Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal
Thursday, November 04, 2004
The old formula for victory in an Ohio election no longer works. An army of Democratic voters, many of the first-timers, stormed the polls and voted for Sen. John Kerry, particularly in and around Ohio's largest cities, including Akron, Cleveland and Canton. It didn't matter. What did matter, what any Democrat who ever wants to win in Ohio must
address, is what exit polls reveal drove Ohioans' decision. It wasn't their jobs (or, in too many cases, lack of them). It wasn't fear of terrorists. It wasn't anger over the war in Iraq and its human and financial cost. It was something deeper, earthier. It was their lives - or rather, how they live their lives and the values that guide them.
John C. Green , who heads the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, told The Washington Post that one piece of campaign literature from President Bush evoked the message that battallions of Republican Party workers were delivering in person around the state. The Bush mailer was illustrated with a beautiful church and a traditional nuclear (can you say nu-QUE-lar?) family. It's print message was: ``George W. Bush shares your values. Marriage. Life. Faith.'' It was perfect. ``It could not have been clearer if it had quoted from the Bible,'' Green told The Post.
Kerry had a unified, aggressive, well-funded campaign. He didn't give up on Ohio, as Al Gore did. He, in fact won more Ohio votes (2,659,664 so far) than any Democrat in history and still lost by 136,483 votes (and counting). ``There's going to be a lot of political scientists studying this election for years,'' Jo Ann Davidson, chairwoman of the Ohio
Valley Region of the Bush-Cheney campaign, told The Plain Dealer.
What they will find is an Ohio that is, as it has always been, a microcosm of the United States, but, if Davidson is correct, one shifting from five district regions, or Five Ohios, to the one of suburgan/rural counties and urban counties. Even in urban counties such as Summit, where Kerry, won 56 percent of the vote, the principal influence of voters in suburban/rural counties is at work: moral values.
Or, religion. Ohioblog tried to explain the depth and importance of religion in and around Akron in The Sunday School of Akron (and Ohio) politics. Blog's failing was this conclusion: Religion still counts in Akron, but it isn't the only thing that counts on the first Tuesday of November in presidential election years. Religion or moral principals was the only thing that counted with the majority and as Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley puts it: ``The Democratic Party better get some religion.''
It isn't that Democratics don't have deep-seated beliefs and values. It's just that they aren't shared by the majority. Democrats believe in helping the weakest among us, of recognizing and honoring our diversity, including different lifestyles, and not forcing these beliefs on others. Most Ohioans, based on the passage of Issue 1 banning gay marriages, believe only in heterosexual marriage and in the other parts of the Bush agenda, including the right to bear arms but not to choose an abortion. These themes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The New York Times, fit into ``a center-right governing majority.''
Governing, of course, is the question. ``Despite an utterly incompetent war performance in Iraq and a stagnant economy, Mr. Bush held onto the same basic core of states that he won four years ago - as if nothing had happened,'' assessed The New York Times' columnist Thomas L. Friedman. ``It seemed as if people were not voting on his performance. It seemed as if they were voting for what team they were on.'' Friedman's assessment was titled: ``Two Nations Under God.''
A Toledo Blade editorial headline writer got it right: ``Divided we stand.'' This is Ohio and the nation today. President Bush said it isn't the way it has to be, that we can all work together, that he will reach across the aisle with a welcoming hand. That would be the sort of leadership that Texans say Bush provided as governor. It is the kind of unifier that the president promised to be when he first sought the office. It is the kind of leadership people are seeking.
There is a difference between talking about coalition building and the real building of them. During the campaign, Sen. Kerry occasionally quoted the Bible about the difference between words and acts. The good act of caring about what others think and finding some common ground with them is a may not be part of the moral agenda but would be of real value.
posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 11:31 AM
Copyright 2004 Knight Ridder. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any
of the contents of this service without the express written consent of Knight Ridder is expressly prohibited.