Russ Hurley for Congress in 2018 (Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District)

Ohio's_2nd

The voters of Cincinnati have been carefully divided up into two congressional districts, both of which are reliably Republican.  The gerrymandering is particularly obvious in the 2nd district, which reaches to Pike County, roughly 100 miles away from the carefully carved appendage slicing through Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Currently, this district is represented by Brad Wenstrup, a tea partier who beat the incumbent Republican in the 2012 primary.  Unlike many tea party types, Wenstrup is no lightweight.  A former pediatrician, he is intelligent and articulate.  He runs a very professional congressional office.  His campaign already has a half a million dollars on hand. Given all of the advantages of incumbency and the demographics of the district, whoever runs as his opponent is sure to be a long shot.

In order to win in this district, the Democrats need to step outside their usual box and give the voters something to be excited about in an off-year election.   In my opinion, there is one issue that can generate that excitement: the legalization of marijuana.

Teapot RussMany Years ago, when I was smoking pot regularly, I assumed that when my generation came to power, marijuana would become legal.  Belatedly, this is starting to happen.  It has been legalized in a few states, and many more, including Ohio, have approved if for medical use.  However, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule I drug, putting it along side heroine and other highly addictive drugs.  It is time end this prohibition at its source, through national legislation.  A Quinnipiac poll says that most Americans (60% to 34%) agree “that the use of marijuana should be made legal in the U.S.”  This is a winning issue.

In the 2016 Democratic primary, there was one candidate for congress who put the marijuana issue front and center: Russ Hurley.  This is why I endorsed him then. Now, he has started an on-ine campaign for the 2018 primary and asked me to endorse him again.

King Court 2Since that primary, I have had the opportunity to meet Russ at his place of business: the King’s Court Master Barber & Shoe Shine Service.  I have not seen him address a crowd, but he strikes me as a down to earth guy who might appeal to the stereotypical Trump voter in a way that Wenstrup, with all his polished professionalism, might not.

I like candidates who let you know where they stand.  Hurley has done this, publishing his “top 10” issues.  Since this blog is about my point of view,  here is what I think of each or Hurley’s points:

  1.  Legalize industrial hemp and marijuana adding trillions of industrial $$$ into our economy. Saving 100s of billions on law enforcement. Eliminating the need for many prison cells across the nation. Close private for profit prisons and re-purpose them for indoor agricultural use making them more profitable for owners and providing even better jobs to the communities in which they reside.

One might question the wisdom of putting the marijuana issue first: we clearly have other important issues facing our nation.  However, the legalization of marijuana is what distinguished Hurley from the rest of the field in the previous primary, and it makes good sense to put this first.

Closing private, for profit prisons is a separate issue.  Even if we succeed in legalizing marijuana, the current Attorney General seems bent on incarcerating our way through the current opioid crisis, which will generate plenty of new prisoners.  America already jails a larger percentage of its population than any other developed nation.  This is horribly misguided.  Furthermore, we have a history of using prisoners for profit, and it is ugly.  We need to stop this now.

However, once we close the private prisons, we do not need to be directing the owners in how those facilities will be used.  Free market entrepreneurs excel at producing wealth from existing assets; they should not need our guidance.

2. Create a living wage increase commensurate  with CEO to minimum wage pay scale from the 1960s and double military base pay.

The increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth in our nation threatens the very foundation of our society.

I support increasing the minimum wage as one step in addressing this problem.  Seattle has set it at $15.00 an hour, which seems reasonable target to me.

As for military base pay, I do not know what is reasonable.  Currently, a Private (E1) with less than 2 years of experience earns $19,198.80, which is what someone earning $9.60 an hour would make working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year.  Clearly, the base pay should be increased if we are increasing the minimum wage.  Doubling it seems over the top.

The growth in CEO wages in the last few decades has been obscene; we cannot simply replicate this obscenity throughout our society.  “Commensurate with CEO to minimum wage pay scale from the 1960s” might sound fair, but as near as I can tell, this would put the minimum wage somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 an hour.  This is ridiculous.  Hurley, using different sources, thinks it would be about $28 an hour.  Still ridiculous.

3.  Equal rights at work (equal pay) or home (marriage) and at the doctors  for all people (ALL MEANS ALL) in the USA.

In the bathroom too, although I think it’s fine that he didn’t mention that.

