Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Elections

All Eyes on Ohio

Several media outlets today report on the trends in Ohio's big political races and what they may say about national trends--not only in 2010, but also looking forward to 2012.  Moreover, they consider the factors that are motivating these trends and what might animate voters moving forward.  In general, they point to a more independent-minded and entrepreneurial spirit emerging in the American people that--despite the economy and the tough choices we will certainly face in the coming years--may also point to the best hope we have of overcoming our economic and governmental woes.  A brief overview:

Time Magazine concludes:

Democrats can stomach a defeat for Fisher, in whom they never invested high hopes. But Strickland is another story -- and it's not just Ohio Democrats riveted by the race. A governor can have a major impact on his state's presidential race, and Obama, who narrowly won Ohio in 2008, will probably need to carry the state again in 2012 if he wants to gain a second term. At the moment, panicky Democrats are watching Ohio slip from their grasp--and wishing it was spring again.

The New York Times features a whole symposium of journalists and political scientists focusing on Ohio.  A key theme that emerges from the discussion is the need for jobs and a growing sense among Ohio voters that the old way of thinking about "creating jobs" (i.e., attracting big manufacturing-based companies through government incentives or pouring lots of government money into jobs programs and government work) are not the way forward in this changing economy. 

In the NYT exchange, John Green from the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron argues that, "Ohioans are currently skeptical of the public sector, doubting its capacity to create jobs. Thus the election may be a referendum on government itself, no matter who wins."  He suggests that the only reason Ted Strickland is even treading water in the current governor race is because he may be the "right kind of Democrat" in that he does not appear to disagree (at least not fundamentally) with John Kasich about the way jobs are created:  "Kasich argues for reducing spending, not raising taxes, and for reinvigorating the private sector. Strickland advocates all these same things -- and claims he has done them while in office."  The question, in the end, may be whether Ohioans believe in Strickland's commitment to the things he claims for himself or whether they think Kasich, with his private sector experience, is a better representation of the best way forward.  Real Clear Politics averages out all of the polls and still has Kasich in a pretty clear lead, by the way.  The most recent of these polls (Quinnipiac) shows Kasich with a 9 point lead.

What is the best way forward for Ohio?  I like something Ray Cooklis (deputy editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer ) said in the NYT discussion and it is something that ought to have deep appeal to Ohio voters of the Tea Party stripe--regardless of previous political party affiliation:  "There's a growing sense the state must become far more savvy on venture capital and entrepreneurship. And there's a growing sense among young Ohioans - those who don't leave for the coasts after college - that their economic norm will be to start your own business, create your own job and bring your peers along for the ride."  I think that's a very healthy and encouraging realization, if true.  Why should self-respecting Ohioans wait around whining for a big company or the government to ride into town on a white horse and give them a job? 

Ohio is the home of America's first pioneers.  It is the place where people went when they were tired of serving the interests of large manufacturers on the east coast and wanted to break out on their own and build something for themselves.  They often came with little more than a keen wit, ingenuity, and a solid back-breaking determination.  Over the summer I read a great little volume about the history of my old stomping grounds in Zanesville and Muskingum county and I was struck--not only by the proud exploits and independent thinking of the community's founders, but also by how many family names I recognized as still inhabiting the area.  Going back as far as Ebenezer Zane--whose gumption and Sawyer-like wits inspired him to build the great Trace that eventually became the first National Road--the beginnings of Ohio attracted American entrepreneurs who understood that the business of America is business.  Government's role in that--though not insignificant--was to facilitate the transportation and communication that made this entrepreneurial activity possible and, therefore, promised a steady supply of citizens who were free men and worthy of the self-government that is their right.  Ohioans (and all Americans) would do well to remind themselves of this history from time to time and reflect upon how they might do what they can to also be worthy--not just of that history and tradition--but also of the self-government that is their right today every bit as much as it was of their forebears. 

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