Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Rural Ohio Voters

The Washington Post runs a story today about the intractability of rural Ohio voters that--while it offers some interesting observations for more thoughtful analysts to ponder--is a good illustration of the condescension and bewilderment of the media in the face of common sense and decency. In order to process the facts encountered in the investigation for this article, the author (Kevin Merida, whom I’m told also wrote a nasty hatchet job of a book on Clarence Thomas), has to slip into the "these hicks are too dumb to know better" mode of reporting.

His assault on the unsophisticated rubes of rural Ohio begins with an interview with a Democratic Party Chairman in Darke County, James Surber. Surber expresses his frustration with the inability of the people in his county to understand their own interests. "I have always said that the three most baffling questions you could ponder forever are: What’s the meaning and purpose of life? Why is Bruce Willis a star? And why do farmers vote Republican?" Surber said. But Surber, in typical Democrat arrogance, doesn’t think he needs to waste his time with imponderables. He has a practical understanding of rural Ohio voters. It’s all about abortion and guns, you see.

Former John Edwards adviser, Dave Saunders, agrees. "It’s all social and cultural," said Saunders, "It has nothing to do with policy. It’s about wedge politics. And the way you pull wedgies out is simple -- you say it’s a lie." To illustrate this, he pointed out that Harry Reid has an A+ rating with the NRA. Apparently Saunders thinks that all his people have to do in Ohio is go around talking about how Dems also love God and guns, skirt the abortion question, and things will come up roses there for them in the fall. Their strategy is to cut losses in rural Ohio counties like Darke--where Bush won in ’04 with 70% of the vote. But they see Southeastern Ohio (my old stomping grounds) and small northern Ohio towns (like Ashland?) as the big prize in this election.

They are right about that much. The area in question and the big prize in this election probably will be Southeastern Ohio and small towns in the northern part of the state. The Dems can’t win without them. But if this article is anything like a real indication of the means by which they intend to go about gaining favor in these areas, I think they’ve got some more hard lessons to learn about rural Ohio voters. For example, take a look at Troy Balderson’s webpage--a family friend who just secured the GOP nomination for State Rep in Zanesville. Guns and God certainly feature prominently among his priorities. But that’s far from all that motivates Balderson or his voters. Indeed, his GOP opponent in the primary lost because these were the only issues he talked about. Balderson is talking about taxes, excessive government regulation and interference in business and health care, and the harm these things do to the local economy. That message rings true in Southeastern Ohio.

Merida noted that, "In Ohio on Tuesday, nearly six in 10 voters called the economy their No. 1 issue, according to exit polls." Democrats seem to think that Republicans are oblivious to this. Apparently, they believe they’ve got a wide opening through which to sell us their snake oil economic remedies. They seem to think they can run from their Liberalism by "say[ing] it’s a lie." Perhaps they can get away with that on the God and Gun front--but on everything else, they will have to TELL lies in order to do it. I don’t think they’re above that, of course. But it will be much harder than they seem to think it’s going to be to convince the rural rubes I know--whose only problem with the Republicans is that they were trimmers when in power--that Liberal Democrats are going to be better stewards of the economy.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Balderson is talking about taxes, excessive government regulation and interference in business and health care, and the harm these things do to the local economy. That message rings true in Southeastern Ohio.

Is this the SE Ohio that elected Strickland and Wilson? Yes, I believe so. SE OH is all for big government; I see it everytime I drive through and see a mega-school just built with tax dollars they have stolen from wealthier areas of the state through Supreme Court mandated "equal funding."

I don't agree that rural voters are always stereotyped correctly, but your "stomping ground" fits the stereotype. Sure they voted for Bush, but b/c of social issues (see WV), but on economics they love handouts, big government, and the welfare state-appalachia fits this stereotype pretty well. Will Balderson win in the fall?

Liberal Democrats are counting on SEO voters being pigs. Clint seems happy to join the Dems in their assumptions and call them pigs. Now it may be the case that this voting block has acted piggy in the past . . . but then, there's a case to be made for not refusing a gift horse when it's offered. Balderson and McCain will have to make the case, however, that apart from the problem of justice there's another--more immediate--problem associated with acting like a pig at the trough. And here it is: if you keep acting like a pig, in the end you're going to be treated like a pig. And pigs don't really get any respect or really have any influence. Pigs have to know their place. Of course their place, in the end, is on the table with an apple stuffed in its mouth. Democrats want Southeastern Ohioans to know their place as pigs.

Michelle Obama gave us a taste of this with her insistence that SE Ohioans should encourage our kids to go into the "service" industries our country needs (teaching, social work, etc.) rather than striving to produce a bunch of Ivy League educated lawyers and investment bankers. Yes, I'm sure that's what she are Barack are doing with their $10,000 yearly allowance for extra-curricular activities . . . no preparation for the Ivys going on there. She was telling them to know their place. Toe the line. Vote Democrat and we'll let you eat cake . . . until we don't.

