Tag Archives: Ohio

Inverse Secession

America is experiencing a kind of inverse secession.

Republicans have, over 30+ years, mentally expelled the rest of us from the citizenry of “their” country, which is a white patriarchy. We’re still here, physically, but it should not be surprising that Republicans are constantly enraged about alien people in America, and totally intolerant of all non-Republican authority. Anything besides Republican control is, for this enclave, the equivalent of “foreign rule.”

This is or should be important because it means so much of our conceptual infrastructure is obsolete and needs to be replaced, if the rest of us are to organize any kind of effective response, or even to understand what’s going on.

When baffled liberals explode at news of a school district banning a Rosa Parks children’s book, there is actually an explanation for this and so much of what constantly prompts ineffective online-outrage. Rosa Parks is an entirely reasonable hero for a multicultural liberal democracy. But Rosa Parks is not any kind of hero for a white patriarchy. For such a nation, lionizing Rosa Parks amounts to foreign propaganda undermining fundamental pillars of the culture. Of course such a nation’s patriots want to ban a book promoting Rosa Parks—to children no less—especially at a time when statues of that nation’s own heroes are being removed after generations.

This perspective also helps explain not only the Republican assault on democracy, but the aggression and brazen lawlessness which would sometimes seem excessive from any kind of purely “political” perspective. Even if one considers Republicans entirely rotten, it seems needlessly bloody-minded that they insisted this week on muscling through Ohio legislative districts which 1) have been consistently condemned by the public, 2) even they have trouble asserting with conviction are compatible with the state constitution, and 3) will only last two election cycles even if permitted by the state supreme court. All this seems needlessly bloody-minded given that this is Ohio and even the Democrats’ idea of fair maps would leave Republicans secure in state house and senate majorities.

But if you are at war against a foreign enemy, for control of your own land, you tend not to accept compromise. In the First World War, e.g., the French sacrificed lives attacking the German invaders’ positions, and defending their own lines, even when their own strategic interest was obviously better served by other choices. Accepting the alien occupying even a square inch of their country was simply intolerable. (As an aside, I have come to think of gerrymandering and secession as varieties of one thing: both are ultimately about redrawing borders to reject the whole possibility of an Other having authority over your kind of people.)

The concept of inverse secession also has implications which desperately need to be appreciated.

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Ups, downs, hypernormalization

Within little more than 36 hours I was wrenched between highs and lows, this week.

Tuesday morning, I got up, grabbed a campaign sign, and walked up the street to the neighborhood polling place to fly the flag for City Councilperson Tristan Rader‘s reelection. I was already anxious, and as the day wore on, I began sinking toward downright despondence. Mostly because I have just been traumatized by too many crushing election results over the past several years. I know that this pessimism is a bias on my part, but I also know that it isn’t so much of a bias that I can just dismiss it.

So, it was a great relief when the Board of Elections posted early-vote totals with Tristan leading all others in an eight-candidate primary. Even better, election-day numbers later boosted my neighbor Laura Rodriguez-Carbone to third place. The top six candidates will all appear on November’s ballot, but the top three in that election will be elected to city council at-large; astonishingly the exact three candidates I voted for are now presumptive favorites.

That was exciting. Not every Tuesday result was great, but a number of interest to me were positive. I was e.g. rather relieved that the “knife-edge” warnings were completely off and California’s recall election came nowhere near deposing the state’s Democratic governor, even if he is personally mediocre at best.

By Wednesday evening, however, I was back to dread, and I unplugged rather than follow the showdown on Ohio’s Redistricting Commission from which poor results seemed likely and which I would be entirely unable to influence at that point. In this case, I was correct.

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OH11 and Truthiness

This is mostly a post for myself, simply to record the reality which is already being widely replaced by a “truthiness” alternative.

The Democratic primary fight for a special election to represent Ohio’s 11th Congressional District for a little over a year was a cluster-fucking fiasco for which all of the major participants share responsibility.

I write this mainly because so much of the left seems to be circling the wagons in defense of a Nina Turner campaign which not only lost the primary but—contrary to the exculpatory myth emerging—presided over the immolation and waste of enormous resources in doing so.

Before I dig further into that, though, a review of the wasteful shambles found everywhere you look in this shit show:

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Compulsive Lying & the Republican Party

A Republican operative wrote a recent book about the party titled It Was All a Lie. I haven’t read the book, but that’s certainly an exemplary instance of “getting the headline right.”

