Assembly margin, but many of those first term Tea Party candidates have to be looking over their shoulder now).
So dance as they will, Walker and the other right-wing governors elected in 2010 were receiving a clear warning from an aroused American public.