So, yesterday Governor Kasich and the GOP legislative leadership hold a press conference to profess their desire to hold talks with the We Are Ohio campaign to try to reach a compromise on Senate Bill 5. We Are Ohio said they would be glad to talk about a compromise, but in order to show they were serious the campaign said Kasich and the Republicans would need to repeal Senate Bill 5 first before any talks could be had.
Some in the media called this a “demand” of labor, but really it was a political reality. There was NO WAY We Are Ohio would ever, ever, ever, pull Issue 2 from the ballot by August 30th without the legislature first passing a repeal and Kasich signing it into law first. The amount of distrust among labor with the Governor is too high to expect they’d fall for what would be that old school elections saw of “you vote for me, and I’ll vote for you.”
There would never be a deal unless SB 5 was repealed and replaced. Does it make sense that the parties could have worked out a replacement for SB 5 and gotten it passed in both houses and signed into law in less than two weeks? Not unless the legislative process precluded permitting the public its usual rights to weigh in it couldn’t. Regardless, the best public policy is almost never created under circumstances in which the calendar is the biggest driver. See the debt ceiling debacle.
Repeal the bill and then don’t rush on a replacement. Rushing the legislative process is what got us into the political problem in the first place, so it sure as heck won’t solve it. Negotiate through the legislative process, not behind closed doors with only selected political actors having input.
There was nothing unreasonable about We Are Ohio’s position, as it was nothing more than a statement of political reality. There’s nothing to negotiate so long as SB 5 is on the books, and once we withdraw Issue 2 we can’t refile it, We Are Ohio said, so you’re going to have to repeal it first or else this is nothing more than a political p.r. stunt. Having said they’d be willing to have talks if Kasich would do what is necessary to reset the situation politically, Kasich found his petard hoisting him into the air instead.
As I wrote yesterday, if Kasich’s presser was designed to create a public relations trap for We Are Ohio, it was a comically designed one worse than anything Wile E. Coyote had done. And it backfired quicker than a tennis return. With the ball back in his court, all Kasich had to do to have his compromise talks is commit to repealing SB 5 and having the parties start from scratch. Something that would be necessary for any compromise anyways.
So what did the Kasich Administration do? They blasted labor’s insistence that the Administration show some good faith. According to news radio reporter Matt Bruning:
That’s an interesting analogy. It literally states that labor would have better odds winning the lottery than getting what it wants from any talks with the Governor. That’s hardly the message they should be giving if they’re trying to portray themselves as being reasonable and willing to negotiate.
If Kasich was truly serious about negotiating with labor, then his refusal to show an act of good faith by repealing SB 5 and allowing the parties to reset their relationship and the politics of this is a failure of his leadership. What did Kasich expect? That We Are Ohio would just pull Issue 2 off the ballot simply because Kasich invited to meet with them? Especially when Kasich publicly stated that such a meeting was just to allow the parties to talk, not to necessary try to reach an agreement? Leadership requires more than holding press conferences, Governor.
If Kasich was doing this for p.r. purposes, which is what most people have already concluded, then he failed there, too. Because the p.r. strategy, assumingly, was to paint labor as unwilling to negotiate to avoid a referendum fight. Nichols’ statement ends the talk about negotiations with John Kasich, not labor, being the one who ultimately said no to any talks that could possibly seek a compromise and avoid this referendum fight. Nothing says “reasonable compromiser” like mocking the other side for suggesting the parties start from a clean slate by equating it with a demand that they win the lottery.
Any compromise needed to be done in the context of the legislative process in the public hearing rooms of the state legislature, in which all citizens could participate, in a process that is more focused on consensus than the calendar. What you don’t want is a closed door meeting between a select number of politicians, all from the same party, meeting privately behind the closed doors of the Governor’s conference room, with only a select few folks who lead labor and only twelve days to reach an agreement, get it signed into law, and then withdraw Issue 2 from the ballot.
In the span of less than twenty-four hours, Governor Kasich went from trying to portraying labor as unwilling to compromise to publicly being the one saying no. The fact that Kasich scoffs at the notion that SB 5 had to be repealed before labor could take Kasich’s overture seriously demonstrates how truly disinterested he really was in a deal. Notice, there’s no counter-offer by the Administration on how else the parties could proceed and believe that each side was acting in good faith… because there is none.
You can’t expect to convince people that you are really interested in a compromise if you equate what was really an unavoidable act necessary to effectuate any compromise as a “pie-in-the-sky, let win the lottery” pipedream, especially when 56% of Ohioans polled say they’re willing to “award the lottery” to We Are Ohio already. It demonstrates an utter lack of self-awareness of the political strength (or lack thereof) the Administration had at the bargaining table, or, the more likely scenerio, it is an invented excuse to publicly justify your unwillingness to meet with labor afterall.
Either way, Kasich has show a spectacular failure of leadership. In the span of just twenty-four hours, he has crushed the spirits of the few supporters of SB 5 that exist and angered them with talks about a deal with labor bosses, he emboldened the opponents, and he showed the people in the middle that he tried to disengiously play them into believing he was willing to be reasonable and compromise when he truly is not.
This past few days should be used as a case study in how not to negotiate. John Kasich failed as a leader of this State when he jammed SB 5 down our throats, and then he failed again to try to work out a compromise to avoid this costly referendum. Today, we saw John Kasich withdraw from his own negotiation.