Chapter	  Three      Ohios	  Liberal	  Northeast/Conservative	  Southwest	  Contrast:	                                The	...
The	  Battleground	  Brand	  –	                                                                                           ...
myth	  of	  ideology	  and	  expose	  the	  self-­‐defeating	  fallacy	  of	  battleground	  politics.	  If	  we	  come	  ...
Ohios	  Democrat	  northeast	  and	  Republican	  southwest	  contrast	  is	  a	  microcosm	  of	  the	  same	  problem	  ...
and	  entitlements	  by	  liberals,	  while	  the	  circus	  is	  apparent	  in	  battleground	  political	  campaigns,	  ...
approaches	  have	  no	  place	  in	  our	  public	  debates,	  we	  will	  continue	  to	  languish	  under	  apparently	...
Partisan	  Politics,	  the	  Flip-­Flop,	  and	  Individualism	  Imbalanced	  Let’s	  begin	  with	  some	  of	  our	  mos...
When	  we	  pause	  to	  consider	  the	  state	  of	  politics	                                                          ...
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Chapter three

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Chapter three

  1. 1. Chapter  Three Ohios  Liberal  Northeast/Conservative  Southwest  Contrast:   The  Battleground  State ***Historically,  residents  of  Ohios  northeast  and  southwest  6ind  it  relatively  easy  to  be  at  odds,  and  to  compete  for  superiority  on  the  same  6ield.  For  instance,  the  Cleveland  Indians  are  a  Major  League  Baseball  (MLB)  team  in  the  American  League,  but  the  Cincinnati  Reds  are  a  National  League  team.  All  the  same,  theres  a  spirited  in-­‐state  rivalry  between  the  Indians  and  Reds.  Fans  will  travel  en-­‐masse  from  their  respective  corner  of  the  state  to  the  opposite  corner  in  order  to  root  for  their  team.  Neither  has  won  an  MLB  World  Series  in  over  twenty  years.  For  those  who  dont  care  much  for  baseball,  theres  another  in-­‐state,  Ohio  rivalry  in  which  to  participate.  This,  of  course,  is  the  rivalry  between  the  Cleveland  Browns  and  Cincinnati  Bengals,  the  states  two  National  Football  League  franchises.  The  Browns/Bengals  rivalry  is  no  less  spirited  than  the  Indians/Reds  rivalry,  to  be  sure.  Sometimes,  during  a  game,  the  heated  rivalry  between  the  Browns  and  Bengals  foments  into  evening-­‐news-­‐worthy  tomfoolery  among  the  teams  devoted  fans.  Moreover,  as  luck  would  have  it,  the  family  who  owns  the  Cincinnati  Bengals  is,  you  guessed  it,  the  Browns.Neither  team  has  ever  won  an  NFL  Superbowl.  Perhaps  a  less  well-­‐known  but  no  less  important  rivalry  is  the  one  between  Ohios  liberal  voters  in  its  northeast  and  conservative  voters  in  its  southwest.  Of  course,  this  is  not  a  rivalry  in  the  truest  sense,  but  it  is  a  contrast  that  plays  itself  out  time  and  again  in  the  political  circus  of  our  media-­‐driven  election  campaigns.  In  every  Presidential  election  from  the  election  of  1960  through  the  election  of  2004,  a  majority  of  voters  in  Cuyahoga  County,  which  includes  Cleveland,  Ohio,  have  voted  for  the  Democratic  candidate.  During  those  same  elections,  a  majority  of  voters  in  Hamilton  County,  which  includes  Cincinnati,  Ohio,  have  voted  for  the  Republican  candidate  –  with  the  lone  exception  being  in  1964  when  a  majority  in  Hamilton  County  voted  for  the  democratic  candidate,  Lyndon  B.  Johnson.  The  stark  and  static  contrast  in  preference  between  voters  in  Ohios  northeast  and  southwest  illustrates  well  the  polarized  state  of  our  current  political  playing  6ield.  Add  to  this  the  severity  of  partisan  skirmishes  in  Ohio  and  we  see  why  political  candidates  treat,  and  media-­‐types  brand,  Ohio  a  battleground  state.  
