Wednesday, October 5, 2016

“Ohio” Means Good Morning

In Japanese. Going back to the election of Abraham Lincoln, the state of Ohio seemed to reflect the demographic composition of the entire country. So playing big in Ohio gained importance in every national election since. As recently as the 2012 presidential race, here’re a few PBS (8/24/12) facts about that state’s relevance to American politics:
·         No Republican candidate has won the presidency without carrying Ohio since the election of Abraham Lincoln.
·         From the election of 1904 through that of 2004, the candidate who won Ohio, won the presidency 24 out of 26 times.
·         In 2008, The Obama + Biden ticket won the state’s electoral college votes by 5 points. [They carried it in 2012]
·         The state is split nearly evenly between registered Democrats and Republicans, with a strong number of independent voters.

Add to these facts is the reality that no successful presidential candidate since the 1960 election that put JFK in the White House has lost Ohio. Pretty impressive, huh? But there’s something nothappening there. Hillary seems to be brushing the state off… not spending a lot of time there. She’s trying… but not so much. Huh, again? Is she nuts? Perhaps, Ohio’s time in the political sun is fading? Really?
In the heart of the Rust Belt, the notion of Hillary Clinton as president is inconceivable. The Washington Post’s James Hohmann (Daily 202, October 4th) explains: “Many Washington elites, including Republicans, do not know a single person who supports Donald Trump. In this depressed industrial town in southwestern Ohio [appropriated named Middletown], it is hard to find anyone who says they are for Hillary Clinton.
“‘I cannot tell you one person I know of who has said to me that they support Hillary. Not one,’ said Chris Polleys, who cleans benzene pots at the AK Steel plant here. ‘I don’t understand how she’s doing anything in the polls. I see Hillary for prison, but there’s no Hillary for president signs anywhere. It’s just impossible for me to believe that they’re neck and neck.’
“A poll published yesterday by Quinnipiac University shows that Trump is ahead of Clinton in Ohio by 5 points (47 percent to 42 percent) and that this is the only battleground state where his lead expanded in the wake of the first debate… The GOP nominee’s strength can be explained, in part, by his extraordinary popularity with white men who did not go to college in places like this, where Democrats were once strong but which have moved sharply toward Republicans during the presidency of Barack Obama.
“Polleys, 40, was smoking Marlboros and drinking $1 Bud Lights with his brother, Dale Baxter, at a bar along the railroad tracks on the edge of town. Baxter, a machinist, said he met a handful of people in Dayton who support Clinton. But he agrees: Trump will win the election in a landslide. They do not foresee any other outcome.” But these attitudes seem to reflect an America that is fading away… or do they?
America has slowly changed over the years. Ohio hasn’t. Its population is older, whiter (80%) and less diverse than most of the rest of the country. And it is now a particularly focused stronghold for angry, displaced, older and under-educated blue collar workers whose jobs have been outsourced and automated. Trump voters. Trump issues. “As the place where Appalachia meets the Midwest, and where industrial centers arose not far from a vast farm belt, Ohio has prided itself on being a version of America writ small. Its immigration patterns reflected that, with New Englanders resettling here, followed by Germans and Eastern Europeans. At the same time, Southerners, white and black, crossed the Ohio River in search of freedom and opportunity…
“‘Ohio, like a melting iceberg, has slowly been losing its status as the country’s bellwether,’ said Michael F. Curtin, a Democratic state legislator and former Columbus Dispatch editor who is an author of the state’s authoritative ‘Ohio Politics Almanac.’… He continued: ‘It’s a slow melt. But we have not captured any appreciable Hispanic population, and there has been very little influx of an Asian population. When you look at the diversity of America 30 to 40 years ago, Ohio was a pretty close approximation of the country. It no longer is.’… What is less clear than the racial trends is whether the state will continue to grow more forbidding for Democrats in future presidential races.” New York Times, September 29th.
Hillary’s trips to Ohio do not reflect the frenzy of past presidential candidates obsessed with that swing state. Sure, she campaigns there, and yes, there is a solid democratic political machine in place, but unless she can mobilize younger voters in droves, Ohio is slip-sliding away from holding a sizeable constituency that votes Democrat consistently. There is a growing assumption that if you are a Democrat, Ohio just doesn’t matter anymore. Still, they are trying… sort of…
“Mrs. Clinton remains strongest in the more affluent and educated areas around Ohio’s population centers — Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati — where some voters who backed Mr. Romney four years ago are appalled by Mr. Trump.
“Emily Huber, a 29-year-old evangelical Christian and loyal Republican in Columbus, is one of them. As she sold candles and jewelry made by victims of sex trafficking at a farmer’s market in the shadow of the state capitol, Ms. Huber said she and her husband were unsure whether they could back Mr. Trump because of offensive comments that she said ‘show his true character.’
“What will determine who wins Ohio, said Representative Steve Stivers, a Republican, is if ‘Hillary can pick up a bunch of voters in the suburbs to offset the rural and some of the industrial areas.’
“Mrs. Clinton has an organizational advantage, with 60 offices across the state, and is flooding Ohio with surrogates: Bill Clinton is expected in the state on a bus tour next week. But her campaign is sensitive about her absence, which has become a local topic of discussion. After this article was published online, it hurried to announce that she would return on Monday [October 3rd], but without specifying which city she would visit.
“A Clinton victory in Ohio may also require rousing younger voters, which is in doubt. When a group of Democratic Ohio mayors campaigned recently for Mrs. Clinton in Athens — home of Ohio University and seat of the county with the state’s largest percentage of millennials — they drew little interest.” NY Times. Her repeated attempts to rally Ohio college students just are not finding traction.
The lesson – one that has splintered and confounded the entire Republican Party – is that America is no longer a nation where white rural-values traditional voters are the majority… and every year makes us less so. Evangelicals and truly old-world rural states believe that the nation is turning their back on them, their values and their deeply-felt religious beliefs.
They do not understand why their passionate anti-single sex marriage first-amendment-protected religious beliefs are trumped in our legal system. They do not understand why there are hordes of Americans challenging police policies or why there even is a Black Lives Matter movement. They believe their values built this country and should continue to set the rules. They do not understand why global economics define their livelihoods or why smoggy cities should impose green solutions on them. Unfortunately for them, that America is slowly leaving the building. They continue to resist. The world has changed, not just America.
I’m Peter Dekom, and we really need to heal that schism with compromise or the United States of America – a house divided – cannot stand.

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