Back in February, the conventional wisdom of the traditional media was that Senate Bill 5 showed a political reality in Ohio in which organized labor was politically powerless to stop, especially in this budgetary political environment.  (Of course, they said this even after public opinion polling showed Ohioans were already not conceptually supportive of Kasich’s plan to pursue collective bargaining “reform.”)  Sure, they might be able to put it to a referendum, but that was viewed as a jump ball.  Fast forward to the present week.

Months after John Kasich signed the bill, and as expectations grow that the We Are Ohio campaign is going to submit well over 1,000,000 signatures (a record for any petition filed in Ohio), having only sixty some days to collect them, the soft proponents of SB 5 are screaming for a compromise.

Rumors (well sourced ones) spread this week that the Kasich Administration was wanting to divide SB 5 into multiple issues so that their proxy campaign could, in essence, negotiate with voters about which terms in SB 5 they could allow to become law in exchange for voiding others through referenda.

Then, there’s the tripe being spewed by Brent Larkin at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who is publicly begging John Kasich and the GOP legislative leadership to negotiate some deal with organized labor now.  Now after the GOP portrayed school teachers, police officers, nurses, prison guards, firefighters and other hard-working public sector employees as nothing more than “idiot” parasites causing all of Ohio’s budgetary ills.  After they railroaded it through by last minute committee changes and countless secret meetings to work out its terms.  After hundreds of witnesses who testified in opposition were ignored and the GOP rammed through whatever they could given the votes they could get from their own caucus, the Brent Larkins of the world now want to lay the groundwork to blame the unions for not compromising in their counterpunch.

There is one individual, and only one individual, who is responsible for SB 5’s likely repeal and the all-or-nothing battle being waged through Election Day now.  Only six months into his term, and John Kasich has provided Ohio with failed leadership.  He could have spent the transition meeting with both the leadership of organized labor and local government leaders to try and reach a bargain.  Sure, he probably would not have been successful in finding something organized labor could live with, but he could still created a “tool” that local governments want.  Instead, he’s created a “tool” drafted by the Imagineers of out-0f-State, out-0f-touch ideologically myopic organizations like Americans for Prosperity.  It’s a tool that is celebrated by conservative ideologues, but it is more ceremonial than utilitarian.

Kasich decided that instead of being a leader who tried to build SB 5 on consensus, he’d adopt a “take no prisoners,” blindly partisan approach.  He didn’t have to listen to organized labor, he reckoned, what with the large Republican and unprecedented  conservative majorities in the General Assembly.  And the Brent Larkins of the Ohio media world wrote columns largely agreeing with him at the time.

Now the “We Are Ohio” campaign is ready to delivery over 1,000,000 signatures from Ohioans who say they believe the legislature got it wrong on the bill, and SB 5 should be put to a vote to repeal, the Brent Larkins of the world realize that Bill Seitz was right all along.  All Governor Kasich has managed to do is provoke a sleeping political giant and outraged it so much that they are now in danger of creating a powerful political precedent that could render collective bargaining “reform” into a third rail of Ohio politics for at least a generation. 

The plan to subdivide SB 5 at the ballot and Mr. Larkin’s fruitless prayer that somehow John Kasich a) will come to the bargaining table, and b) hasn’t empowered organized labor so much that he still has the political leverage to get what he wants from such negotiations all are implicit acknowledgements that even the proponents of SB 5 realize that John Kasich has failed as a leader.  After all, such plots are nothing more than the fevered hope that somehow the damage caused by Kasich’s failed leadership can be mitigated, that somehow, something they support in SB 5 can survive.

In begging for compromise of a bill the Governor has already signed, Larkin pleaded:

But there are also many thoughtful people on both sides of this issue. It’s time for them to push aside those who view Senate Bill 5 through a purely political prism and to explore the possibility of a compromise.

The problem is that pushing aside those who view Senate Bill 5 through a purely political prism means pushing aside Governor John Kasich and the GOP legislative leadership that passed SB 5.  Larkin’s problem is that his mythical negotiators would have to be people who have no political power to get Kasich, Niehaus, and Batchelder to go along, so it would be a compromise with no means to make it a reality.  SB 5 and the Kasich budget were political declarations of war with organized labor, now that the war is in earnest, Mr. Larkin futilely suggests now is the time to send in the… the diplomats?

Larkin ignores that Kasich has painted himself into a political corner.  His base wouldn’t tolerate seeing him now negotiate with labor after he has ready them for an all-out political war in Ohio.  And with 1,000,000 signatures and public opinion on their side, organized labor hardly has much to motivate them to come to the bargaining table, either.  Kasich is powerless to move himself into any other direction other than hope SB 5 can survive the will of the voters come November 8, 2011.

It’s not like Brent Larkin should be surprised that Kasich would be a failed, ideologically myopic leader:

His Republican challenger, John Kasich, is a former congressman from suburban Columbus given to Reagan-style optimism and bold, sometimes questionable, ideas. He is just as clearly the wild card, eager to shake up the status quo and even challenge his own party, but also capable of talking himself right off a cliff.

Does he understand that being a Fox News provocateur is not the same as being the leader of a diverse, complex state?

[Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer, “The Plain Dealer endorses John Kasich for governor of Ohio” (Oct. 3, 2010)]

Senate Bill 5, and how Kasich railroaded it through the legislature, is precisely when Kasich talked “himself right off a cliff”  as only a Fox News provocateur could do so proudly.  There are certain decisions you make in life, Mr. Larkin, that you can’t bargain your way out of.  You either atone for your mistakes and spend your remaining time acknowledging the error of your ways, or you steel yourself in abundant confidence that you made the right decision no matter how fatalistic your choice actually appears.

You lie in bed with dogs, you can expect to get fleas, Mr. Larkin.  If you wanted someone who could deal with contentious issues by developing bipartisan consensus, we already had that in Governor Strickland.  Your paper (and you) wanted Governor Kasich, you got it.  Live with it.  Own it.

It’s 136 days until SB 5 detonates on Election Day.  You might as well just wave your little hat and scream like a cowboy all the way down.  It’s just as productive as wishing for a political compromise John Kasich is utterly unwilling and unable to deliver.