As we enjoy an almost sub-tropical Holiday Season, it is appropriate to step back from immediate concerns and think about the bigger picture. For years, we have debated inside the Party why our fellow Clermont Countians vote so consistently and in such large numbers against their own self-interest. A neighbor recently loaned me two books. Neither book mentions Clermont County but both offer insights into why the majority of voters in our County behave as they do.
In my opinion, the more readable book is Evan Osnos’ Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury (Farr, Straus & Giroux 2021). Mr. Osnos is a journalist who has worked in both the United States and China. In Wildland, Mr. Osnos focuses on three cities with which he has connections: Chicago, Illinois; Greenwich, Connecticut; and Clarksburg, West Virginia. In Chicago and Clarksburg, Mr. Osnos looks at people who have increasingly been excluded from American prosperity and their responses to that exclusion. Greenwich offers the other side of the picture, being home to many hedge fund managers and others who have become extraordinarily wealthy from the financial services industry.
There is a lot in Mr. Osnos’ book. What struck me most was his discussion of West Virginia where state governments of both parties have preached the gospel that coal mining and chemicals are essential to the state’s prosperity and have worked with those industries to transfer wealth out of West Virginia. At page 211, Mr. Osnos quotes from a book published by a foundation in West Virginia funded by the Koch brothers asserting that “improved safety conditions result in lower money wages for workers” and asking the apparently rhetorical question, “Are workers really better off being safer but making less income?” As Mr. Osnos makes clear, that is a question the workers do not get to answer for themselves. Rather, the decision is made for them by business with active assistance from state government.
Control by economic elites is also a theme in Heather Cox Richardson’s book How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America (Oxford University Press 2020). Ms. Richardson’s central argument is that the antebellum, slave-owning South was a hierarchical society based on race, class, and gender. In her view, that form of society was re-established after the Civil War in the American West. In the effort to make this hierarchical structure dominant nationwide, the West has contributed the mythical image of the cowboy. The cowboy was a white male who solves his own problems and wants nothing from government other than to be left alone. The mythical cowboy prospers solely from his own efforts and is the only effective protection for his property and his dependents. Ms. Richardson shows examples of how the cowboy myth and “individualism” have been used to promote the conservative notion that equality destroys liberty.
Although Ms. Richardson’s book is relatively short, it also contains a lot of material and things to consider. Two passages particularly struck me. At page 198, Ms. Richardson quotes far right entrepreneur and billionaire Peter Thiel (a supporter and former business partner of Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance) from a piece Thiel wrote in the April 13, 2009 issue of Cato Unlimited: “the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” That is followed at page 200 by a quote attributed to Stephen Moore, who trump nominated for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, that “capitalism is a lot more important than democracy.” It will not be surprising that conservatives reject democracy and intend our society should be run by a wealthy, white, male elite. Ms. Richardson shows ways in which that agenda has been disguised and marketed to the very people conservatives intend to exclude as “defense of liberty.” I recommend both the Osnos and Richardson books.
Again, as you know, we will elect people to several important federal, state, and county offices in 2022. Nominating petitions for our statewide candidates are available for signature at Party Headquarters in Batavia. Please call before you go to find out the hours when Headquarters are open. While Brian Flick has stepped up to run for the Ohio House of Representatives from the new 62nd District in northwest Clermont County, we still need candidates to run for the 63rd House District, covering the rest of Clermont County and much of Brown County, and for Clermont County Commissioner and Auditor. The deadline to file petitions to run for those offices is February 2, 2022. Ms. Richardson’s “fight for the soul of America” is happening in Ohio and in Clermont County. We can see the false marketing in the signs County Commissioner Claire Corcoran has already put up around the County exhorting voters to “stop the madness” by voting for Republicans, who have controlled our county and our state for decades. 1Now is the time to step up like Brian has. If you are at all interested in running for office, please call me at 513-236-5426.
Have a happy, safe, and healthy New Year.