Dishonesty almost seems like it’s an out-of-control compulsion for the Republican Party at this point, and this seems worth noting even if it may only be a footnote to the larger picture.

In the larger sense, the Republican Party committed itself to dishonesty decades ago, when a critical mass of influential figures decided that winning over majority support to their priorities was no longer a realistic prospect. David Frum has written that “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” As democracy existed and was rather broadly popular, however, Republicans’ agenda first obliged them to reject honesty about said agenda.

They did that, and have reached a point where they have rigged so many systems of power in their favor that they have done little except abuse power for a dozen years, without any evident corrective which could force them to stop. Yet they continue attempting to sustain frauds which are almost like trying to conceal something behind a plate-glass wall.

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Ohio, America, and corrupted culture

It feels like our situation is deteriorating rapidly, in America.

Many eyes are on Portland, OR, and the challenging reality that the president of the United States is very explicitly dispatching secret police to beat up political dissenters and “disappear” them. The U.S. Attorney General now characterizes federal agents disappearing people in unmarked vehicles as “standard anti-crime” and “classic crimefighting.” This is really happening and it’s very bad.

Understandable that even my reasonably well-informed mother, three states away, barely heard of what seemed like a Vesuvian eruption within Ohio politics this week. I have already tried summarizing the scandal around Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, elsewhere, and perhaps the most relevant information in the big picture is that arbitrary and even ironic technicalities seem to have transformed massive corruption from business-as-usual into a scandalous crime.

The reality is that anyone paying honest attention knew, all along, that a big utility was using political spending to buy desired state government policy. The well-intentioned suggestions of reformers that “dark money” is the problem and that transparency is the solution miss the forest for the trees, I think. From what I can tell, transparency is in a real sense how Householder landed himself in legal jeopardy. Had he relied more on coded language and implication, he probably could have worked much the same scheme without meeting the absurd standard of a direct plain-language “quid pro quo.”

Reality is, purchasing public policy with money is business-as-usual in America and “transparency” is ineffective as a deterrent, because forces like shame and restraint are crumbling.

Householder has provided a second example of this, in the possibility that he may be able to shut down the Ohio House for an indefinite period. If it turns out that our rules and laws provide no resolution for a House Speaker whose arrest on public corruption charges prevents him from contact with many colleagues—and who refuses either to resign or schedule a House session during which legislators could remove him—the explanation will probably be that no one ever really imagined a politician would do something so grossly offensive.

Surprise, lots of politicians including very powerful ones are committing grossly offensive abuses of power, and it is unclear what can stop them.

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Reality Check: DeWine, Trump, and the GOP

Taking reassurance from Governor Mike DeWine is a terrible mistake.

It’s understandable to want reassurance right now. There’s a pandemic, everything is closed, life has been transformed in a matter of weeks and things are going to get worse.

But there’s a reason this is happening. COVID-19 itself is a natural phenomenon, but human choices shape its impact dramatically. America has literally done the worst job in the world of managing this pandemic:

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How Republicans divide & denigrate using identity

Today, Ohio state Representative Kyle Koehler decided to share a nonsubstantive meme mocking US Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. The thread which followed illustrates two very important lessons.

  • Over and over in his replies, Koehler refers to the “silly ideas” of Ocasio-Cortez. Yet he argued at length without citing a single one. Even after being explicitly called out on that. The word “ideas,” here, is just a fig leaf intended to disguise an ad hominem attack as a policy critique.
  • After pointing out that his nonsubstantive swipe targets a female person of color, rather than any of the other people who share her ideas—and that this is part of a pattern from the GOP—he protests that “you’re the one bringing up race and gender.”
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Context and Ohio Democrats

Ohio. Something of a disappointing outlier in an election where Democrats did well in neighbors Michigan and Pennsylvania, in addition to the nation as a whole. So for about a week we have been gradually starting a conversation about what this means, and what if anything is to be done.

Here’s the entire conversation for Democrats IMO: This is political party strength in Ohio since 1978, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Democrats in blue

As best I can judge, Ohio Democrats have not had a useful statewide organization since the mid-1980s, at which time presumably the party was coasting toward its early 1990s capsizing.

Since then?

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Ten years in exile

The other day, I recalled that this spring I passed the one-decade mark since moving to Ohio, and have made no real comment. Honestly, I suppose that I really have little of great interest to say.