4. Create high speed rail and help update and improve inner city public transportation.  

We need major improvements in our transportation infrastructure.  However, it seems strange to emphasize high speed rail and inner city problems given the district that Hurley seeks to represent.

5. Return retirement age back to 65.

I oppose this.  We are living longer, healthier lives.  I think it reasonable to move the “official” retirement age up, as is happening now.   However, since I myself retired early, you may call me a hypocrite.

A more important improvement to Social Security concerns the earnings cap on the tax used to support it: this should be raised.

6.  Fix immigration with a true path to citizenship. provide better border security by creating more military bases across our border to keep terrorists out.

I support a quick path to legal status for people who are here.  This is much more urgent than the long term path to full citizenship.

Border security is problematic.  While it is plausible that some minuscule fraction of the people entering this country illegally are terrorists, this threat is magnified beyond all reasonable sense of proportion by our politicians.  Trump’s giant wall will not help much; nor will Hurley’s army bases.  This should not be on the high priority list.  We already waste more than enough money on security theater.

7. Strengthen and expand the A.C.A. until single pay comes for a vote.

Here, I think Hurley has exactly the right approach.

8. Eliminate corn subsidies for ethanol replacing corn with hemp, leading towards 100% renewable, cleaner, cheaper and closer to home energy sources.

I know Russ thinks hemp is more efficient than corn as a source for ethanol.  This might be true.  However, there are lots of ways to produce ethanol, and corn is clearly not the most efficient choice.  Thus, I agree that we should move away from corn subsidies.

I think the government has a role to play in subsidizing the production of ethanol from renewable sources.  I would prefer to support multiple options, rather than have the politicians choose their favorite.

9. Fund adult and child education building new schools.

We need to spend more on education.   However, I don’t think providing buildings is the best way to involve the federal government in this.  So here, I agree with the goal, but perhaps not the specifics of the proposal.

10. Expand wind and solar power, updating our power grid to eliminate the 30% lost energy every day.

Improving our electric grid is a major priority.  Efficiency and flexibility are needed to make use of these newer, less predictable, power sources.

We also need to protect it from cyber attack.  I think there are vulnerabilities here that the government could help address.

Thus, my judgment on Russ’s top 10 issues is mixed: I am enthusiastic about some of them, other I find  are too strident.   In my opinion, there are also a few things missing from this list:

  • Paying for it all.  Politicians talk only of benefits, never of costs.  Several of the objectives that Russ lays out cannot be reached without allocating the necessary financial resources.  This money has to come from some place.  There are several options available: borrowing the money, reducing the amount spent on defense, or taxing people who have money.  If Hurley is going to be specific on these priorities, he needs to be prepared to talk about how they are going to be funded.
  • Simplifying the tax system.  As long as our system is so complex and littered with so many loopholes, arriving at a fair method of taxation is impossible.
  • Providing good government, compromising when necessary to move us closer to our long term goals.  In normal times, this would not even be worth mentioning.  However, today there are politicians who take pride in their obstinance. As a result, our politics has become toxic and dysfunctional.  Our constitution was founded on compromise.  We need representatives in congress committed to making our democracy work.

Hurley

So often, campaigns are based on platitudes so broad and bland that it is impossible to have anything constructive to say about them.  Russ Hurley has stated positions that are clear and specific enough that I can have an opinion.  I appreciate this.  That my opinion differs from his in several points does not upset me; since I think for myself, it is inevitable.  I can endorse a candidate who is ready to lead us in what I perceive as the right direction, and is able to analyze problems, and evaluate proposed solutions. What I am concerned with is that he is pointing in the right direction and is able to think things through.

This brings me back to issue number 2, concerning the minimum wage.  What Hurley proposes might sound fair, but I don’t think he has thought this through at all.  Hurley’s position is so far over the top, so impractical, that I question whether  he can be taken seriously as a candidate.  I cannot endorse such lame thinking.

In 2016, I moved from one part of Cincinnati to another, crossing that carefully gerrymandered line.  So I longer vote in the 2nd congressional district.  However, if I had the opportunity, I would seriously consider voting for Hurley, despite my misgivings.

Did I mention that he supports the legalization of marijuana?

