Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Ohio GOP and ’08 Elections

Peter Brown at Real Clear Politics argues--to my mind correctly--that as Ohio goes in this election cycle, so goes the nation. That is NOT good news at the moment. The Ohio GOP is, to put it mildly, a mess. The economy in Ohio is not, shall we say, dynamic. I suppose there are many things that could explain all of this and, not being there as often as I would like, I have only followed them from a distance. But serious minds should wrap themselves around this problem. The GOP in Ohio is in need of an infusion of good people, good ideas, and the backbone to support both. This forum is as good a place as any for batting some (ideas--not people please!) around.

Discussions - 21 Comments

What’s to talk about? He’s right. Our local Republican formerly fairly conservative Congressman votes for pro-union legislation, against the war, and when asked about his recent votes cites the current political climate as if his constituency re-electing him to office was purely personal and had nothing to do with party affiliation. He is almost certainly right about that. Nearly every other Republican pol. in the state was replaced in the last election. Right now, this year, it is tempting to ask for a comments block on every Republican - just a hiatus, for a matter of months, please. The GOP in Ohio, the GOP in the nation, needs to take some time to regroup and recenter. What you say, ...an infusion of good people, good ideas, and the backbone to support both. sounds about right. Until Republicans have those, maybe they could just go quiet for a bit.

It isn’t just the war, though the war and war-weariness has something to do with it. It isn’t the economy, which really isn’t bad; not even in Ohio after the last Republican governor did so much to drive business out. Which brings me to the big question: what is the GOP for? Tell me again.


The Barone article cited in a post this morning was good, as far as it went. There was something missing from it, and I wish I could articulate what I merely sense. There is an unhappy tide running. Maybe it is a longing for greater social security. Maybe the sense is that if we are going to have big government, we might as well have it run by those in sympathy with it. But the essential conservative argument, that the government that governs best, governs least, has certainly been lost. The why of it is gone, and it is all a matter of who, when, and how and the GOP doesn’t play that game so well. Nor should it, I say. But then, I am not running for political office, not like my congressman.

Julie, the Electoral College should dictate the Republican’s play. We’ll need to make up for the lost Electoral College votes of Ohio, {about 20 of ’em, the exact number I’ve forgotten}. So where are we going to get those votes?

Not going to find an extra 20 Electoral College votes in the Deep South. Nor are we going to find them in the Mountain West. So that leaves the Pacific states and the Northeast.

McCain supposedly polls well in the Golden State, but we’re not going to take California, that state is seriously Democrat, and after another year and a half of George W. Bush, California voters simply aren’t going to turn to another Republican.

Which leaves the Northeast.

Giuliani places the Electoral College votes of the Empire State in play. Moreover, he places New Jersey and Pennsylvania both, in play. There are many Italian American voters in New Jersey, and there are many throughout the Keystone State. He could bring sufficient votes in to carry those states, which would place the Presidency beyond whatever nominee the Democrats choose.

He’s respected in New Jersey, likewise Pennsylvania, not just for the events of 9/11, but for the difference he’s made in New York City. People from the area who’ve travelled to the Big Apple can’t help but notice the profound difference in the City.

I think the smart play is Giuliani, balanced with an ARTICULATE Conservative, such as Fred Thompson.

But the most important thing that Republicans can do, who are worried about ’08, is make sure the President starts governing consistently with the Platform of the GOP. This Party can’t afford anything like his amnesty provisions veiled as "comprehensive immigration reform." We can’t afford one more vast bloodletting amongst ourselves, certainly not after Katrina, the Dubai Ports deal, Meirs and then immigration. We can’t afford the President adding to the weight of the millstone this Party already carries because of him, and because of his style.

Because of him, winning is going to be enormously difficult. And we can’t allow him to do anything that makes it that much more difficult.

That shouldn’t be understood as urging him to dodge a showdown with Iran. President Bush should use this hostage drama as an excuse to go after that regime. Even though no additional excuse is needed or necessary.

We can’t afford the President adding to the weight of the millstone this Party already carries because of him, and because of his style.

I think you place too much of the blame on this particular president, and not enough on the GOP. The problem is that, to borrow from Mr. Moser, it’s just not "reasonable" to assume conservatives hopes have any chance in the GOP. Liberals pull the strings, and another liberal (i.e. Giuliani) just gets us more liberalism. What’s the point of winning elections with liberals? What’s the point of winning elections if all you get is more liberalism? Let’s be honest, the GOP just ain’t "it", and never has been.

Now, can’t we get back to the real point of this blog, Lincoln?

Christopher, is the question how would Lincoln do as a presidential candidate in Ohio today?


