In the world of American politics the state of Ohio looms large. It is a key swing state populated by centrists that reject radical ideology from both the left and the right. If you are running for national office, carrying the Buckeye state is key; particularly if you are a Republican. No Republican President since Abraham Lincoln has won the White House without carrying Ohio. Elections in Ohio have national implications.
So it was a huge blow to Republicans when Ohioans voted overwhelmingly to repeal Governor Kasich’s signature piece of legislation; Ohio Senate Bill SB 5. SB 5 limited the collective bargaining rights of the state’s 359,000 government workers. It also required employees to pay at least 15% of their health care costs and 10% of their retirement contributions.
SB 5 was the cornerstone of Kasich’s austerity efforts to reduce spending in the state. He portrayed the bill as a necessary component of his plan to balance the budget and create jobs. Democrats countered that the bill was nothing more than an attempt to crush the union. Independents asked the most important question: “what does limiting collective bargaining rights have to do with creating jobs?” The answer of course is…nothing. The voters listened and rebuked the governor.
The SB 5 vote in Ohio is just another example of over reach on the part of a newly installed Republican majority. Kasich in Ohio, Walker in Wisconsin, Scott in Florida and Christie in New Jersey all took office believing that they had received an ideological mandate from the voters. They failed to understand that what the voters want is thoughtful, effective leadership that is fair. These governors put partisanship ahead of the good of the people and they were properly chastised for their efforts.
This off year result in Ohio is just another sign that our politics are fluid and that nothing should be taken for granted. Just look at the last three years. In 2009 the Democrats, buoyed by the historic election of the first black President imposed their will in Congress. Two years later the voters showed Nancy Pelosi and her caucus the door sweeping the Republicans into power. One year later the polls show the Congressional approval rating stands at a horrendously low 9%. The Democratic President presides over a failing economy and alarmingly high unemployment. Yet his political machine was able to generate a massive movement that repealed a key piece of Republican legislation in an important swing state.
Radical, ideological rhetoric may sound good on talk radio and it may help a candidate win a primary; but it has no place in governing. Elected officials who allow themselves to be held captive by their radical political base do so at their peril. The past few years have proven quite clearly that majority of the country is tired of the games and the gridlock.
The people want progress. If the incumbents can’t provide it the voters will find someone that will.