Along the Tracks

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mediocrity rears its ugly head

As perhaps the harshest conservative critic of Ohio’s lackluster governor, Bob Taft (a crowded field, I grant you), I can look upon his plea deal today in Franklin County court as a mere addendum to a laundry list of Taft failures. My only question is what did Taft’s supporters expect?

Perhaps the most liberal candidate I ever endorsed, Tim Hagan for governor in ’02, was the beneficiary of my complete distaste for Taft as Ohio’s leader and the Ohio Republican Party’s deal with the devil to promote mediocrity in hopes of dominating state government. Well, the GOP succeeded on both a Taft second term and another sweep of state executive offices and legislative domination, despite a very skeptical public.

The results? Higher taxes masquerading as cuts, out-of-control spending, new gimmick programs to placate interest groups, plunging employment, a business exodus worthy of the biblical name, repudiation of court-ordered education funding reform, the spineless transfer of state natural gas reserves to the dominion of Canada, a methamphetamine explosion, support for steel tariffs which saved not one steel industry job but cost thousands in the automotive parts supplier sector, tipping the scales against smaller producers in favor of megafarms, a grievancy-based investment strategy and the view of state government as a private country club.

The golf outings “scandal,” if it really merits the name, is just an extension of all the above. What is scandalous is the incompetence of Taft’s administration, which apparently can’t even fill out disclosure forms correctly.

The bright lights in the state’s Republican Party are generally restrained or directly challenged for “rocking the boat.” Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has been targeted for disapproval by the “mediocrits” dominating GOP politics for at least two election cycles, all because he’s unabashedly a small-government, Christian conservative. Free thinker Lynn Olman of Maumee was sent home to Lucas County in a Don Quixote-like quest to break up the Democratic machine running Toledo. He inherited Tom and Bernadette Noe as the local party’s figurehead sponsors.

In fact the question of “pay-to-play” in the Tom Noe scandal is really just a demonstration of how out of touch the state party and its officials are with grassroots voters on whom ultimately they rely. The Noes were big-time RIWOs - Republicans in wallet only. They were failures where it mattered, on the ground in Lucas County.

Whether or not Noe’s coin investment contract with the Bureau of Workers Compensation was gained through undue influence is an open question; it appears the BWC laid out investment options on the floor of the director’s office then played spin-the-bottle to choose winners. Yet Noe was seen by party officials as a major player, and given admission to the “country club” of GOP state government. Why would anyone be surprised to find Noe out golfing with the governor?

The Ohio Republican Party is long overdue for a house cleaning. For years now, I’ve been calling for sweeping out the mediocrity and running thoughtful, serious and creative candidates who may occasionally lose rather than the 26 flavors of bland which currently get the endorsements and therefore the money. I’ve warned the present setup is terrible for Ohio – that prophecy was easy to make and has proven true. I’ve warned the GOP’s unchallenged dominance in Columbus would rot the party from within. Clearly, the decay is well advanced. And I’ve warned the Democrats would return to power if the Republicans did not change course.

That one’s still out there, but looking better for the Dems every day.

Excellent article Paul, I linked to it on my blog.

While I'd personally like to see more Independent Candidates, it is clear the frustration that many of us feel has no political line.

I do admit I was surprised he pleaded today, as I expected this to be dragged out for many months.

It is clear Ohio needs to clean house in Columbus and I share your hope that some good candidates come forward.
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