Dan, in Ohio, I know, it is NOT just about Bush. Not that he is particularly popular here, but the GOP is very unpopular in the state right now, after years of political success. Business and industry have been leaving the state for years, and who goes with them? Not the workers, but upper and middle management, those more likely to be Republicans. But I can’t think that is all of it, because I used to hear blue-collar types supporting the GOP here, and now they are disgusted by corruption, the ineptness at big government that I mention above, as well as that rotten market for jobs.

Kate you are shrouding the GOP’s failures in worker v. management warfare. Not true and not constructive.

What Ohio has not had for a long time is a candidate with, as you and Julie say, good ideas, and just as importantly good rhetoric and campaign skill. We need a new generation politician, energetic, smart, and good at communicating small government principles. Also, since we are a state, campaigns ought to be focused more on the economy than on social issues of which governors have little control. But that takes us back to a little campaign skill.

But for the grumpiness in post #3, you all make some interesting and good points above. Much of Dan’s "strategery" makes good sense to me . . . though I am not as critical of the current administration as he seems to be. Nor do really believe that a focus on serious immigration reform is a slam-dunk winner for Republicans. Much of what guys like Dan want for immigration reform is exactly right--but the rhetoric about it has gone ’round the bend, so to speak. It does not hold any potential to win friends or influence. The kind of people who are influenced by such rhetoric needed no influencing in the first place. Volumes could be said about this . . . though not here. Why? I wonder if any of it has anything to do with Ohio. That seems a rather difficult case to make. There may be some reflexive wish to tighten immigration as a national issue in Ohio--but Ohioans are not Califorians or New-Mexicans or Texans or Arizonans. It’s not an omnipresence in their lives. If there is any role that the GOP meltdown on immigration played in influencing Ohio voters, it was probably only its contribution to the sense that many have about the GOP having no spine. Fix that impression (don’t ask me how!) and we’ll be on to something--as Dan may be with his Guiliani/Thompson ticket idea. I might prefer something stronger . . . but that might do the trick.

"If there is any role that the GOP meltdown on immigration played in influencing Ohio voters, it was probably only its contribution to the sense that many have about the GOP having no spine."

The GOP is increasingly seen as corrupt and out of touch with the voters. Immigration is front and center in that problem. Politicans who wink at law breaking in return for money ARE corrupt, and are seen as such by the voters.

The other problem is that immigrants are not the type of people who are interested in the limited government message of the GOP. They consistently vote for the Democrats by large margins. It would seem obvious that people with an interest in politics would take this into account. Why they prefer to ignore it instead is a mystery.


"Volumes could be said about this . . . though not here."

Why not here? This is the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, yes?

"Giuliani places the Electoral College votes of the Empire State in play. Moreover, he places New Jersey and Pennsylvania both, in play."

I doubt that very much. The various opinion polls on this question are meaningless. In any case it has to be asked what other states Giuliani would lose. I suspect that there are more than a few battleground states where a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-amnesty, pro-gay candidate will lose enough votes to hand victory to the Democrats. Who are the people who will man the phone banks or go door to door for Giuliani?

First, let me apologize for the Lincoln quip - it was meant as tounge in cheek.

But for the grumpiness in post #3

I would not be so quick to dismiss the idea (that the GOP is NOT the bearer of conservative hopes). Notice what you good folks are arguing for: Guiliani. Not sure what the point of winning an election is if all you get is more liberalism...

"Volumes could be said about this . . . though not here." I only meant that I didn’t want to start a whole separate thread on this subject within this thread. It’s a legitimate discussion, of course.

I still don’t want to start another thread within a thread on the question of immigration in the GOP, however, because I’m more interested in the problem with the GOP in Ohio. But if you really think immigration is a leading Ohio issue, I’ll discuss that narrow topic here. I’d love to see some data to support it that thought. I have no data and I’m not interested enough to go looking for data to suggest that it is not that important in Ohio, but I think the burden of proof in this case is for those who argue counter-intuitively. Apart from seeing such data, I find it very hard to believe--unless the Canadian border has been getting really leaky and no one’s keeping track of Lake Erie, that immigration is in the top 3 issues for Ohio voters.