 

 

Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts

I started evaluating the candidates for local office, but in most cases, I found my result so heavily influenced by party affiliation that it was not worth posting on the web.  I think the Republican Party, despite Governor Kasich’s attempt to steer it past the current catastrophe, is morally and intellectually bankrupt.  At the national level, Trump is the proof.

ruehlmanAt the local level, we have Judge Ruehlman, formally reprimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court, reversed on appeal for a “brazen” ruling, and described as pretty much a nightmare in his handling of a case involving alleged rape.   Even the Cincinnati Enquirer, which usually supports Republicans and seldom involves itself at all in judicial races, says that it is time to “retire Judge Ruehlman”.  A robust party committed to good government would have found a candidate to replace him, but this party is more interested in using the political advantage of incumbency to win the election.

In my opinion, the Republican Party needs to be thoroughly gutted so that we can replace it with a party that embraces truth and good government.  In light of this, it hardly matters what I think of an individual candidate.

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Aftab Pureval (CHRISTIN BERRY/BLUE MARTINI PHOTOGRAPHY)

However, there is one, Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts, whom I can endorse based on his qualifications and ideas, not just because his opponent is another no-good Republican (though she is at best mediocre).  I met him at a block party for my new neighborhood, where he introduced himself as “Aftab”, saying that people had trouble with his last name.  With him was a friend, a volunteer, wearing an “Aftab” t-shirt. I have seen that t-shirt pop up at other events: a political rally and a community counsel meeting.  I am impressed that he has such volunteers supporting his campaign.

Meanwhile, the Republican incumbent has been getting into trouble for pressuring the people she supervises to volunteer for her campaign.  Apparently, this is not illegal, but we voters can judge whether or not it is ethical.  Aftab promises to end such practices if elected.

Aftab Pureval, though relatively young, already has an impressive resume.  He graduated of Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati Law School.   As a lawyer, he has worked for a firm in Washington DC, has represented battered women, has worked as a federal prosecutor, and currently is working in house for Proctor and Gamble.  He is also a co-owner of a small business.

Tracy Winkler was appointed to be the Clerk Of Courts in 2011.   She seems to have gotten the job because of her family connections: she is married to Judge Ralph Winkler.  In 2012, she won the election as the incumbent Republican.

Pureval has ideas as to how the Clerk of Courts could be run better.  Winkler brags her office is running a surplus, but the fees that we pay here are higher than in Cleveland and Columbus.  In some other counties in Ohio, court records are available on-line; Pureval thinks he can make that happen in Hamilton County as well.

The reality is that Clerk of Courts is probably the pinnacle of Tracy Winkler’s career, while for Aftab Pureval, it is a stop on the way.  Once he has successfully accomplished his goals for this office, he will probably move on.  However, Hamilton County will be well served.  He is qualified, articulate, and hard working.  He will improve the services provided by the office.  He deserves your vote.

 

 

Not the Year for Minor Parties

In America, we have a two-party system.  This is not the result of some mysterious cabal, but simply a natural outgrowth of of the way we run our elections. When people vote for a third party candidate for President, they know that there choice has virtually no chance of winning.  However, by giving support to a candidate whose ideas are on the fringe today, perhaps they can play a role in making those ideas more mainstream in the future.  Certainly, the Socialist Party under the leadership of Eugene Debs laid the groundwork for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the candidacy of George Wallace played an important role in shaping the direction taken by the Republican Party of today.  So, even if a vote does not contribute to immediate victory, it is not wasted; it has influence. It reverberates in the electorate.

In an effort to be more democratic, our major parties have developed an elaborate, lengthy process to select the nominees.  However, despite all of the primaries and caucuses, many people, both independents and party stalwarts, are dissatisfied with the choices that emerged this year. So, they are looking elsewhere.

gary johnson close up

Gary Johnson

I find much of Libertarian Gary Johnson’s platform appealing: protecting privacy and security on the internet, ending the disastrous war on drugs, and reigning in the military. The major parties, busy competing on the basis of who can keep us safe from both the real and imagined dangers of the modern world, come down on the wrong side of all of these issues: they will try to undermine encryption standards on the internet, they will ineffectively tinker around the edges of drug policy, and they will increase military spending.

