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.