I have spent a large part of my life here, at this point. More than I spent in central Iowa, even if one rolls together the years in Des Moines and the schoolyear residencies in Ames that preceded them. More than half my adult life, even if one starts that clock at 18.

Yet my living here is really still the product of a random life accident. (So long as I remain, people are never going to stop asking “how ever did you end up here?”) I found myself here largely by chance, and have remained because… Let me put it this way:

Cleveland is okay, but it’s just a place. Lakewood is a comfortable corner, but it too is ultimately just a place. I recall the final issue of the 1990s Starman series, when Jack Knight is heartbroken about parting from his beloved Opal City; if any character’s Opal fetish surpassed Jack’s it was the Shade’s, and yet the Shade offers a reality check to Jack’s handwringing: “Opal is a city. Beautiful, but in the end just a city.” That’s about where I am, at this point in life, not just with Cleveland but anywhere else.

The starry-eyed dreams of my 20s are put away. I realize that some people’s lives really do change dramatically as the result of a change of address, whether because a community offers these or those particular advantages, or because they simply fall in love with it. I’m happy for those people. But I’m not one of them and don’t expect to become one. Falling in love is not my strong suit; buy-in is not my strong suit. I always see the flaws. This goes for Cleveland—the decay, the corruption, the incompetence, the hang-ups, the disgraceful senescence of the local media—but it goes for the alternatives as well.

I know that utopia means “no place,” now. I know that incompetence and corruption flourish in most communities. Meanwhile, potentially offsetting advantages are usually offset, themselves, by other drawbacks. Appalling climate. Too far from my family, commercial and social ties. Expense; most cities are too expensive compared with Cleveland, and local wages are unlikely to affect my remote-working freelance income. I keep an eye on things, and some day circumstances may change. I have lots of boxes ready to go should that happen.

Meanwhile, here I am, and I really have no deep observations about Cleveland or Ohio. The closest I can come is to explain that in a lot of ways I have never really left the place I grew up in; a lot of America and indeed the modern world is increasingly generic, these days, but within the prairie core of the Midwest the differences are vanishingly small from one end to the other. There is variation, I’m sure, but I don’t think it has much to do with which region you’re in, within the Midwest. Having lived in all three, I can say with some confidence that the difference between life in a small Iowa city and a large Iowa city is much greater than the difference between a large Iowa city and a large Ohio city.

I do prefer the city, and I think I prefer a city on the scale of Cleveland a bit over the scale of Des Moines (though the difference is shrinking year by year). Otherwise, one Midwestern city (or inner suburb thereof, for the pedantic) is much like another for my purposes, just now. I live in one, it’s okay, and such things as I want to change about my life seem unlikely to be furthered much by exchanging this city for any other within reach.

Unless anyone has an artist-in-residency program, or some other grant incentive they want to talk about. No? Right-o, then.

2014 midterm election implications

I have read very little news or punditry the past week. Most immediate post-election “analysis” is dregs-of-adrenaline meaningless noise, even by journalism’s ordinary standards, and in this case the specific election results make me physically ill.

Most of the few peeks I have taken have been over at Vox. The conclusions of their staff are thoughtful, appropriately cautious… and horrible. Matthew Yglesias has noted that “American politics is descending into a meaningless, demographically driven seesaw.” If you want more than that, well, that’s a problem, as Ezra Klein has elaborated:

The last five elections, taken together, wreck almost every clean story you might try to wrap around them. They show an electorate that veers hard and quickly between left and right and back again — shredding any efforts one might make to draw deep ideological conclusions from a single campaign. They show that Democrats can, in the right circumstances, win midterm elections. They show that incumbents can win presidential campaigns. They show an electorate that seems to be searching for something it cannot find.

Indeed. Perhaps because that electorate is doing something wrong… one could, of course, easily point to the system in a number of ways, but the strongest hope of changing that system rests in the hands of the electorate… On the whole, it’s easier than ever to see why people are disgusted by politics and declining to participate; unfortunately the spotty, knee-jerk participation that this leaves behind exacerbates the randomness and dysfunction that turn people away.

As someone wrote at The Economist a few years ago, “we have a system-wide problem with system-wide problems.”

Perhaps it might help if the idea that elections have real consequences, for real people, became once more central to political conversation, instead of just a source of anecdotal weapons. Very possibly not, but as self-indulgence is one of life’s few dependable consolations at present…

What state I live in a couple of years from now could well depend on what happens—or does not happen—next in our nation’s capital.

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