By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Swing state Ohio mocks the very idea of democracy. As it so often does, Ohio reflects a national trend: this one the plunge toward corporate one-party state governments very much at odds with what the public thinks and wants.- Advertisement -
But even an apparently absolute moneyed take-over of the Buckeye Heartland has its limits when it comes to workers' rights.- Advertisement -
Like far too many sibling states, Ohio's ruling superstructure---its governor, his cabinet, the legislature and the state supreme court---is far to the right of the voting populace.
Though technically a "purple" swing state, a majority of Ohioans voted for Obama in the past two presidential elections. Exit polls also showed a clear majority for John Kerry in 2004, though the "official" tally gave the state---and the presidency---to George W. Bush.- Advertisement -
In 2012 Ohio voters also re-elected the liberal US Senator Sherrod Brown with a decisive majority.
But thanks to the wonders of corporate gerrymandering, that same 2012 election left Ohio with 12 Republican US Representatives, versus 4 Democrats. (With the help of the Democratic state machine, bipartisan gerrymandering was used to purge the US House of Dennis Kucinich, one of America's most outspoken left populists).
There is talk here, as in other states, of shifting the Electoral College vote count to reflect Congressional districts rather than the state majority. Had that rubric been in place in 2008 and 2012, Obama would have lost an overwhelming majority of the state's electoral votes both times. In 2012, while winning a majority of the popular vote, he would have received just a third of the electoral vote.
But the reality of this gerrymandering now defines state government. In 2012, Ohio's Democratic candidates for the Ohio House collectively received 56,000 more votes than their Republican counterparts. But Democratic voters were dense-packed into urban districts, giving the Republicans a state legislature rigged to resemble the Congressional delegation. Despite the statewide Democratic majority, the Ohio House emerged from the 2012 election with an astonishing 60 Republicans against just 39 Democrats.
With its small, precisely gerrymandered districts, that majority is dominated by extreme "Tea Party" fanatics. The Ohio Senate---though slightly more moderate---has an even more decisively Republican head count, with a veto-proof super-majority of 23 versus just 10 Democrats.
The story is the same at the governor's mansion. Exit polls showed the popular Democratic incumbent, Ted Strickland, with a clear 2010 reelection victory. But a last-minute infusion of at least $1 million in cash from Rupert Murdoch helped former Fox bloviator John Kasich mysteriously carry the official tally. Based on the usual "irregularities" and "glitches," Ohio's infamous electronic voting machines once again put an apparent GOP loser into power, bringing with him an all-white-male cabinet of right-wing extremists.
The Ohio Supreme Court has gone much the same way. Its "non-partisan" elections do not require candidates to list their party affiliation on the ballot. In recent years the Ohio Chamber of Commerce has---often illegally---poured millions of dollars in the races. Six of the seven "justices" are now Republicans.
So between the legislature, the governor, his cabinet and the state Supreme Court, Ohio's government is little more than an unelected cabal of corporatists. It's thoroughly cheer-led through a statewide media dominated by the right-wing Dispatch in Columbus and Inquirer in Cincinnati. The "liberal" Plain-Dealer in Cleveland makes the occasional dodge to the left, but rarely takes on the corporations.
Policy has followed suit. One of Kasich's very first acts as governor was to loudly reject more than $400 million in federal funds meant to restore passenger rail service between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Columbus is one of the largest capital cities in the world without it. The last train carrying human cargo left the city's uniquely gorgeous landmark Union Station in 1979. The station has since been demolished for no apparent reason, though preservationists saved a sad single arch, which stands forlorn somewhere near the original site.
Last month the Tea Party-dominated legislature voted to reject some $13 billion in federal Medicaid funds over the next seven years. This time, even Kasich wanted the money.