Buckeye chickens come home to roostFor a couple of years now, I have warned that the Republican Party's unfettered power in the State of Ohio could prove to be a future problem. GOP control of State, and in most places, county governments is so complete that even the most conservative political analysts have called Ohio effectively a one-party state. In many places, the winner of Republican primaries becomes the winner of an election automatically. Over the last 11 years, the Ohio Republican Party has managed to successfully isolate the Democrats to insure that they can't get a reasonable chance to compete to regain the legislative power they lost in the 1994 landslide. They have done so by getting and managing to maintain control of the state commission charged with drawing up the district boundaries for both federal and state legislative districts in Ohio. In doing so, they have insured that the Dems are perpetually drawn out of power, guaranteeing the Republicans a total hold on state government with no way to change the political scenario.
For those of us who happen to be members of the Republican Party, such an arrangement sounds as if it would be paradise on earth. With a complete hold on power and no foreseeable change in that situation, the GOP should be able to ram its agenda right through the Ohio House and Senate, send it all right on to the Governor, and the whole thing just becomes one great conservative love fest. The problem arises when the opposition becomes a defenseless, wounded cripple...You can't shoot an unarmed man without it being called murder, and the GOP is not "shooting" at the Ohio Democratic Party because the Democrats are politically unarmed. Their numbers in the legislature actually shrunk even more in the last election. Thus, without an opposition, Ohio Republicans have turned on each other. The more conservative faction in state government is actually being led by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. The Blackwell Party is essentially functioning as the opposition in the legislature and in the executive ranks to the faction led by Governor Bob Taft, and his chief political hit-man (and, it would seem, hand-picked choice for successor) Attorney-General Jim Petro. With an impending primary next year, intra-party fighting is already turning dirty and foul, especially since it appears the two major candidates for the Republican Gubernatorial nomination will be Blackwell and Petro.
The other great problem with such a comfortable hold on power is that Ohio Republicans can get too secure in that power, and can allow anything to happen under their noses. That mentality has led to a major scandal involving the investment of Ohio Workers' Compensation money with a rare coin broker, a broker who has also given large sums of money to Ohio Republican candidates, as well as to President Bush. It would appear that coin dealer Tom Noe is not the only such rare coin broker doing business with the state that helped finance Republican campaigns in Ohio. National Democrats see the scandal, and they are seeing red, or perhaps blue, for Ohio in 2008. Even though Taft denied knowing about the heavy losses to the Ohio Workers' Compensation Fund due to these investments, the evidence now suggests otherwise, and it would appear that Taft knew all along that one of his campaign donors lost the state huge sums of money.
We must be wary when a state becomes virtually all Republican or all Democrat. Not only will such an arrangement be guaranteed to produce an unsavory political climate, but it is almost certain to generate laxity and carelessness in government. After all, it is hard to argue to an angry citizen that they should not vote Democrat when their Republican governor entrusts large sums of Ohio's patrimony to someone merely because they contributed to Republican campaigns-and the money was lost.