Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

Political events outside New York and Washington tend go unnoticed by the national media.  With the exception of Presidential campaigns the national media tends to yawn about stories originating in America’s heartland or the far west.  So it comes as no surprise that you have to search long and hard to find much written about an Ohio political story that will soon have national implications.
Ohio Governor John Kasich announced yesterday that he is willing to weaken a controversial new law limiting collective bargaining rights for government employees.  Kasich statement is an effort to keep a repeal referendum of Senate Bill 5 off the November ballot.  His announcement comes just 48 hours after Wisconsin Republicans failed in an effort to recall two Democratic State Senators.
What’s the connection, you ask…and why does it matter?
As you know the 2010 mid-term elections swept into office a number of state legislators who campaigned on cutting spending and shrinking the size of their respective state governments.  These new legislatures, led by their conservative governors, moved swiftly to enact severe cost cutting legislation.  Armed with what they believed to be a mandate of the people they focused on cutting government employee benefits and outlawing their collective bargaining rights. 
Most notable were the events occurring in Wisconsin.  Governor Scott Walker enacted legislation that slashed employee benefits and took away their collective bargaining rights.  The repercussions were so loud that even the national media took notice.  Tens of thousands of protestors stormed the state capital where they camped out for days.  Democratic Senators fled the state in an effort to deny Walker the quorum he needed to pass the legislation.  Republicans found a way to circumvent the quorum issue and passed the legislation anyway.  All Republican Senators, save one, voted for passage.  The importance of that one vote will become apparent later.
Incensed Democrats were not to be denied.  They initiated recall proceedings to remove from office six Republican Senators who were key in passing Walker’s legislation.  Democrats would need to win three of the six races to take control of the Senate and repeal the legislation.  Their chances of success were minimal as the six Senators resided in overwhelmingly conservative districts that had voted Republican for decades.  Over $40 million dollars in special interest money poured into Wisconsin.  The Democrats fell short recalling only two of the six seats.
Republican countered by attempting to recall two Democratic Senators who had been instrumental in the uprising.  The efforts failed and the Democrats retained their seats.
He is where that lone Republican “No” vote comes in. 
By taking two of the six Republican seats and retaining the two seats Democrats previously held, the Democrats evened the balance of power in the Wisconsin Senate 16-16.  The lone deciding vote is held by a Republican…the lone Republican who voted against Walker’s union busting bill.  After months of contentious debate and $40 million in special interest money Governor Walker’s attempts to ramrod his legislation and bust the union is in dire straits.
Now the connection to Ohio!
A mere forty eight hours after the Democrats won their recall vote Ohio Kasich announced that he is willing to discuss amending his draconian collective bargaining legislation. 
Coincidence?  We think not. 
Kasich, like Walker took office under the wrong headed idea that he had a mandate to slash Ohio’s state government.  Like Walker, Kasich he took the power grab a step too far and went after the unions.  Ohioans revolted.  56% of Ohioans oppose the Governor’s bill with only 32% in favor of passage.  1.3 million Ohio citizens, four times the number needed, signed petitions to put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal the union busting law.
After steamrolling his way through the Ohio legislature…now Kasich wants to talk.
The importance of this local event on the national stage is notable.  Ohio is an important swing state.  Regarding Presidential elections, many have said: “as Ohio goes so goes the Presidency”.  If a rebellion of this magnitude can happen in Ohio it can happen anywhere.  The opposition to the draconian cuts undertaken by Ohio Governor Kasich is emblematic of the discontent being voiced against conservative legislatures all across the country.  Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey and Florida are but a few of the states where voters are rebelling against the slash and burn tactics of overreaching conservative legislators.  Each of these state’s governors approval ratings wallow well below 50%.  Florida’s Rick Scott holds the distinction of being the country’s least popular governor.  His cost cutting policies have garnered him a whopping 23% approval rating.  Ouch!  People are hurting and they are lashing out at anyone who attempts to cut the benefits and services they sorely need.
There is a huge ground swell of opposition to the cost cutting tactics of these conservative state legislatures.  You can be certain that the affects will be felt on Election Day.  The efforts in Wisconsin and Ohio are just the beginning. 
Kudos to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow!  She alone seems to have grasped  the significance of yesterday’s “Ohio” story.      

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