  2. 2. The  Battleground  Brand  –   Blessing  or  Curse? How  Ohioans  engage  with  the   political  reality  behind  this   moniker  has  the  potential  to  be   either  a  blessing  or  a  curse.   Unfortunately  for  Ohioans,  and   the  country  as  a  whole  as  well   see  later,  the  way  that  we’ve   participated  in  the  political   environment  of  the  past  40  plus   years  has  progressively  fed  the   polarization  of  partisanship  by   our  politicians  and  the  media.   The  irony  of  our  sometimes  child-­‐ like  participation  as  fans  of  our   hometown  sports  teams  is  that,   at  least  there,  our  participation  is   somewhat  enduring.  Said  Indians  ! fans  dont  simply  watch  and  root   "#!$%&!(!)#**#+!*,%&!*,-.! for  the  Cleveland  team  when  they   are  playing  their  rival  Reds;  they  participate  and  support  the  team  when  it  moves  on  to  Boston  or  New  York  the  next  week,  or  is  back  in  Cleveland  for  a  home  stretch  the  following  month.  Similarly,  Bengals  fans  get  suited  up  for  both  home  and  away  games  all  season  long,  not  only  to  see  them  play  their  despised  rival,  the  Browns,  but  also  to  play  the  Pittsburg  Steelers,  or  the  Denver  Broncos,  and  so  on.Our  participation  in  the  political  process  isnt  quite  as  enduring,  though.  We  in  effect  only  suit  up  for  the  big  election  game  and,  once  weve  cast  our  vote,  generally  stop  participating  in  the  political  process  until  the  next  election.  This  kick-­‐starts  the  destructive  spiral  which  weve  been  trapped  in  for  the  past  40  years.  In  this  spiral  we  vote,  and  then  passively  participate  in  the  outcomes  of  those  elections  by  consuming  sur6icial  media  accounts  telling  us  how  the  person  we  elected  (or  didnt  help  elect)  is  doing.  Yet  the  divisiveness  doesn’t  end  with  the  election.  Rather,  the  mudslinging  campaign  rhetorics  get  recycled  in  a  steady  stream  of  media  messages,  which  keep  us  enthralled  in  a  comedy  of  errors  rivaling  the  absurdity  of  reality  television.  The  irony  of  this  cycle  is  vicious  indeed.  For  instead  of  directing  our  available  energy  toward  participating  in  local  affairs,  we  tend  to  move  further  away  from  our  neighbors  and  deeper  into  our  polarized,  media-­‐fed  ideologies.  Simply  put,  the  battleground  brand  has  built  so  much  equity  of  late  that  weve  come  to  accept  it  as  our  fundamental  political  reality.  Such  acceptance  further  perpetuates  the  problems  of  the  contrast  trap.  But,  we  dont  have  to  acquiesce  to  this  status  quo.  Ohioans,  and  all  other  Americans  alike,  can  deconstruct  the  
  3. 3. myth  of  ideology  and  expose  the  self-­‐defeating  fallacy  of  battleground  politics.  If  we  come  to  understand  what  supports  these  misrepresentations,  and  for  what  purpose,  Ohio  can  help  change  the  way  we  do  politics  in  America.  The  battleground  brand,  if  it  proves  to  be  such  a  catalyst  for  change,  could  be  Ohios  blessing  in  disguise.    Deconstructing  the  Myth  of  Ideology  and  Battleground  PoliticsWeve  long  been  trained  to  see  contrast  in  political  matters.  In  some  ways,  its  all  we  see.  Liberal/Conservative,  Democrat/Republican,  Pro/Anti,  For/Against,  Yes/No,  Red/Blue,  Tax/Borrow.  While  these  contrasts  are  not  inherently  bad  things,  the  contrast  trap  has  us  choosing  adherence  to  a  singular  view  of  the  contrasts,  and  assuming  anyone  who  embraces  another  perspective  of  the  contrast  is  our  opponent.   From  where  we  stand  though  we  can  barely   see  the  contrast  trap  through  the  clouds  of   ideology  hiding  the  futility  of  its  operation   from  our  view.  Yet,  like  all  clouds  of   collective  belief,  they  are  only  impenetrable   as  long  as  they  are  unquestioned.    