There’s been a ton of discussion here about why SB 5 is bad policy and bad economics for Ohio.  But nobody seems to have considered how SB 5 is bad politics (especially for the GOP heading into 2012.)

Before there was a Tea Party, or soccer moms, there were the Reagan Democrats, blue-collar working stiffs who ordinarily sided with Democrats on economic issues but came out in force for Reagan.    Miami University alum/nationally renown Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found that in a Michigan community that went nearly 2/3rds for Kennedy, went the other direction for Reagan… twice.  The socioeconomic demographic of the region had not changed.  Blue collar union voters just stopped being the solid, uniform pro-Democratic vote it had been.

As this post on Balloon Juice noted, the idea of labor being a solid Democratic constituency is not exactly true.  According to surveys, on average 57% of union households typically vote Democratic, that’s only 11-points higher than non-union households.  That means that up to 43% vote Republican… consistently.

Republicans have made inroads into the labor vote by appeals to the white working and middle class on social issues like guns.  Although the idea of a pro-union Republican now seems difficult to conceptualize with SB 5 being introduced, you have to realize that not all Republicans have been hostile to unions, especially in ways that we’re seeing now.  That’s how Republicans like Tom Patton in Cleveland and Jimmy Stewart in Athens stay elected.  They appeal to the Reagan Democrats without appearing to pose as any threat to the Reagan Democrat’s unions.

How pervasive has pro-union Republicans become in our political culture?  Well, according to CNN’s 2010 exit poll in the Ohio’s Governor’s race, John Kasich took 37% of the union vote while Portman got 43%!  Nearly two out of every five union members voted for John Kasich.  (Of course, I dare say there’s some buyer’s remorse there.)  But why?  Because while the labor leadership understood that the Democratic Party was friendly to labor interest, the rank-and-file became convinced over time that there was no real danger in voting Republican.

After all, it’s not like these guys took away our unions when they controlled State government in the 1990s, right?  Right?

As a result of SB 5, the rank and file of Ohio’s unions suddenly realize that this is a different breed of Republicanism than they’ve seen before.  Despite the fact that Kasich said during the campaign that he wants to “break the back of teachers’ unions,” his rhetoric was either dismissed or ignored.  Not anymore.  If SB 5 passes, it may cause most rank and file union members to distrust every voting Republican again for a generation.  What had been a sub-60% performance constituency could approach the kind of performance the party only sees in the African-American community.   That, in and of itself, could be a major factor in future elections, and not one that benefits the Republicans.  Thanks to John Kasich, the Republicans may have woken up a sleeping giant for which they lack any real political counterweight.

Again, let’s look at the partisan breakdown of the Quinnipiac Poll when it asked Ohioans if they supported what is essentially SB 5:


So if Quinnipiac is an accurate reflection of public opinion in Ohio, here’s what the Republicans get with SB 5:

  • An energized labor base that will be mobilized more than ever behind the Democratic Party at levels they’ve never seen in their lifetime;
  • The rest of the Democratic base which gets energized in opposition levels that equal or slightly exceed the labor base.
  • A mostly split, ambivalent Republican base.

And it’s all going to be pushed by a new Governor who won with only a plurality of the vote, has the second lowest favorability rating of any Governor in the nation, and has a 30% approval rating during his “honeymoon” period.  Seriously, who saw this and thought “political winner?”  (The reality is the GOP didn’t look at it because they simply miscalculated public opinion on the issue.)  To top it off, not even Rasmussen can generate a poll that shows the American public is solidly behind Walker.

And why is the support for this so weak with Republicans?  Again, because of the existence of Reagan Democrats.  These are the same union folks you can see on the Columbus Tea Party website opposing getting involved in favor of SB 5.

Take the issue out of the equation and just look at the above.  This is absolutely suicidal politics.  And how does this help the GOP next year.  If Mitt Romney continues to be the front runner, how can he win in this environment.  He’s going to have to write off Michigan given Obama saving the auto industry and Romney’s opposition to that.  Where do you go to make inroads in States Obama carried in 2008?  Well, you probably can’t go to Wisconsin and Ohio.