The question to put to SEO voters then, is are you prepared to accept that? Do you want to carry Democrat water in the hopes that they might let you take a sip or do you want to get on board with a plan that will let you dig your own well? SE Ohioans are proud people. They're not stupid, either. When Republicans get off their collective duff and make the right arguments to them, they'll be motivated enough to quit dancing with the Dems. Will Balderson win in the fall? I don't know, but I think he can if he makes these arguments.

Wow. I was born and raised in rural Southwest Ohio. I worked on a farm for awhile and in a factory during college. I don't think Southeast Ohio can be THAT different from the southwest, and I think you are missing a few things here . . .



1. Farmers love the government (especially those that own small farms) because a lot of the time it's the only thing standing between them and getting sucked into (or competitively destroyed by) corporations like Cargil. Post-industrial, gloablized free enterprise is not the friend of the small farmer. Farmers might just be some of the only people in America who can't just create more demand for their product with a schnazzy marketing scheme (people can only eat SO MUCH food). I mean, we could argue about the principles behind this stuff forever, but I'm just telling you what I've observed.



2. Guns and God might be loved in rural Ohio about as much as blacks and gays are hated, but the Democrats are still appealing to blue collar workers and farmers in southern Ohio (and probably northern Ohio) for several reasons. Julie's right to point out that these people are not stupid. They want their kids to go to college (or at least community college to keep the farm going strong in a changing, ever-more-abstract capitalist system). They want the same health care everyone else gets. They don't like rich people who make money off of their schnazzy law degrees ("schnazzy" is my word of the day, by the way) and rich parents instead of hard work (usually hard physical labor, like they've had to do just to keep afloat).



Southern Ohioans are very proud people, but they certainly feel as if, by and large, they are on the have-nots end of the stick. The Democrats are promising them a seat at the table. I think that if that means keeping God a personal (rather than publicly endorsed) affair, giving up your assault rifle, letting some gay people get married, and keeping hate-crimes on the books, they'll still vote Democrat. I remember during the 2006 elections, all these racist veterans who usually voted Republican were all for the Democrats. They liked the idea of universal health care and cheaper college education for their kids. They weren't found of the long, drawn-out war (many of them having served in Vietnam . . . which was not a grand experience according to them).



But maybe you run in different circles than me. Just letting you know why I think you're missing quite a few possibilities for Democratic hope with these people.

Matt, I agree that Democrats do have an inroad with these people, but you can't deny that SE OH is much poorer. SW OH can be profitably farmed, while SE OH can't. Thats a big difference in wealth (particularly 50-100 years ago). I can take you around my home county and show wealth disparities based on the quality of farmland-all of it far better than SE OH. Plus a couple little things like Cincinnati, Dayton, Wright Patterson might add to SW OH's wealth.

1. Farmers love the government (especially those that own small farms) because a lot of the time it's the only thing standing between them and getting sucked into (or competitively destroyed by) corporations like Cargil. Post-industrial, gloablized free enterprise is not the friend of the small farmer. Farmers might just be some of the only people in America who can't just create more demand for their product with a schnazzy marketing scheme (people can only eat SO MUCH food). I mean, we could argue about the principles behind this stuff forever, but I'm just telling you what I've observed.

This is simply not correct. Large farmers benefit most from subsidies while "family farms" and small farms get far less. Global enterprise is very much the farmers friend, but its been hard when often our products are embargoed and treated like foreign policy chess pieces. Farm products have lagged far behind in free trade when it comes to tariffs, embargoes, etc. And farmers (small farmers too) are very capable of creating marketing plans. "Organic food," "Certified Angus Beef," "Open Range Chicken," just to name a few marketing campaigns. People can only eat so much, but the quality can be as high as the income. Ag marketing is a huge and successful industry.

Julie, I'm just calling spades what they are--spades. Republicans won't win SE OH by glorifying the free market. It doesn't help us to pretend otherwise. This doesn't mean they are "pigs" or unsophisticated; Matt points out some reasons that make sense for their motivations. Come back to OH and needlessly emphasize free markets, cutting taxes, cutting government, anti-regulation and see where it gets you...(if confused please see Ken Blackwell's 2006 campaign).

Thanks for that reminder of the far left mindset, Matt. All conservatives are of course motivated by bigotry and racism. You are no more capable of questioning your basic assumptions than of walking on water.


Isn't philosophy supposed to OPEN the mind?

Clint, if you don't think Republicans can win in SEO by telling the truth, please advise us as to which lies you think will sell. Also please explain why you think you can simultaneously defend selling lies and deny that you're saying people in SEO are stupid or piggy. I'm not saying that Matt doesn't raise a good challenge. He does a great job of laying out the Democrat strategy. I appreciate his frankness as I think it's useful. He cannot conceal his contempt for these people even as he pretends to champion them. I am asking Republicans to step up and reject the Democrat assumptions about SEO voters and to speak the truth to them in a way that is clear and persuasive. If they lose after this kind of a fight, at least they'll lose with honor. If they buy into the "stupid, racist, rube" line of thinking, they'll still lose and they'll do it with dishonor.

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