The  truth   of  the  matter  is  that  Ohioans  can  dispel  the   various  ideological  myths  enshrouding  the   contrast  trap,  cast  away  the  battleground   identity,  and  lead  a  cultural  shift  toward   embracing  the  whole  of  the  contrasts   comprising  our  sociopolitical  reality.   Our  question  becomes  when  do  we  call  this   battle  to  task?  When  do  we  demand  more   from  our  political  process  than  this  either/ or  approach?  How  much  longer  will  we   allow  the  political  circus  to  mask  our   institutional  inability  to  constructively   participate  in  local  politics?  Why  not  now?  ! This  2012  Presidential  Election  year  is  the   "#$%!&$()$(!*+,!&%-./!01-$! perfect  time  to  begin,  and  if  we  dont  begin   this  year  we  will  only  6ind  ourselves  needing  to  begin  the  next  election  year.  For  no  matter  where  we  currently  stand  on  the  political  spectrum,  we  can  all  acknowledge  that  the  long-­‐term  wellness  of  American  democracy  is  on  the  line.The  fact  is:  Cleveland  and  Cincinnati  are  two  of  the  top  three  cities  in  the  country  where  concentrated  poverty  has  worsened.  Neither  the  left-­‐leaning  northeast  nor  the  right-­‐leaning  southwest  has  been  able  to  halt  the  progression  of  poverty  and  its  social  ills  over  the  past  ten  years.  
  4. 4. Ohios  Democrat  northeast  and  Republican  southwest  contrast  is  a  microcosm  of  the  same  problem  at  a  national  level.  During  the  Great  Recession,  and  the  slow,  painful  period  of  recovery  that  we’re  currently  in,  blue  states  and  red  states  are  both  more  like  black-­‐and-­‐blue  states.  Battered  6iscally,  and  with  unemployment  historically  high,  all  states,  whether  historically  red  or  blue,  have  been  equally  assaulted  by  the  downturn.  This  is  because  the  contrast  trap  created  by  battleground  politics  leads  predominantly  to  cut-­‐throat  elections  and  subsequent  band-­‐aid  governance  and  policy  making  –  not  toward  solutions  comprised  out  of  coalitions  of  distinct  interests  collaborating  upon  commonly  shared  ground.    Yet  do  we  actually  expect  a  government  of  career  politicians,  who  retain  incumbency  as  masters  of  the  splintered  state  of  political  discourse,  to  send  their  cash-­‐cow  out  to  pasture?  As  long  as  the  people  expect  ideological  rigidity  why  should  a  representative  anger  the  purists  in  their  base  by  transcending  their  constituents’  immediate  preferences  and  cooperate  with  the  opposition?What  we’re  witnessing  in  our  government  and  culture  today  is  the  dangerous  inclination  towards  the  idea  of  no-­‐compromise.  The  debt-­‐ceiling  debacle  of  2011  illustrates  this  perfectly.  First,  Congress  and  the  Obama  Administration  found  it  impossible  to  reach  an  accord  and  justify  an  increase  to  the  debt  ceiling.  Then,  after  creating  the  possibility  of  an  eventual  Treasury  default,  they  raised  the  debt  ceiling  without  addressing  the  issue  of  de6icit  reduction.  Instead,  they  formed  a  super-­‐committee  which,  months  later,  revealed  that  it  also  couldn’t  reach  consensus  and  had  failed  to  6ind  a  way  forward  on  the  massive  de6icit  problem  our  country  faces.  It’s  time  to  own  up  to  the  fact  that  there’s  more  to  politics  than  the  preferences  of  our  personal  tastes.  Until  politics  is  renewed  as  a  habit  of  association  in  which  we  slowly  shape  and  reshape  our  ideas  about  the  world  in  which  we  live  through  personal  engagement  in  the  life  of  our  communities,  we  will  continue  down  dead-­‐end  alleys  chasing  red-­‐herring  solutions.  This  taste-­‐based  approach  to  statesmanship  has  Republicans  and  Democrats  alike,  be  it  in  Congress,  the  state  house,  or  on  city  council,  professing  allegiance  to  ideology  at  the  cost  of  progress.  And,  in  the  meantime,  this  guarantees  us  yet  more  time  in  the  contrast  trap.  