However, I disagree with the Libertarians on their fundamentally laissez-faire approach to the economy.  I suspect they would try to dismantle the social safety net, since they think “the proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.” Their ideas of freedom ignore the vastly unequal bargaining position of an individual versus a corporation in the modern world. Their somewhat utopian vision of “a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded” would simply allow powerful, unregulated multinational corporations to run amuck.

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Jill Stein

Since I am particularly concerned about the impact that our civilization is having on the natural environment, I am attracted to the Green Party, which has nominated Jill Stein, for President.  She has this to say:

 It’s time to build a people’s movement to end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of every person.

On internet security, the drug war, and foreign policy, Jill Stein makes statements that I am in full agreement with:

Protect the free Internet, legalize marijuana/hemp, and treat substance abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal problem….Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights.

However, I am far too moderate to be enthusiastic about the Green Party, which “seeks to build an alternative economic system”.  As much as I admire the goals of “creating living-wage jobs for every American who needs work” and “transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030,”  I am convinced by the Washington Post’s analysis: their plan is an appealing “fairy tale”.

Since I think for myself, no candidate is going to be perfect, that is, in agreement with me on every issue. Even if such a mythical person were to exist and get elected, they would end up having to compromise.  My vote, inevitably, also represents a compromise. I am ok with this.  My judgement is probably less than perfect anyway.

So, why are people so dissatisfied with the choices that emerged from the major party  primaries?

Hillary Clinton Speaks At The University Of Miami

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton has been in the public spotlight for a quarter century.  Ever since she said “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies” in the 1992 election, she has been pilloried by partisans who oppose her vision of the modern woman and by professional character assassins skilled in covertly leveraging the prejudices of the American public.  She has endured scandals, both real and fabricated, investigations, and an endless stream of congressional hearings. The details of her life have been closely examined by people determined to find a way to bring her down.  She is probably the most thoroughly vetted candidate in history.

Through it all, she remains standing.  Yes, she has her faults, and she has made mistakes during he long career in public service.  However, the worst that Trump can actually substantiate is that she didn’t handle her emails properly when she was Secretary of State.   All of this scrutiny over the years has trained her to be extremely cautious in what she says, and her lack of spontaneity puts many people off.  In addition, Clinton is far too moderate for many in her own party, as the remarkable candidacy of Bernie Sanders pointed out.  However, she is rational, experienced, knowledgeable, competent, compassionate, and, despite what was chanted at the Republican convention, basically honest.

It is ironic that the historic milestone, the first woman ever nominated for President by a major party, should receive such little attention.  That is because all the attention is being grabbed by the Donald, whose candidacy is what really makes this election historic.

Donald Trump is in many ways the opposite of Clinton: he is irrepressibly spontaneous, irrational, inexperienced, ignorant, incompetent, callous, and basically dishonest.  He has built a career promoting his brand, serving no-one but himself.

Perhaps you are tired of the Democrats brow beating you with the specter of some calamity should a Republican get elected.  Me too.  But this year, the Republicans have put forward an unimaginable catastrophe.  Historians, including Ken Burns and David McCullough, who usually keep their political leanings private, have taken extraordinary steps to warn the American people about Donald Trump.  Newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle which has usually endorsed Republicans, have come out against Trump in July, long before they would normally endorse anyone.  Even many Republicans openly oppose him.  One, Evan McMullin, has begun an independent campaign to oppose Trump because “someone needed to do it”.   All of these agree: Trump is a danger to our democracy.

And he could win.

His rallies are packed with supporters who enthusiastically cheer his most outlandish pronouncements.  Another contingent, having fed for decades on anti-Clinton propaganda, will vote for their party’s nominee no matter what he does or says, putting party loyalty ahead of loyalty to their country.  That adds up to a significant portion of the electorate.  If the remaining voters divide their support among the rational candidates, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and now McMullin, it is quite possible for Trump to come out on top.

Currently, opinion polls are heartening.  However, such polls can lead to a dangerous complacency.  If a poll puts a state safely in one column or another, people may think that they might as well indulge in a minor party candidate, trusting others to make sure Trump doesn’t win.   Opinion polls have always had a margin of error, and the error is likely to be larger this year than in the past, especially with Trump disrupting the usual voting patterns.

