The Ohio Vote

I would have expected Pravda-on-the-Hudson to single out for emphasis Tuesday’s referendum in Ohio on the public-sector collective-bargaining reform and to cite it as a harbinger of an Obama victory in Ohio in 2012, as in its pages Katherine Q. Seelye did. She was not, however, the only reporter to comment. In a news analysis in that paper not cited by Peter Robinson in his post earlier today, Michael D. Shear was much more cautious. As he put it,

The enthusiastic Democratic analysis [of Tuesday’s referenda and elections] leaves out some trouble spots for the party as it heads into a presidential and Congressional election year. And it may overstate the importance of victories that were heavily influenced by local factors that will be less important during a national campaign in 2012.

In Ohio, voters who rejected the Republican governor’s anti-union law also easily passed a measure that rejects health care mandates in the state — another sign of how unpopular Mr. Obama’s health care measure is in many parts of the country. . . .

And the union vote in that state — while a significant victory for labor, a key constituency for the president — played out in recent weeks as a very Ohio contest — highly personal (about the governor, John R. Kasich) and heavily dependent on local dynamics involving the state’s firefighters and police officers.

Even Democrats in the state acknowledged on Tuesday evening that their victory may have been the result of a curious mix of local factors.

It is, in fact, striking that, while 61% of those who cast ballots on the public-sector collective-bargaining issue voted to overturn the reform pushed by John Kasich and the Republicans in the legislature, 66% voted against Obamacare – this at a time in which the unions spent $30 million dollars on their campaign, and the Republicans spent next to nothing. To his analysis, Shear adds this:

The biggest warning sign for Democrats may have been in Virginia, where major Republican gains in the state legislature highlighted just how competitive that state remains — and how difficult it will be for Mr. Obama to keep the state’s 13 electoral votes in his column next year.

Virginia Republicans made big gains in the House of Delegates, moving toward a two-thirds majority in the House. And they may have seized effective control of the State Senate from the Democrats; a Republican challenger in a crucial Northern Virginia exurb was just a handful of votes ahead of a Democratic incumbent Wednesday morning.

The real story in Ohio is that John Kasich failed to make his case. He may have overreached, as many now argue. But I am not at all sure about that. Politics turns on persuasion. Measures need to be explained, and in the circumstances in which we now operate one needs to have a war-chest to deploy in purchasing spots on the radio and on television in which to make one’s argument. This Kasich and the Republicans failed to do.

Down the road, I fear that this means that Ohio will go the way of Illinois. In the Midwest, Indiana and Wisconsin are the places in which to do business. Illinois is on the trajectory pioneered by Greece, as are California and New York. Ohio has just decided to follow suit. Ten years from now, some corners of this country will be nightmarish. Others will flourish – and Ohioans will remember John Kasich as a man who tried to do the right thing but lacked the moxie, the drive, and the eloquence to carry the citizens of Ohio with him.

If this event has any significance at all for 2012, it is to remind us that – without a standard-bearer capable of articulating the principles underpinning conservatism and of shifting national sentiment on the larger questions we now face – we will fail. It is not enough to win elections. One must also win the argument. Indeed, if one wins the argument, it does not matter all that much who wins elections. They will be confined in what they do by public sentiment. The worst thing that we could possibly do is to nominate for the Presidency a woman or man who is incapable of making the conservative argument or unwilling to do so.

  1. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    If you want to get a feeling for the readers of Pravda-on-the-Hudson, read the furious comments appended to Michael Shear’s sensible and cautious news analysis.

  2. Byron Horatio

    I agree. As an Ohioan, I fully expected the union issue to go down in flames, but was pleasantly surprised to see just how total the distatse is for Obamacare here. The state may indeed go the way of Illinois, but thankfully the new legislature is extremely good on 2nd amendment issues, and concealed carry holders like myself welcomed their liberalizing of the previously draconian restrictions om gun transport here. I reckon that the state will vote by a good margin for the Republican in 12.

  3. Copperfield

    Dr. Rahe… based on this statement:

    The worst thing that we could possibly do is to nominate for the Presidency a woman or man who is incapable of making the conservative argument or unwilling to do so. 

    I have a comment and a question. 

    Comment: In other words.. calling Paul Ryan (as you and I still lament his refusal to run and see it as shirking duty… see Washington, George and Hale, Nathan). 

    Question: Does Gingrich qualify as someone who is capable of making the conservative argument? 