But  if  we’re  unwilling  to  adapt  our  ideas  and  uncomfortably  change  our  political  habits  so  as  to  better  contribute  to  the  vibrancy  of  democracy,  as  individuals,  we  cannot  reasonably  hope  to  hold  our  elected  of6icials  to  a  higher  standard  than  we  ourselves  embrace.The  Costs  of  Our  Political  CircusThe  bitter  irony  is  that  the  more  we  cling  to  the  inviolability  of  our  own  faction’s  point  of  view,  the  easier  it  is  for  a  small  group  of  political  elites  to  hold  onto  their  power  by  emulating  the  Roman  Emperor  Caesar’s  method  of  maintaining  authority:  Panem  et  Circenses,  or  bread  and  circuses.  Today’s  bread  is  seen  variously  as  tax  cuts  by  conservatives  
  5. 5. and  entitlements  by  liberals,  while  the  circus  is  apparent  in  battleground  political  campaigns,  and  failed,  revolving-­‐door  legislative  debates.   With  so  much  of  our  energy   devoted  to  the  6ight  for  bene6its   and  the  spectacle  of  our  elections,   is  it  really  any  wonder  that  the   accurate  public  expression  of   political  beliefs  and  views  has   been  devalued?  We’re  so  used  to   seeing  issues  from  polarized   points-­‐of-­‐view  that  we  rarely   turn  an  inquiring  eye  toward  the   rhetoric  promoting  the  party-­‐line.   Such  unquestioning  acquiescence   in  turn  tends  toward  what’s   known  as  preference  falsi6ication.   Our  preferences  are  falsi6ied   when  we  internalize  partisan   propaganda  and  use  it  to  express   our  own  opinions  because  it’s  the   only  accepted  medium  for   advancing  our  interests.   Unfortunately,  we  lose  the  spirit   of  our  preference  by  doing  so.  ! "#$%$&!()*+!,#!-&()+! The  problems  of  preference   falsi6ication  are  amply  evident  in   the  unethical  and  unreasoned  use  of  propaganda  to  persuade  prospective  voters.  For  starters,  it’s  common  practice  for  today’s  political  propaganda  to  frame  an  issue  with  euphemisms  and  dysphemisms,  which  cloak  the  issues  that  we  face  with  intense  emotional  stimuli  (positively  or  negatively),  and  thereby  make  collaboration  and  reasonable  discourse  a  long  shot.  During  Ohios  SB-­‐5/  Issue  2  saga,  a  piece  of  pro-­‐labor  propaganda  was  commandeered  by  pro-­‐SB-­‐5  interest  groups  and  used  to  promote  their  own  agenda.  Both  sides  of  the  debate  were  actually  running  the  same  propaganda,  spun  with  different  shades  of  red  and  blue,  to  advance  their  separate  interests  all  the  while  leaving  hapless  voters  little  choice  but  to  go  along  with  the  party-­‐line.    This  state  of  battle-­‐cry  political  discourse  should  give  us  reason  to  pause.  Do  we  reasonably  expect  to  be  able  to  address  the  fundamental  issues  underlying  our  modern  problems  as  long  as  in6lammatory  rhetoric  is  accepted  as  viable  political  speech?  How  are  we  going  to  be  able  to  hear  good-­‐faith  contributions  from  concerned  citizens  over  the  din  of  destructive  diatribes?  What’s  obvious  here  is  that  as  long  as  unique  perspectives  and  broad-­‐minded  
  6. 6. approaches  have  no  place  in  our  public  debates,  we  will  continue  to  languish  under  apparently  irresolvable  problems.On  the  battleground  of  a  war,  there  are  no  winners.  No  one  wins  in  battleground  politics  either  –  except  maybe  the  elite  few  who  are  willing  to  impoverish  the  rest  of  us  to  pad  their  own  pockets.  And,  as  conditions  decline  in  our  communities  divisive  propaganda  thrives,  while  politicians  capitalize  on  our  rapt  state  of  anticipation-­‐for-­‐change.  In  the  meantime,  our  top-­‐down  organized  political  parties  have  come  to  rely  on  ever  more  sophisticated  message-­‐delivery  systems  rather  than  actually  cultivating  bottom-­‐up  constituencies.    