Take a look at this interview with Tom Tancredo and see what you think of Hewitt’s points and Tancredo’s defense of himself. I tend to be a little harder than Hewitt on immigration reform, but I wonder if he’s not just more savvy about it and not--as he sometimes seems--soft on it. He raises some points that are difficult to refute. It doesn’t seem like it’s a winning issue in many ways. What people keep seeming to miss on all these subjects where the "get tough" crowd shouts over those who argue for "moderation" is that our system is not set up to favor those who are unsuccessful at persuasion! Moderation does not always mean getting squishy. It does not always mean "bide your time, and wait." I do not say that we should abandon the issue to the wolves--but I do say that we have to be persuasive and, clearly, the strategy of Tancredo, Gilchrist and J.D. Hayworth was not/is not persuasive--at least not persuasive enough. Volumes could be said about that too--but not by me right now. Gotta go! Have at me!

I got that the Lincoln quip was tounge-in-cheek, Christopher. I’m not that thick or humorless. But I still think you sound grumpy. You are grumpy about the GOP not being conservative enough for you. I get that. So you want to find a new vehicle in which to ride off into the sunset. I prefer to stay and fight.

I’m not sure what points you think Hewitt made that are "difficult to refute".

HH: No, I’m saying that we lost a majority because you scared so many people with anti-illegal immigration rhetoric into not compromising at a critical moment, that we lost all sorts of momentum, all sorts of credibility, we’re not getting the fence built, that you played to win.

If Hewitt actually thinks that the GOP did poorly in the November elections because Tancredo scared people away, then he’s a loon. I suppose this is difficult to refute, but not because its such a solid point. Voters were polled on the issues at the time, and nobody ever said anything like this. Its difficult to refute because its so incoherent.

our system is not set up to favor those who are unsuccessful at persuasion

I don’t understand your point here. The amnesty juggernaut keeps rolling forward because the establishment in both parties wants it to, not because of any great skill at persuasion on their part. The fact that it has not yet been passed, and that the Democrats refuse to pass it unless Bush can round up significant GOP support to give them cover, indicates just how unpopular it is.

Regardless of the popularity of amnesty, the long term political implications here are undeniable, and they are devastating for the GOP and any sort of conservatism. If this comes to pass we can forget about the judiciary, about any and all "social issues", about "small government", about taxes and spending, about support for democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. Personnel is policy, and that is even more true for the citizens in a democracy than anywhere else.

I think that the false dichotomy between the "amnesty" and the "round ’em up" crowd is driving this debate to no good. I agree with you that this is a serious issue and that it needs to be addressed in a serious way. I guess I disagree with you that Tancredo presented one. Taking something seriously means moving the debate forward toward victory. It does not mean drawing lines in the sand at every turn and daring people to cross you. They crossed him and what could he do? Nothing. His power and his influence amount to nothing. Why? He could have been what his supporters mistakenly believe that he is. But he was imprudent and unnecessarily inflammatory. In not seeing that his "make no compromise" rhetoric was getting him nowhere and in not responding to the criticism in any effective way, he blew it. I don’t just blame him, however. I also blame the weak-kneed Republicans who should have seen that this guy was headed toward self-destruction and could have but did not step in--either to stop him or to pre-empt him. Yes, too many in the GOP fold are pandering to the elements who want cheap labor for their interests. But there are enough within the GOP who could make the serious case about immigration without going "Tancredo." Unfortunately, Tom Tancredo made it much more difficult for them to do that.

Clint, I do not think I was discussing worker/management issues. I was writing about the reduction in a certain demographic and what I am discerning as a change in the political attitude of another. The information on the former I have from the various small-business advocacy groups in which my husband is involved. The latter is anecdotal from friends, neighbors and my students, which I think might be supported by the results of the last election.

Ohio used to have relatively low taxes on businesses, and now it does not. This is why Ohio’s economy is in relatively bad shape. I see no evidence that the current Democratic administration of the state intends to improve this situation. However, it was a Republican administration that set current tax policy towards business, and it was one of their bad ideas.


Good rhetoric, small government principles, sound economic policy and campaign skills sound just fine to me. Do you know anyone who fits that bill?

Julie, you may have misunderstood my objections to Bush’s proposed "comprehensive immigration reform." My main objection is that it would be politically brain dead at this time. My point concerned the politics of the issue, I avoided the substance of the immigration debate.

My views on immigration don’t jive either with the President or Congressman Tancredo. I’m far more kindly disposed towards Mexicans than many here might suspect.

No one out there of any prominence in OH...or nationally for that matter.

Clint, exactly. Hence, my depression on the topic is not unreasonable.

Dan, it does seem hard to say someone trying to escape the mess that is Mexico or any Central American or South American nation, or any wretched place at all, "No, don’t come here. The hell with you, I’ve got mine." I KNOW all of the issues with immigration, but when it comes down to a person, it is awfully hard. That’s all I am saying.