In normal circumstances,  I would be sympathetic with those who choose to vote for a minor party candidate; such a vote can have important long term effects. However, nothing about Trump is normal.  When a fire starts, you put it out; long term planning can come later.   This is not the year to vote Libertarian or Green, even if you support the most radical of their proposals.  The stakes are simply too high.

If you care about the future of our republic, you have only one choice: Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

 

Time for a Clean Sweep

trumpaustralia-1The proof is in the Trumping: the Republican Party of 2016 has shown itself to be morally and intellectually bankrupt.

The bungling of the Bush years you can chalk up to policies that, though misguided, were at least arguably well intentioned.  However, once the American people had the gall to elect that nigger president, those good intentions evaporated.  Starting with the “You Lie” blurted out during Obama’s first state of the union message, and continuing through today with their refusal to even grant Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, the Republican Party abandoned all pretense of serving as a loyal opposition.  The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower has transformed into the party of obstruction, disfunction, willful ignorance, and blatant racism.

Trump surveyed the ground and found it well fertilized with resentment, misinformation and obscure conspiracy theories, including one absurdity he helped propagate.  He seized an opportunity that nobody else seemed to understand, tapping into the fear and resentment that Republicans had cultivated over the years.

So what if his policy statements make no sense.  People haven’t cared about the policies anyway.   As Chris Ladd (goplifer) put it:

gopliferFrustrated by our failure to overtly embrace their agenda, Republican bigots have finally found a candidate who has dropped the pretense and run an explicitly white nationalist campaign. We are discovering that no one ever really cared much about abortion. No one cared about fiscal restraint, or tax cuts or nationalized health care. The Republican base we painstakingly assembled across fifty years is only really interested in one thing – preserving the dominant position of their white culture against a rising tide of pluralism. Other issues only mattered to the extent that they helped reinforce and preserve white supremacy.

Ryan

Paul Ryan (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Poor Paul Ryan doesn’t know what hit him.  He still thinks “Republicans lose personality contests … but we win ideas contests.”   This hasn’t been true for a long time.  Certainly, George W. Bush didn’t win on his ideas, nor did McCain loose on his personality.  If Paul Ryan actually gets around to making any of the positive proposals he claims to be interested in, he will find little support for them from the Donald.  Trump has no interest in ideas, and he makes no pretense of appealing to the intellect.  He succeeds because the party is intellectually bankrupt.

Make no mistake: Trump is danger to our democracy.  Beyond his obvious lack of qualifications, he shows all the signs of a budding tyrantA few  with integrity are standing on their principles, but the large majority of Republican running for office are falling into line, putting party unity and their own job security above all else.  Because the Republican Party is morally bankrupt, Trump will have little trouble in unifying it behind his candidacy.

The Republican base has chosen this narcissistic sociopath as their standard bearer, and it is now up to the American people to reject him and everything he stands for.  However, Trump is just the symptom.  In order to cure the disease, we must excise Republicans from power at all levels.  America must reject those who put party loyalty above loyalty to their country.

Perhaps from the ashes of a crushing defeat we can raise a second party that is based on principles rather than ethnic identity, and America will once again be offered reasonable choices worthy of a vibrant democracy.  But for 2016, vote straight Democrat.  It’s the only way to make America great again.

 

Becoming a Negative Partisan

Like a moth to the flame, I am inexorably drawn to this presidential campaign, not to the interesting tussle of ideas and vision between Hillary and Bernie, but to the ghoulish horror show on the other side. Each day, I search the news in fascination, finding some new reason to be appalled. Yesterday, it was from Ted Cruz: “We [the southern states] should build a nuclear bomb and use it to defend our right to believe in God as our one true Father.” (Actually, this quote was from several months ago, but I just came across it.)

 

I am amazed, not that someone thinks this way, but that such a person would be a leading candidate for the most powerful position on the planet.  But it is not just Cruz; others are almost as frightening.  Their policies concerning climate change vary from outright denial to a complete unwillingness to do anything about it that might “hurt the economy”, meaning hurt the vested interests who are funding their campaigns.  Their attitudes toward our civil liberties are totally skewed: they worry about “religious freedom” for Christians, by which they mean they want the freedom to discriminate and practice their religious rituals at government events, but seem totally unconcerned about the Constitutional rights of Muslims.  None of our civil liberties are safe with these guys, except our gun rights.  When it comes to foreign policy, they want America to lead the world, but they think the way to do that is to be belligerent as possible.  As Rand Paul said in the recent debate, responding to one of the supposedly more moderate candidates, “Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.