It  seems  that  today,  the  more  important  an  issue  is  to  the  country  as  a  whole,  the  more  extreme  and  paralyzing  the  ensuing  barrage  of  rhetoric  becomes.  Such  media  campaigns  make  it  clear  that  our  political  parties  are  more  interested  in  cultivating  adherents  than  encouraging  constructive  participation.  Listen  to  practically  any  of  the  Democratic  or  Republican  candidates  and  we  hear  how  their  party  has  a  monopoly  on  the  best  way  for  America  to  thrive.  These  top-­‐down  political  monopolies  are  violating  the  trust  we  have  placed  in  them.  For  years,  while  we  have  been  waiting  for  trickle-­‐down  solutions  to  bene6it  our  communities  and  us  directly,  members  of  Congress  have  legally  traded  equities  of  public  companies  using  non-­‐public  information  to  tip  the  scales  in  their  favor.  As  we  wait  for  promised  economic  opportunities  to  materialize,  Congressional  leaders  enjoy  a  voluntary  pass  on  paying  into  the  Social  Security  and  Medicare  systems  while  nearly  1  in  5  Americans  waits  in  the  unemployment  line  and  many  others  are  skipping  the  family  vacation  to  make  ends  meet,  or  worse  still.  What’s  perhaps  most  disturbing  of  all  are  the  public  professions  by  politicians  of  every  stripe  that  their  ideology  has  a  lock  on  the  answers  to  our  collective  problems.  Such  declamations  are  simply  disingenuous.  Without  an  actual  understanding  of  the  particulars  comprising  the  experience  of  over  300  million  Americans,  how  could  any  single  contrast-­trapped  perspective  hope  to  pave  the  path  toward  national  solvency?    Instead  of  trying  to  understand  and  cultivate  the  particular  resources  at  our  6ingertips,  our  modern  ideologues  seem  content  to  manipulate  the  mechanisms  of  persuasive  force  to  surmount  the  opposition  in  the  short-­‐term.  Yet  while  such  tactics  may  win  elections,  the  outcomes  don’t  reveal  a  real  winner  in  the  comparative  contrast  between  Ohio’s  liberal  northeast  and  conservative  southwest  regions.  Frankly,  if  the  correct  way  of  governance  was  one  side  of  the  contrast  trap,  wouldnt  it  stand  to  reason  that  the  equality  of  conditions  and  the  pursuits  of  liberty  and  justice  would  be  noticeably  greater  in  either  Cleveland  or  Cincinnati?  Of  course,  they  are  not,  nor  are  they  any  better  in  Massachusetts  than  they  are  Florida,  or  better  in  North  Carolina  than  they  are  California.  And,  so,  with  no  simple  solution  to  the  problems  we  face,  we  need  to  look  more  deeply  for  what  creates  and  perpetuates  Ohios  (and  Americas)  battleground  fallacy.
  7. 7. Partisan  Politics,  the  Flip-­Flop,  and  Individualism  Imbalanced  Let’s  begin  with  some  of  our  most  common  experiences  of  politics  today.  Open  most  any  newspaper  and  we  6ind  stories  about  gridlock  in  Washington  D.C.  or  the  successful  lobbying  of  one  interest  group  or  another.  We  turn  on  the  news  and  hear  the  dissection  of  electioneering  strategies  interwoven  with  disparaging  sound  bites,  or  we  tune  into  radio  programs  and  listen  to  politicians  and  pundits  promising  to  save  social  programs  or  eliminate  burdensome  taxes.  Everywhere  we  turn,  myriad  carefully  crafted  advertisements  combining  powerful  images  and  concise  messages  work  their  seeming  magic  to  convince  us  of  the  bene6its  of  electing  so  and  so  or  passing  referendum  number  whatever.  And  moment  by  moment  we’re  told  who’s  leading  the  race,  thanks  to  the  most  up-­‐to-­‐date  polling  and  statistical  modeling,  giving  an  air  of  inevitability  to  outcomes  perhaps  still  many  months  away.  Inundated  as  we  are  today  by  a  barrage  of  bad  news  and  doomsday  prognostications,  we’re  presented  with  ever  more  furious  claims  of  the  necessity  of  a  single  party’s  solution  to  what  is  supposedly  a  zero-­‐sum  political  game.  