  4. David John
    Copperfield: 

    Question: Does Gingrich qualify as someone who is capable of making the conservative argument?  · Nov 9 at 2:08pm

    Yes, Gingrich qualifies, if ideas matter more than personalities.But I’m not so sure of that.

  5. EJHill

    Remember this: Ohio has just lost two congressional seats. That means we are bleeding population among the productive classes. (The ambitious follow the jobs.)

  6. Cutlass

    It’s particularly discouraging because John Kasich is exactly the type of guy you’d expect could make the case.  He’s principled, has experience as a communicator in the media and my perception was that he was a straight shooter.  I was excited to learn that he would actually govern.  have not followed Ohio politics too closely. What exactly is the problem? Is it just that Kasich does not have the presence or gravitas to convey his ideas?

    And is it possible that even a Paul Ryan would have had this problem?  

    Why is it so damn hard for conservative politicians to communicate ideas that are so easily expressed by columnists, talk show hosts and even Ricochet commenters with day jobs??  I understand that it’s no always easy to make the right argument under the pressure of a debate or press conference, but someone doesn’t need to be Reagan or Lincoln to, say, paraphrase a Charles Krauthammer or Dennis Prager column.

  7. kesbar

    NPR declared Ohio a “Bellwether” in this morning’s story on the topic. 

  8. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    David John

    Copperfield: 

    Question: Does Gingrich qualify as someone who is capable of making the conservative argument?  · Nov 9 at 2:08pm

    Yes, Gingrich qualifies, if ideas matter more than personalities.But I’m not so sure of that. · Nov 9 at 2:21pm

    On some days, Gingrich qualifies; on others, he does not. He is brilliant and astonishingly erratic. I wish that the latter observation was not true.

  9. Frozen Chosen

    This story on NRO details how the GOP’s high hopes to take over the Virginia senate went down in flames.  Along with the Ohio referendum vote this shows that the country is not Tea Party conservatives as far as the eye can see – there are still plenty of folks voting Democrat.

    The swing states are not solid red.  There remains much work to do in order for the GOP to carry them in the next election.  If our candidates attempt an overreach they will lose.

  10. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Frozen Chosen: This story on NRO details how the GOP’s high hopes to take over the Virginia senate went down in flames.  Along with the Ohio referendum vote this shows that the country is not Tea Party conservatives as far as the eye can see – there are still plenty of folks voting Democrat.

    The swing states are not solid red.  There remains much work to do in order for the GOP to carry them in the next election.  If our candidates attempt an overreach they will lose. · Nov 9 at 3:03pm

    If our candidates do not make the conservative argument, they will not only lose. They will deserve to lose.

  11. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Here is the larger problem. If the Republicans nominate a candidate who puts off the Tea-Party Movement, they will stay home or vote Libertarian — and we will lose big-time. Those who believe that so-called “moderates” — which is to say, managerial progressives — are more apt to win than principled conservatives are fooling themselves. Kasich’s failure was not due to overreaching. It was due to a failure to make his case. The unions came up with $30 million. He came up with . . . next to nothing. Losers lose.

  12. Bryan G. Stephens

    As I have said in my own post in the members section, I am not voting for the managerial moderate in the GOP, namely one Mitt Romney. If he gets the nomination, I the GOP will have walked away from me. Let the Democrats have it all back.

    We have not gone far enough down the road for disaster for the country to wake up. It may never wake up.

    I comfort myself with the knowledge that perhaps my grandchildren, after the great unrest that is coming, will live in a mighty American Empire. Rome’s best days were before it when that republic fell. Maybe America is that way too.

  13. Gretchen

     ”Indeed, if one wins the argument, it does not matter all that much who wins elections. They will be confined in what they do by public sentiment.”

    You mean like with Obamacare? Even since the 2010 elections, Obama is unconstrained by public sentiment. What he can’t get through legislation he gets through regulation. Public sentiment doesn’t stop a Hugo Chavez.

  14. Xennady
    Frozen Chosen: This story on NRO details how the GOP’s high hopes to take over the Virginia senate went down in flames. 

    Yeah but from that story there’s this:

    “Dave Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, was stunned by the efficiency of redistricting, pointing out that in the state-senate races, Democrats had won only 420,000 votes to Republicans’ 661,000, roughly 39 percent of the total. Yet they were likely to win 52.5 percent of the seats.”