Bernie&HillarySo, I am not so much in favor of Bernie or Hillary as I am totally opposed to the rabid reactionaries. I have succumbed to what John Chait calls negative partisanship.

 

The party system has split along racial, cultural, and religious lines, creating a kind of tribal system where each party’s supports regard the other side with incomprehension and loathing.

“Incomprehension” is not quite accurate in describing my own feelings.  Having grown up in the South, I find some of this all too familiar.  “Loathing” might be more accurate, but it does not convey the fear.  This sense of fear is actually something I share with the reactionaries, it is just that I fear entirely different things.  We each fear exactly what the other seems to hope and dream for, for our country and for the world.

This identity politics, driven by fear, is unhealthy.  It means that the political party that I choose is largely unaccountable.  Even if I find my party falling short in honesty, integrity and good government, I will continue to support them so long as the they protect the country from this band of misguided ideologues.  As long as the Tea Party threatens to win elections, I am voting Democrat.

My older son tells me I’m “nostalgic for those days when a reasonable person could contemplate voting something other than a straight ticket.”  He’s right.  Long ago (2014), I endorsed a set of candidates from four different parties for the state-wide races in Ohio.   That was before the Donald, the Cruz, and their fellow maniacs scared me straight.

 

The Democrats’ Lost Opportunity

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“It’s the economy, stupid”.  But not this year.

The economy is doing so well that even Forbes magazine, hardly a friend to the Democrats, declared, “Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth and Investing”.  Nevertheless,  Republicans all over the country, ably assisted by Fox News, were able to mount successful campaigns founded simply on “Obama, Bad”.  Bizarrely, many Democrats apparently agreed. Instead of countering the Republican disinformation with the very real achievements of the last few years, many Democrats ran away from the president, treating him like a pariah.

Allison Lundergan Grimesmeet-mitch-m

For example, in south western Ohio, we were subjected to the dueling ads of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes.  McConnell’s job approval rating was even worse than Obama’s, so there was a reason for the Democrats to get excited about her prospects.  But the campaign was ridiculous. McConnell spent his time chaining Grimes to Obama and bashing the president. Grimes countered McConnell’s “Obama, Bad” with “McConnell, Worse”, though she seemed to agree with McConnell on the things that mattered, such as guns and coal, and even on how bad Obama was.  Grimes put as much distance between herself and Obama as she could, to the point of refusing to say whether or not she voted for Obama in the last election.  The whole strategy was based on the voters ignoring her party affiliation: it was doomed to failure.

The Republicans and their allies at Fox News are very skillful.   After six years of constantly undermining Obama, occasionally  pointing out real missteps, but more often resorting to half truths and outright fabrications,  they have succeeded in convincing many Americans that Obama is a disaster.

However, the Republicans are not just character assassins: they have an agenda.  Concerning the changing climate, they advocate a head in the sand approach, ignoring or denying the evidence that human activity is having any effect.  In economics, the Republicans subscribe to a “trickle down” policy that first protects the “job creators”, anticipating that the bounty will eventually reach the rest of the economy.  We have had over 30 years of experience since this approach was introduced, the evidence is that it benefits only the wealthy. I could go on, but that is not the point.  The Republicans have candidates who stand for something, and even when these candidates loose, they affect the debate and the direction of the country.

What is most galling about the Grimes campaign and others like it is that it does not really stand for anything.  It wastes an opportunity to present a clear alternative to the bone headed policies advocated by the Republicans.  As a result, the voters drift a little further off course.

The Bush administration, starting from a booming economy and a budget surplus, drove the economy into near collapse.  The Obama administration, despite Republican attempts to sabotage everything he did, succeeded in rebuilding the economy.  Employment is up, and the stock market is at record highs.  This is the kind of success the party should be embracing, not running away from.  The Democrats should be running on their vision for the future, like they did so successfully in 2008.  Then, even if they had lost a midterm election where the prospects were rather dim, they would have had an impact on the long term.  Instead, they ran away from their strength and offered nothing but bluster.  It is no wonder the well oiled, well financed, Republican machine rolled them over.