Yet,  as  we  stand  on  this  apparent  precipice,  we’re  confronted  by  a  practical  irony:  just  when  we’re  told  that  we  must  act  now  or  crumble  under  an  impossible  contradiction,  millions  of  Americans  and  many  Ohioans  dismiss  politics  as  impossibly  6lawed  and  irrelevant  in  their  personal  lives.  Such  a  situation  raises  an  important  question.    How  could  we  be  in  such  collectively  dire  straits  and  simultaneously  be  unsure  whether  we  can  even  politically  resolve  our  problems?Whether  on  the  right,  left,  or  middle  of  the  political  spectrum,  the  array  of  problems  confronting  the  great  state  of  Ohio  and  the  nation  as  a  whole  is  dizzying:  the  recession  and  its  unemployment,  education  woes,  unaffordable  health  care,  spiraling  national  debt,  crumbling  infrastructures,  terrorist  threats,  and  the  instabilities  of  the  international  economy  have  all  coalesced  into  a  storm  so  furious  that  all  we  seem  able  to  do  is  6ight  for  our  very  existence.  Though  instead  of  joining  forces  against  these  common  enemies,  we  6ind  ourselves  6ighting  tooth  and  nail  against  ourselves.
  8. 8. When  we  pause  to  consider  the  state  of  politics   in  Ohio  and  America  as  a  whole,  there  are   compelling  reasons  why  many  doubt  our   collective  ability  to  arrive  at  political  solutions   to  our  problems.  First  and  foremost  is  the  fact   that  the  political  landscape  of  today  has  become   a  battleground  in  which  the  victors  of  each  ! election  seek  to  destroy  the  opposition  and   unilaterally  impose  their  will  on  those  who  have   been  bested.   We  are  reminded  every  presidential  election   cycle  that  Ohio  is  one  of  the  battleground  states   that  must  be  won  in  order  for  a  presidential   hopeful  to  make  it  to  the  White  House.  Now,  in   an  obvious  and  important  sense,  there  is  no   getting  away  from  con6lict  in  politics.  A  man  of   no  less  historical  clout  than  Niccolo  Machiavelli   tells  readers  that  as  a  rule  the  best  laws  of  the   Roman  Republic  arose  time  and  again  out  of  the   "#!$%&#!%(!#)&&*+,!#%!$%&#!%(!-./(0#1(*1(&! con6lict  between  the  interests  of  the  senate  and   the  people.  It  was  this  wrestling  of  opposing   parties  which  eventually  moderated  the  speech  of  the  vying  interests  and  laid  the  foundation  for  legislative  compromises  capable  of  satisfying  both  sides.  Yet  such  productive  political  con6lict  is  very  different  from  the  battle  which  characterizes  our  modern  political  life.The  tv  ads,  newspaper  editorials,  pundit  blogs,  and  talk  radio  programs  are  practically  unanimous  in  their  proclamations  that  there  is  only  one  way  to  rescue  Ohio  and  resuscitate  America:  by  resolutely  embracing  the  party-­‐line  of  one  side  of  the  aisle  so  as  to  win  super-­‐majorities  capable  of  running  roughshod  over  the  opposition.  Yet  when  the  prosperity  promised  during  each  election  cycle  remains  unrealized  two,  four,  or  six  years  later,  is  it  any  wonder  then  that  the  majority  of  Americans  don’t  regularly  vote,  and  that  those  who  do  often  harbor  fundamental  doubts  about  the  viability  of  our  political  process?  Frankly,  there’s  only  so  long  that  a  reasonable  person  can  stave  off  exhaustion’s  apathy  after  so  many  failed  battles.The  Triumph  of  Expediency  Over  Democracy.  What  should  be  clear  from  the  foregoing  is  that  pushing  resolutely  forward  will  simply  yield  more  of  the  same  results.  Instead,  if  we  hope  to  realize  the  prosperity  which  we  feel  drawn  towards,  it  makes  sense  to  ask  if  something  is  out  of  place  in  our  most  fundamental  political  premises  which  may  be  causing  us  to  spin  our  political  wheels  .  .  .

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