Thursday, November 5, 2009

143. Issues were decided by marketing

A few post election thoughts.

As expected, Issue 2 passed and is now engrained in the Ohio Constitution. With the farmers raising four million dollars and the opposition barely scrapping up enough for a few door hangers, the result offers a peak into modern American democracy.

Although those of us in opposition did everything we could in terms of sending emails and using social networking to speak out against it, the sad fact is that as long as Americans remain disengaged in the democratic process, things like this will continue to happen. Without researching the issue further, many Ohioans were subject to marketing ploys that included keeping "outsiders" or "radical" groups out and bipartisan "robo" calls from Governor Ted Strickland and U.S. Senator George Voinovich.

This was bad government pandering to corporate interest-and the truth is that people just did not understand. What happened to the small government people, the people who do not trust large corporations, the people who want to protect the state constitution, and the people who like animals? Republicans and Democrats alike, this should have been very easy to defeat.

In my many discussions on the subject, I heard a few things that surprised me. First, many people do not understand what a big business factory farming really is. There was a continued misperception that local famers represented the farming industry. Many small farming organizations/unions opposed Issue 2. Factory farmers are a powerful political group dedicated to profit above anything else-which includes your health and the welfare of their animals.

Secondly, I did not realize the prejudice there is against vegetarians and animal groups. Some people relished in the opportunity to "stick it" those who think that animals should a decent life before ending up on a dinner plate. Few had actually read Proposition 2 that received overwhelming support in California-but they were determined to defeat it before it got started.

Then there were the absurd, arguments that had no basis in reality. One person told me that chickens have more room than children in classrooms. Another told me that if this failed, eggs would go up to $12 a dozen. And, then, there was the nearly incomprehensible response from Representative Boose, who, of course, said the issue was about taxes. If this issue had anything to do with taxes, those in the state legislature that supported for that reason ought to resign from office for deceptively misrepresenting a constitutional amendment to the public. The aim presented to the public was the creation of a "standards board." The reasons presented were safety and the fear of "radical" animal groups. The motive was clearly profit.

The surprising reality of the situation is that this does not prevent reform of the farming industry. The Humans Society of the United States did not spend money in opposition because a new amendment, one that includes actual farming standards, can just as easily be proposed to the voters of the state in a year or two. In the end, the whole thing was ridiculous.

I was not surprised that Issue 3 passed. It was only a matter of time and this seemed to be the best proposal presented thus far. Too many manufacturing jobs have been forever lost and the state needed to find new job opportunities. If money was going to be spent by Ohioans on gambling, it is probably best that it is spent here. I do fear that gambling problems will ensue, and it is usually the poor that is enticed to gamble away a rent payment.

Conversely, I was a bit surprised that Issue 4 failed. It is true, however, that many people are still feeling the effects of the recession and just do not have the money to support any tax increase. Yet, this issue was geared at safety and failure means that citizens of Lorain County will continue to feel the effects of reduced safety forces (and other social services). It's unfortunate that we have to choose between low taxes (which Lorain County has) and safety. I thought the tax was fair, since it was a sales tax, but many people are now against all taxes.

In local races, I was disappointed that several political offices ran nearly unopposed. Voters cannot have it both ways, they cannot continue to fight everything local politicians are trying to do, and then vote them back into office year after year.

Voters need to step up and be accountable-they need to understand the issues, question candidates on their values, and get involved in politics. Do not let issues be won be on the basis of money or slick marketing campaigns. Government belongs to us only if we understand it, and participate in it. Our democracy depends on it.

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