This year, the Democrats lost more than an election, they lost an opportunity to shape the debate among the American people. In this election, the Democrats deserved defeat.

David Pepper for Attorney General

David Pepper  In the middle of the president’s second term in office, the opposition usually wins the election. This year appears to be no different.  The constant drumbeat of attacks by so-called conservatives, though many of them were clearly absurd, has succeeded in the pulling down Obama’s approval rating despite the relatively healthy economy and the success of the heath insurance overhaul. Thus, the Republicans might win, even with inferior candidates.

The hope for the Democrats is that people will get out and vote.  Wanting to help, I looked for a Democrat to work for.  I chose David Pepper, candidate for Attorney General for the state of Ohio.  He has actual substantive proposals, the ads he runs on TV are mostly true, and he has the endorsement of the the Fraternal Order of Police.

david-pepper-and-mike-dewine-face-off-in-endorsement-meeting-5a8103722b20cc69  Like many Americans, I am tired of the food fight that breaks out whenever a campaign is close.  Part of the problem with the dueling attack ads is that it becomes difficult for an ordinary citizen to wade through the muck to find anything that resembles truth.  Mike Dewine’s major attack is that Pepper is “Unqualified”, to which he adds a number of other misrepresentations.  Though the Pepper campaign had to respond, this ad is best ignored.  Most of Pepper’s attacks are directed at what he calls “Pay to Play”.  As far as I can tell, he has a pretty clear case that Dewine rewards campaign contributors with lucrative contracts.  Pepper has pledged to bring more integrity into the process of awarding contracts, in particular, by creating an “independent review board to screen bids.”  Unfortunately, one of Pepper’s ads implies that the money from the donors ended up in Dewine’s pockets.  Although there is a grain of truth in this, the reality is the the Dewine lent his campaign a lot of money, which has been repaid as the coffers filled.  There does not seem to be anything illegal going on.  As a result, Pepper’s legitimate issue gets muddied by his own overreach, and newspapers, trying to be impartial, end up saying that each side is smearing his opponent with unsubstantiated innuendo.

Though barely mentioned in the television ads, the two candidates have stark differences in how to address the heroin epidemic.  David Pepper proposes a four pronged approach:  1) treat it as a public health crisis, 2) reduce demand, 3) prevent overdose deaths, and 4) crack down on dealers.  Note that he lists the traditional law enforcement response last.  In contrast to the wishful thinking and pep talks that Republicans typically fall back on, Pepper lists concrete actions to reduce demand: increase treatment programs both inside and outside the justice system, fund school resource officers, and litigate against drug companies responsible for oversupplying and over-marketing opioids.  To prevent deaths from overdoses, he wants to get Narcan into the hands of first responders.  None of the proposals are radical: he points to programs that have shown success in other states.

Typical of a clueless politician, the incumbent Mike Dewine, responded to this crisis, long after it was clear that heroin had become a significant problem, by appointing a task force.  We know that he spent a million dollars setting this up, but we don’t yet know what it has accomplished after being in operation for almost a year, “because of security reasons”.  Dewine followed up on this bold dithering by traveling around the state, holding town meetings and law enforcement round tables.  It seems that he was wandering around aimlessly, hoping to be told what to do.

FOP Endorsed  I usually think of police as law and order types who would lean Republican, so when the Fraternal Order of Police endorses a Democrat, especially for Attorney General, I thought it was worth finding out why.  The reason is simple: the FOP is a union, and the Republicans have been trying to gut the power of unions.  The FOP was particularly galled by Senate Bill 5, which would have limited the bargaining rights of public sector unions.  The bill was passed by the Republican legislature in 2011 and was promptly repealed by voter referendum that same year. In their endorsement of David Pepper for Attorney General, the first thing they mention was how he stood by them in opposing SB 5.  Only secondarily do they mention his plan to confront the heroine epidemic.  So, the FOP endorsement of Pepper is more a union endorsement of a Democrat than a policeman’s endorsement of a man with a plan.

However, David Pepper is the man with a plan. He is running a strong campaign and has a good chance to buck the Republican trend.  If you care about what government does in response to the upsurge in heroin abuse, if you want state contracts to go to competent suppliers rather than political supporters, or if you simply want to avoid giving the union busting Republicans full reign in the state of Ohio, then vote to replace Dewine with Pepper.