There are immigration problems in Ohio. I know of at least two, one being just north of me in Lake County which has a large Hispanic population and a neighborhood in Painesville where it is dangerous to go because of the potential violence against strangers. There’s a great little restaurant there with the best Mexican food, but even those who work there will tell you not to come for supper, but only for lunch.


Second is a Somali community in Columbus, about which I know less, it not being near. I have spoken to two people from that neighborhood whose description of the violence there centered on conflicts between Muslims and Christians within the the community. Otherwise, it sounded a very familial sort of place, as ghettoes were in the 19th century.


I love being an American; and understand other people wanting to come here. I do see that we have to something, but do NOT see what, as each time it comes down to a person. Sometimes that person is not one we’d want here, but sometimes he is. Given the numbers of persons involved, what to do seems insoluble.

In not seeing that his "make no compromise" rhetoric was getting him nowhere

Thats an odd take on things, and it shows the power of the establishment to frame the debate. The Tancredo position IS the compromise position, if a full spectrum of possibilities are considered. It only becomes "extreme" if you start with the assumption that punishing the lawbreakers (American as well as illegal immigrants) is off the table to start with.

I don’t see what is wrong with saying that we will not prosecute the illegals or their employers, but the illegals have to go and the employers have to stop breaking the law. Their past transgressions will be ignored. That looks like a generous offer to me. It’s a sign of how skewed the debate is that it is taken as "inflammatory".

I think that the false dichotomy between the "amnesty" and the "round ’em up" crowd

There is no "round ’em up crowd" anywhere in this debate. Perhaps there needs to be, as their absence allows the "center" to be skewed heavily to the left. It reminds of the way that "extreme right" in the abortion issue is made up of people who simply want the matter returned to the legislature, rather than those wanting the courts to rule abortion unconstitutional.

Trying to be "reasonable" in this fashion simply means you lose out with people who pride themselves on splitting the difference between whatever is on offer.

I also blame the weak-kneed Republicans who should have seen that this guy was headed toward self-destruction

What on earth are you talking about? I get the impression that all politics is personality to you, and that you have a personal dislike for Tancredo for reasons you have not yet articulated. You have yet to explain why his position is bad public policy rather than good. Maybe its my fault for thinking that I might find intelligent discussion of policy issues here.

John: I think Hewitt’s explanation in the link above says it better than I can but, in sum, Tancredo’s support for Jim Gilchrist over John Campbell in the special Congressional election last year in California was enough to tell me that the guy lacks judgment and prudence. But what’s worse is that he has allowed himself to be used by a couple of local talk show shouters (whose show is not a serious show--but rather a kind of "blow off your steam after work" rant-fest)for the purpose of boosting their ratings by feeding a bunch of red-meat to the anti-immigrant sentiment out here. No matter what he says, they use it as an opportunity to invite inflammatory and unsavory discussion. His appearances on that show and in other venues--no matter what the alleged substance of his policies is--do not elevate or inform public opinion. They serve to make people feel justified in their prejudices. If Tancredo knows that his appearances in these venues is having this effect, it means he is doing something bad and he is just the worst kind of populist. If he does not know that he’s having this effect, he’s missing the boat "big-time" and that tells us something else entirely--also not good. It’s not about personality for me--but it is about statesmanship and a person’s capacity for it. For me, it is not enough that a candidate supports a policy that I favor. A candidate--particularly a presidential candidate--must support good policy in a way that is effective and intelligent and demonstrates good political judgment. That’s why I guess I don’t "like" Tancredo--as you say. But it’s nothing so petty as "personality" (a word I almost never use, by the way). I would more likely say its about judgment and character and, for me, there is no deeper substance than that.

Dan: I am sorry if I misunderstood you regarding immigration and I am glad that we seem to agree. I was more responding to John in most of those posts. I think I agree with you that bringing this subject up right now would be "politically brain dead." The Dems would be happy to push through something very bad (though not as bad as they might prefer) with Bush signing it . . . it would weaken him and the rest of the GOP in the eyes of their base. All the people who care deeply about illegal immigration instantly would become disaffected GOP voters (even more than they already are). Many of them who otherwise agree with the Dems would have no reason to think about doing something different. A smart Dem running for Pres would take this issue up in a big way--and if I’m not mistaken, I believe I heard some rumblings about Obama doing just that.

I am angry at Bush & co. for allowing the terms of this debate to be articulated by the worst elements of either side. His attempt moderating the discussion was, to put it mildly, unsuccessful. Now anyone who takes a view--as you or I might--somewhere between Bush and Tancredo is shouted down as a trimmer by one side and a racist by the other. I don’t know . . . if everyone hates us we’re probably right.

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