This is a farewell post from me. I’ll be enrolling people in health insurance for the next 6 months, so it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll have time to blog. Thanks for reading my stuff, and thanks for sharing it. And a hearty thanks to Joseph for letting me bloviate.

As a final bloviation, I’m here to report on a pretty dismal Election Day in Cincinnati–very similar to the one in 2009 that presaged the statewide 2010 loss.

There were two Democrats running for mayor, and Cincinnati has a field election1 for City Council. The incumbent council was 7 Democrats and 2 Republicans2.

Total spending was probably around $3 million, and basically all of it was negative advertising against Democrats. The mayoral candidates ran almost exclusively negative ads; non-incumbent Dems ran negative ads against the incumbents; Republicans ran negative ads against Democrats; and, bizarrely, the incumbents ran negative ads against challengers.

Shockingly, $3 million in anti-Democratic ads (combined with basically no argument in favor of electing Democrats) resulted in the lowest turnout since Watergate.

But Republican voters turned out, electing 2 new Republicans to council and–inexplicably–the assumption is now that the Republican minority will set the agenda for the coming term3.

All this in a district that went 77% for Obama.

My point is that it isn’t voters’ job to vote. It’s the job of politicians and activists to make non-voters want to vote.

Republicans have it easy; it’s just assumed that any Republican candidate will try to ban abortion and make English the official language. For the terrifying quantity of voters who want that, they don’t need to be told anything.

An unemployed Ohioan should be storming the ballot box! After all, one party wants to cut off his unemployment benefits, and the other one wants to increase them. But that’s not how he sees it.

The unemployed Ohioan sees a terrible labor market–and no politicians attempting to improve the labor market–and has no reason to vote. It is the job of campaigns to 1) identify that he’s unemployed, 2) figure out how to communicate with him, and 3) explain how his situation will be improve if their candidate is elected.

If the Democrat is elected, then ______. The voter will never, ever fill in the blank.

The whole point of the campaign is to fill in the blank for them, and that never happened in Cincinnati this year. I have no idea what to expect from municipal government.

Instead we operate in a status quo where 1) Democratic candidates assume that every citizen is already familiar with their platform, 2) Republican candidates attack the Democratic candidates, and 3) local media is run by would-be gossip columnists.

This is why Plunderbund is so essential to politics in Ohio.

The family in foreclosure deserves to be told which candidates will help them with affordable housing. The retiree voting against a school levy deserves to know why her district’s budget is out of balance. The media won’t tell them, and we can’t rely on the campaigns to tell them. We need to tell them.

Plunderbund gives us the vocabulary and the narratives to create an alternate communication structure to let people know what’s going on in our state. Local media will never, ever have the time, the staffing, or the chutzpah to do anything more than run press releases and puff pieces and listen to the police scanner. We can either bemoan the state of media, or we can replace it.

We can either wait for every campaign to be as good as Obama’s, or we can just start campaigning.

We can either bemoan the lack of civic engagement, or we can engage some citizens our damn selves.

 —–

1 If you aren’t familiar with our City Council elections, here’s how they work.

All candidates (usually 25 or so) run city-wide. Each voter picks nine of them. No party affiliation appears on the ballot. The top nine vote-getters are elected to council.

The most effective voting strategy is to only vote for 1-3 candidates.

2 I’ll be using federal affiliation. Technically, Chris Smitherman is independent and Kevin Flynn is Charter, but they endorse Republicans at every other level of government and have local policy stances indistinguishable from Republicans.

They’re “independents” the way that Bernie Sanders is an independent.

3 Our new Democratic mayor’s second order of business is to let one of the Republicans reform the city retirement system.

 
  • Bob Owens

    Thanks for your bloviating and best wishes.

  • Diane

    Thank you. I live in Cincinnati and while I wasn’t really surprised at the low voter turnout, I was still thinking that the city council wouldn’t have flipped the way it did. It’s going to be interesting once they all are in office.

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