    Amazing. But that’s how democrats expect it to be. When the Texas GOP took action to end this sort of practice the democrats shrieked like a whole truckload of stuck pigs.

    It seems to me that as long as the GOP will meekly accept this outcome of a redistricting without objecting at least as strenuously as democrats do when their votes are only counted fairly then the GOP will continue to be a failure.

    And the country will be lost.

  15. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Maggie Somavilla:  ”Indeed, if one wins the argument, it does not matter all that much who wins elections. They will be confined in what they do by public sentiment.”

    You mean like with Obamacare? Even since the 2010 elections, Obama is unconstrained by public sentiment. What he can’t get through legislation he gets through regulation. Public sentiment doesn’t stop a Hugo Chavez. · Nov 9 at 3:34pm

    That public sentiment has to be firm enough that he knows he will lose if he crosses it. My suspicion is that in 2012 this will be shown to the Democrats — and that, even if we lack 60 votes in the Senate, 60 votes will be found for the repeal of Obamacare. Public sentiment when it forms and solidifies is a fearsome thing. When it comes to shaping sentiment, however, managerial progressives are tongue-tied. They think in terms of technocratic solutions, not in terms of principles. If we do not make our argument, we will lose the argument.

  16. Peter Robinson
    C

    Thank you, Paul.  I feel much better now.

    And I can’t help noting that it says something wonderful that you couldn’t get to this analysis today…until after you had taught your class.  God bless Hillsdale, a college where students matter.

  17. Frozen Chosen
    Paul A. Rahe

    Frozen Chosen: This story on NRO details how the GOP’s high hopes to take over the Virginia senate went down in flames.  Along with the Ohio referendum vote this shows that the country is not Tea Party conservatives as far as the eye can see – there are still plenty of folks voting Democrat.

    The swing states are not solid red.  There remains much work to do in order for the GOP to carry them in the next election.  If our candidates attempt an overreach they will lose. · Nov 9 at 3:03pm

    If our candidates do not make the conservative argument, they will not only lose. They will deserve to lose. · Nov 9 at 3:09pm

    True, but they do not need to make the conservative argument in a manner that turns off independents.  Show me how Romney’s recent entitlement reform proposal is not conservative?

    We don’t need to go all Atilla the Hun, hide the children, gung ho, nothing but ideological purity conservatism in order to win.  In fact, I believe such an approach will lose the election for the GOP.

  18. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Peter Robinson: Thank you, Paul.  I feel much better now.

    And I can’t help noting that it says something wonderful that you couldn’t get to this analysis today…until after you had taught your class.  God bless Hillsdale, a college where students matter. · Nov 9 at 4:04pm

    Let me add that I have two great groups this year — one of freshmen, one of upper-classmen. A joy to teach.

  19. Scott R
    Paul A. Rahe:  Kasich’s failure was not due to overreaching. It was due to a failure to make his case.

    If you were here for the last eleven months, you would know that this sentence is as true as a lefty insisting, “Obama’s failure was not due to overreaching. It was due to a failure to make his case.”

    Kasich was everywhere, making the case relentlessly and articulately, doing interviews with anyone who would have him (which was everyone), and the more he talked, and the more sb5 was in the news, the worse things got. Exactly as with Obama and Obamacare. The only ones who approved of Kasich’s choice to disregard bi-partisan opposition and jam it through were hardcore conservatives (including, regrettably, myself) — just as only hard lefties approved of Obama’s tactics.

    Ohioans perceived that both Kasich and Obama flipped them the bird. This explains the seemingly contradictory facts that issue 2 failed bigtime, while issue 3 passed bigtime.

    It’s so incredibly distressing that conservatives are not grasping this.

    Please read fellow Hillsdale-ian (and Ohioan) Elliot Gaiser here. He’s got it.

  20. Scott R
    Cutlass:  What exactly is the problem? Is it just that Kasich does not have the presence or gravitas to convey his ideas?

    And is it possible that even a Paul Ryan would have had this problem?  

    He conveyed his ideas perfectly. Again and again. His mistake was in not even having the appearance of working with the opposition. It was a sweeping partisan bill against bi-partisan opposition. You can’t do that. Obama can’t. Kasich can’t. 

    A Gov. Ryan would have had the same problem if he tried a similar “jam it down their throats” approach. But he never would have. Neither would the real-life Gov. Daniels, which is why IN is making great progress, and OH is not.

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