A Little Context

It is tempting to think of Clermont County as this anomalous Republican enclave where our Party has dropped the ball. That image is particularly tempting when we compare ourselves to Hamilton County next door, which is now a Democratic County. Unfortunately, Clermont County is in Ohio’s political mainstream by many measures.

We know that the Republicans hold a super majority in both houses of the General Assembly because they have gerrymandered the General Assembly districts. There is no denying that. However, even the non-gerrymandered maps proposed this year by Democrats and non-partisan groups would yield a Republican majority in both houses. Since Republican George Voinovich was elected Governor in 1990, 32 years ago, Ohio has had only one Democratic Governor, Ted Strickland. Governor Strickland lost his bid for a second term in 2010.

Ohio’s presidential results tell a similar story. We all know the headline that President Obama carried Ohio in both 2008 and 2012. However, in 2008, Republican John McCain won 66 of Ohio’s 88 counties.  In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney won 70 of the 88 counties. In 2016, trump won 74 counties and he won 80 counties in 2020. While Ohio has wisely elected and re-elected Sherrod Brown to the U.S. Senate, the largely unknown Republican Jim Renacci won 69 counties running against Senator Brown in 2018.

Despite Hamilton County, we are not even an outlier in Southwestern Ohio. In 2008, Republican John McCain won 66% in Clermont County, 61% in Butler County, 67.5% in Warren County, and 46% in Hamilton County. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney won 66.5% in Clermont County, 62% in Butler County, 69% in Warren County, and 46% in Hamilton County. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 27% of the vote in Clermont County, 34% in Butler County, 29% in Warren County, and 52% in Hamilton County.  In 2020, trump won more than 60% of the vote in each of Clermont, Butler, and Warren Counties; but only won 41% in Hamilton County. In 2018, Republican Senate candidate Jim Renacci won 64% in Clermont County, 63% in Warren County, 58% in Butler County, and 49% in Hamilton County.

These numbers tell us the problem we have is not unique to Clermont County. The numbers also tell us that Democratic candidates run far better in cities in Ohio and nationwide. Urban populations are more diverse, and we are the Party which embraces diversity. Since at least Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” Republicans have focused on making white voters fearful of diversity. This creates serious challenges for Democrats in Clermont County and much of the rest of Ohio.

Since we are all human, there is a strong temptation to look for an easy fix. Let’s post our message more often on more platforms! Let’s get new leaders! Let’s do what they do next door in Hamilton County!  None of that addresses our problem. To win in Clermont County, we must convince a majority of Clermont County voters that Democrats understand what matters to them and will use that understanding in office to make their lives better. We cannot do that until we understand what matters to Clermont County voters.

The numbers show pretty clearly that the majority of voters in Hamilton County see things differently than Clermont voters do. We Clermont County Democrats need to acquire a much better understanding of what our voters think. Until we have that, our messaging is just a guess at what might reach them. To paraphrase a popular saying, we can think globally, but we need to listen locally. Until we master that (along with most other Ohio counties), the simple fixes are just us amusing ourselves.

On a lighter note, I want to wish everyone a belated Happy Presidents’ Day.  How can you not be amused by a day that honors Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Ohio’s own Warren G. Harding?

Stay safe!