Eight days until our national nightmare ends with the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
I try to avoid using this forum to express my opinions about national politics. You all follow politics. Your views are, at least, as valid as mine. However, what happened in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday cannot be ignored.
It is comforting to think that last Wednesday was an aberration and that January 6, 2021 was simply an isolated dark day in American history.
In 2016, donald trump[i] ran successfully for president on a message of fear and resentment. To those grievances, he has now added the myth of the stolen election. Many dismiss trump’s weaving of this myth as the childish behavior of a man who cannot admit defeat. I think it is more. I think the stolen election myth is calculated to make the base believe that they are deplored by the “elites” and cannot attain their just place in our society through democratic means because the system is rigged against them.
I think the myth is intended to persuade people that violent lawlessness is the only way to “take back America,” thereby creating chaos in which a charismatic strongman can take power on a promise to restore “order,” effectively amending our Constitution while circumventing the safeguards in Article V. Whether I’m right about the intended goal or not, the myth will spawn more violence. We cannot be intimidated. We must stay active. But we must recognize that we who advocate inclusion, equality, and democracy are potential targets. We must be alert and careful.
The stolen election myth will also be perpetuated in state legislatures across the nation. Many states Biden won, such as Wisconsin and Arizona, have Republican majorities in their state legislatures. Those Republicans are determined not to have a repeat of 2020. Republicans saw the reliably red state of Georgia go Democratic in the Presidential election and two US Senate elections.
Republicans know they lose when more people vote. The solution Republicans devised several years ago was to make it more difficult to vote. Fueled by the stolen election myth, those efforts will continue with greater vigor. Make no mistake, when Republicans use the phrase “election integrity,” they mean manipulating the size and composition of the electorate to exclude citizens who do not vote for them. We must be vigilant against these efforts and oppose them by all lawful means.
On December 30, 2020, I received an e-mail from one of our hardworking Democratic activists in Clermont County. In part, the activist wrote, “we keep getting hammered in local elections, and this has got to stop.” I was gratified that the activist spoke of local elections rather than presidential, gubernatorial, or US Senate elections. Of course, the activist was right. We will not be relevant in Clermont County, either to voters or the media, until we show that we have enough popular support to win an election.
We have not won anything countywide for over 30 years. We are not going to reverse that in one cycle. However, we must work on it.
This year is an opportunity. This November, we will be electing our city and village councils, our township trustees, and our school boards. The importance of these local offices is illustrated by how Clermont Republicans have used them. Former US Congressperson and current State Representative Jean Schmidt started her public career as a Miami Township Trustee. Current County Commissioners Claire Corcoran and Bonnie Batchler were Trustees in Goshen Township and Pierce Township, respectively. Current County Commissioner David Painter previously served eight years on the New Richmond school board.
We need to learn from our opponents. For all their anti-government rhetoric, Republicans know that candidates who already have some experience in government have greater credibility with voters. The fact that voters somewhere in the County have already elected a person validates that person. If we want candidates who can win countywide and General Assembly races, those candidates need to show they can win in their city, village, township, or school district first. To obtain that validation, people need to step up and run; now in 2021.
The offices on the ballot in 2021 are part-time jobs. They all pay something. Candidates run in small geographic areas. Even our largest school district covers only a fraction of Clermont County. Campaigns are relatively simple and relatively inexpensive. I know of one person who won a township trustee race by sending a personal letter to every voter in the township. Yes, that takes time and money, but it is doable. These races are “non-partisan,” meaning that candidates’ names appear on the ballot without any party identification.
As my friend wrote, Democrats have been getting hammered in local elections in Clermont County for a long time and it must stop. Putting a stop to one-party rule in Clermont County starts at the local level. We need to replicate the strategy our opponents have used so successfully, first electing Democrats in cities, villages, townships, and school districts then running those people for countywide offices and the General Assembly. If you have any interest in running, please talk to me. If you know someone whom you think would be a good candidate, talk to them or give me a heads up and I’ll talk to them. We must start local and we must start now.
[i] As explained in previous columns, I will not give trump the respect implicit in using initial capital letters in his name, especially not after last Wednesday.