|The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus|
Unlike the planet Mars that confused early astronomers who didn't understand why it periodically moved in retrograde motion, Ohio GOP political leaders have over the past quarter century consciously put it in reverse with laws that represent their extreme social- and fiscal-conservative thinking.
After 216 years of statehood, and now just weeks away from the start of 2019, Ohio finds itself inextricably caught in the grasp of modern Republican Party activists who pride themselves on passing laws that further push the one-time state-on-the-move toward being a dysfunctional state that's losing the race for the future by forcing government to be the handmaiden of corporate shareholders who relish shifting the burden of taxation from fat-cat business to lean-income individuals.
With moribund population growth that leaves those who won't or can't move to 21st century states of opportunity, including Colorado, California, Washington, or Oregon, Buckeyes are now older, fatter and less educated than ever before. The so-called "forgotten man" of President Donald Trump's base, who believed his incredulous fake-news promises of bringing back well-paying manufacturing jobs that will never return, cry for handouts when a giant, very profitable corporation like General Motors shutters auto assembly plants to move jobs out of state, and even out of the country.
Republican candidates have controlled the gears of government—occupying the state's five constitutional offices and both chambers of the legislature by mostly large margins—for a quarter of a century. With the exception of four years from 2006-2010 when Democrats occupied four statewide offices and ran the Ohio House of Representatives for a lonely two-year stint, the heartland battleground state, whose well-paying, middle-class job industries of rubber, steel, glass and a host of other attendant automotive supply chain business, now confronts a future made less bright future, as knowledge-based tech industries like Amazon, Google or Apple reject it for other states where leaders and lawmakers value government's role instead of trying to hobble it.
Ohio's slide from its once mighty manufacturing prowess may have started in the 1970s, but accelerated when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) became law in the 1990s. NAFTA greenlighted the dismemberment of communities, large and small, who suffered as manufacturers sought cheaper labor in countries like Mexico or China, where unions are weak if they exist at all.
For a state that has consistently trended red Republican—with 2016 demonstrating it could support a crooked real estate developer male over a seasoned and experienced female government leader by nearly nine points and 2018 demonstrating again that GOP candidates can sweep away their Democratic rivals—allowing its legislature to be in perpetual session runs counter to Republican beliefs that government that governs lease governs best. This notion was espoused early on in America by Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father who in 1776 authored The Declaration of Independence, who aligned with farmers and states over Alexander Hamilton's fondness for bankers, manufacturers and a strong federal government.
With a full-time legislature comes full-time employment for lobbyists, as the Buckeye State ranks among the top states with registered lobbyists whose job is to win special deals for their special-interest clients.
With the exception of its lone Democratic leader, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, winning a third term
|Term-limited Ohio Gov. John Kasich|
In the 40 days between this year's November elections and the swearing in of lawmakers early next January, Ohio's lame-duck legislature is doing its best to pass a posses of bad bills that will further earmark the state as a state to stay away from, especially if you're a woman seeking your health rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Legislators can be expected to do some or all of the following in the coming weeks: raise their pay at will, pass more anti-women bills related to abortion that criminalize participating doctors and cater to National Rifle Association demands for loser gun laws.
With statewide Democrats held captive by their low numbers to the resolve of majority Republicans to have their way on core issues, the last hope of citizens to change how their government work is through citizen initiatives. But Ohio GOP leaders are working to keep citizens at bay by raise the bar for thresholds to let all Ohioans have a say on any single issue. Once issue that might well work, if sold to voters who think government spending is always bad, is to limit the time the legislature can be in session in any year. Much like a state like Maryland, where the legislature comes in for a few months to do its work, then sends elected officials back home to do something else, Ohio should take control of their government by enacting a constitutional amendment to turn a year-long legislature into a very limited session.
It's precisely during lame-duck sessions when the goblins of greed come out to insert provisions into bills that may have languished in committee or never received a hearing at all, only to rise from the dead as their next life as an addition to another bill is assured by leaders of one party who make the ill-tasting sausage they are famous for.
Retrograde motion comes from retrograde thinking, and Ohio stands second to none on this score. Gov. Kasich, a performance showman who wants a gig in the media to keep him alive for two years when he'll get schellacked again if he makes a third run for president, believes that low taxes create jobs, despite decades of his belief not working out in real time. He's done his best over eight years to exacerbate income inequality by lower taxes across the board, enriching the rich while expanding those who struggle to make a living at minimum wage jobs that often come with no benefits, especially healthcare.
America's National Chaplain, Kasich turned a blind eye to billions in wasted government funding that went to for-profit charter schools, that almost always underperform the worst public schools. Outrageous fees charged to pension funds for little in return, was a fruit ripe for the picking, but Democrats were oblivious to how to tackle this scandal to their advantage. Signing more than a dozen bills that put Ohio among the states with the harshest anti-women's health measures will be among Kasich's most harmful actions.
Former President Barack Obama
speaks at a "Vote Early" rally at The
Ohio State University in Columbus
It was a point of pride this year that voter turnout was over 50 percent. It was seen as proof citizens were engaged. The sad reality is that 48 percent of registered voters didn't vote. And more discouraging democracy is that, of the 7-million-plus registered voters, many more who are eligible to vote are not registered. Gov. Kasich won his re-election in 2014 by a 2-1 margin, and while that sounded impressive, he received fewer than one in four votes from registered voters.
Republicans want to run government like a private operation instead of public interest institution. The challenge for change now resides in the hands of ordinary voters. But voter apathy of voters, even during trying times like these when the nation's president lies every day with impunity, is the biggest obstacle to representative democracy.
Media could inform their readers with more than chase-the-stick reporting. But that seems a bridge to far for reporters who want access to officials and for editorial boards that seem to see the light only after elections are over.
Universal voting would make a 52-percent voter turnout seem terrible instead of the great turnout it was heralded this year. If Democrats ever want to win again in Ohio, they ought to be rattling the cage for a statewide initiative to amend the Ohio Constitution to provide for universal voting.
If everyone had to vote or suffer a significant civil penalty for not voting, Republicans would have to fear the will of voters, 99-percent of whom would not be millionaires because they scap along as best they can when GOP policies favor owners over workers.