Yeah, if you’re a Republican looking to run for President next year, you can’t be thrilled with seeing this kind of labor mobilization in Wisconsin and Ohio.  Seriously, where’s Mitt Romney on Wisconsin? AWOL.  After campaigning to get Walker elected as Governor there, Mitt Romney is nowhere to be seen on this issue.

(Huckabee has sided with Walker, but he’s a Governor of a Right-to-Work State and has nothing to lose by siding with Walker as Huckabee is generally positioning himself to be general election poison anyways.)

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  • Guest

    The people played for suckers have buyer’s remorse when the R’s stand with and for rotten evil rich people and large corporations who can fund their campaigns with unlimited money. People thought that R’s stand with labor……Reagan was the first to really go after labor now it’s you are on the chopping block. You reap what you sow and you have sown economic insecurity for working class people for year to come.

    Welcome to being a lazy, selfish, stooopid, greedy welfare queens aka uppity ns.

  • Asktheteach1

    Unions made American middle classes strong, protectour working conditions, provide you with professionals who have leverage n backn to make things better forU…Why doesnt Kasick..instead of giving his cabinet raises, and if he believes in this donate those millions he stole from the “BAILOUTS!” All kasick cares about is destroyn the community we all built and worked hard for. KING John has just seen what DEMOCRACY looks like on 2/22/2011… THIS IS OUR HOUSE! LET US IN! Chants…Kasich? u make me sick.. how dare u use your power n betray OHIOians and their children!

  • Skhtkg

    The R’s stand for the people of America. They stand for small business and job creation. They stand for letting us keep more money in our pockets and less in the union coffers. I urge you to actually read SB 5. Educate yourselves. SB5 is about giving back to the tax payers. Getting our house in order and bringing more to our state. Having the ability to reward good workers and get rid of the bad.
    What is wrong with the expectation that people take care of their own. Rich people are not evil. They understand how to make money. It is in their best interest for others to make money. The unions have destroyed our freedom. they dictate how things work and make it hard for companies to provide jobs.

  • Anonymous

    You haven’t read the bill. Don’t come here a lie to people. This bill doesn’t give ANYTHING back to taxpayers. Not a thing.

    What “freedom” have unions destroyed? You don’t even know the meaning of the word. This bill is yet another attack on the working and middle class.

  • ProudPublicServant

    You are completely wrong about the Republican party. It does not stand for freedom unless you think like them, talk like them and walk like them. They have shown their true colors in the past few months by increasing corporate welfare in Ohio, Wisconsin and any other region they control, and they will do the same on the national level if we let tem.

    The Republicans talk about a capitalist society, but when they get the opportunity, they take from the poor and redristibute the wealth to rich corporations. I just read an article about the many very large corporations that pay no taxes. The article was backed up by independent statistics. I am always wary of newspapaer aticles, but this one looked like it was based on accepted statistics.

    I am not against corporations making money. They have traditionally provided jobs and a comfortable way of life for the middle class. However, now it seems that they demand states and comminities to direct money in their direction or suffer the consequences of moving to another location. They are now investing heavily in poticians that want to take away the American dream of a comfortable middle class ( Thank you Supreme Court for eliminating corporate limits on compaign contributions). Poticians like Mr. Kasich are more than happy give in their ransom demands. And they make it all sound like they are doing it for us. Skhtkg, wake up, you have been duped. Read the facts. Over the past 35 years, Republicans have controlled politics in the country. In that time, conditions have degraded. The proof in the pie is under the crust, my friend.

  • Bootz

    My goodness you are totally brain washed.  The unions are what created the middle class, which is specifically why this country has thrived for the past 100 years.  Before the unions there was only SLAVE wages, and the incredibly rich people that owned the facotries.  MY GOD HAVE YOU ANY IDEA OF HISTORY AT ALL.   

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