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Outrageous, but 100% Predictable
The GOP Response to Tuesday, and How We Stay on Offense
It came only a day after the shellacking the Ohio GOP took on Issue 1.
The statement below, presented on formal government stationary but a declaration of anti-democracy lawlessness:
Ohio’s far-right legislators are essentially pledging to: 1) defy the new Constitutional right they have a duty to follow; and 2) ignore the clear will of the people of Ohio, expressed through an election.
Specifically, they pledge: “We will do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based on perception of intent. [ie. the new Constitution] We were elected to protect the most vulnerable in this state, and we will continue that work.”
There are so many ways to respond to the specifics of their statement. Here are a few:
1) “perception of intent”? — it’s the law. The Constitution! Not some ephemeral “intent.” And while they now claim confusion, THEY were the ones who claimed that the words of the Amendment were both clear and sweeping, trying to scare voters to vote No. They spent millions running ads on all of this. They put out government propaganda on it, using your tax dollars. Yet now they say the language is confusing and cloudy, so they don’t plan to respect it.
2) “everything in our power”? Your power is bound by the Constitution you are now pledging to defy. You have NO power to defy the Constitution you swear an oath to.
3) “We were elected”? Almost all of you are in districts that were rigged (by you) to guarantee victory. The people didn’t have a choice. And your districts are in open violation of the same Constitution you now pledge to violate. This week’s Issue 1 vote is far more legitimate than your exercise of power in districts that violate Ohio law (due to your leadership’s intentional violation of that law)
There are more retorts, but I’ll stop there. Because they don’t get us very far, even if they need to be said.
What this is, again, is a declaration that they plan to violate both the new law and the clear will of the people of Ohio as best they can.
In response, I’ve seen the same social media reaction that I always see at moments like this:
To which I have only one response.
Don’t be shocked or surprised.
Be angry. Indignant. Frustrated
Don’t normalize it. But also don’t let them surprise you or us anymore.
Because if we are surprised at this point, it means we don’t know them well enough even though they’ve done this for years.
And it means we’re not anticipating enough how they react—which, once you DO know them, is 100% predictable.
Their reaction here is not at all new. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it called “Laboratories of Autocracy.”
I wrote it so we won’t be surprised anymore. And I wrote it two years ago, when their behavior was already so clear and so predictable.
And in it I explain specifically how for years statehouses and their lawless members been defying the results of the democratic process in states, including referenda just like this week’s—on ending gerrymandering (Ohio and Missouri), voting laws (Florida), Medicaid expansion (Missouri), and other citizen attempts to shape their own government.
So this is NOT new. This is what they do!
Just like they deny elections at the federal level, strip power from winning statewide officials and even courts that threaten them, and last month elected an election denier as Speaker.
It all comes from the same mindset: defy democracy and the rule of law to seize or retain power they are worried sick they will lose in a fair democracy.
So WHY do they do this? Why do they get away with it?
I also try to explain this in “Laboratories,” because unless we see that “why” clearly, and do something about it, they won’t do anything differently, will they?
And the “why” is that these officials, like the new Speaker, who turns out to be a perfect case study, have spent their entire careers in political worlds with no accountability.
All they’ve ever known are gerrymandered and rigged districts they don’t fear losing.
And many of them face no competition at all (see the charts below), often, year after year. Hundreds and hundreds of officials who return to office without facing an opponent whatsoever:
And once in those worlds of no accountability, the incentives to get ahead turn out to be really f’d up. How do they get ahead in their career paths? What are their incentives?
They have an incentive to be extremists so they don’t lose their next primary. Being mainstream is a loser for them—that’s how they will lose a primary.
They have an incentive to do the bidding of big private players—at the expense of the public who can’t hold them accountable
And they have a serious incentive to keep attacking democracy—because as extremists who spend their time forking over public assets to private entities, usually at the expense of public goods and outcomes (see chart below), they know they would lose power if they faced real elections in a fair democracy (just as they experienced this week). Rick Santorum articulated this fear of democracy perfectly in his comments after Tuesday.
In their worlds without accountability, they also don’t face much disincentive against lawlessness, do they? They push the envelope. In many cases, as with the Ohio gerrymandering amendments, they break right through it—outright violating Constitutions and court orders. And whether their efforts to defy laws succeed or not (sometimes they’re overturned in court, but far more often they actually succeed), they are almost never held personally accountable for that lawlessness.
So as they learn from that experience—it usually works, and they almost never face accountability—they push lawless actions all the time, especially when it serves the other incentives of being extremists, undermining democracy and keeping power.
And more often than not, they gain power when they do all this. It works! Look around and you’ll see it.
One final thing, the closer they come to losing power, the more they double down on all this. They ignore court rulings. Test and break barriers. Deny election outcomes. Again, look around and you’ll see it. Like Jan 6, but in states, and on less high-profile aspects of democracy.
Once you see all this, you’ll see that their response to Issue 1 in Ohio is entirely predictable.
It’s what they do! It’s what they've been doing for years.
So what do WE do? Go on OFFENSE
What do we do?
To start, don’t be surprised anymore. See what they do and will always do, and change the conditions that allow and reward them for doing it.
And the central condition that allows it is that lack of accountability I described. That stunning table of lack of opponents and lack of competition—lack of democracy—across the entire country.
Gerrymandering is the original sin, of course, creating lack of accountability for so many of them. So we have to commit to fix that—there’s an effort underway to do that in Ohio in 2024. I’ll provide ways you can all help with that in future newsletters. And we must fix it at the federal level whenever we have our next opportunity to do so—nothing is more important.
But beyond gerrymandering, we make things far worse when we let so many of these people run unopposed, even when they keep taking positions that the people strongly disagree with. Those charts above capture the nightmare so many uncontested races. But that’s the tip of the iceberg—because even when candidates bravely step up to run against these extremist in tougher areas, they are supported so poorly they might as well be uncontested.
In this way, our lack of effort to hold them accountable is literally an invitation for them to keep doing all that they’re doing. They won’t lose anyway, and they get ahead in their worlds by acting exactly as they are. So why would they ever stop?
If we are ever going to change their ways, and stop this kind of anti-democratic behavior, we need a new approach rather than leaving them unchallenged.
We have to support democracy and accountability everywhere.
I offer many ways in my second book, “Saving Democracy.”
But it starts by recruiting and funding candidates to run in all these districts—including in the reddest, toughest districts—where the least accountable Republicans believe they're untouchable, so they keep doing all this. Those are exactly the districts where many of the Ohio politicians who signed off on that lawless statement reside.
Running everywhere, and against these extreme candidates, is the only way we start to bring accountability to people who've never faced it in their own careers. It's the way we begin to alter their anti-democratic behavior. Change the poisonous incentives.
And in case this all sounds impossible, it’s not. In Ohio, we’ve started a crowdfunding community, Blue Ohio, that supports candidates running against these people. The tougher races that we otherwise leave uncontested.
And in only a year, it’s growing fast because the need it so clear. We are emerging as one of the biggest supporters of statehouse candidates due to 1000+ members deciding they’re tired of the lack of accountability. Of the extremism and lawlessness running rampant.
There’s a lot more that needs to be done, of course.
But it starts with telling all those signatories…you will be opposed. That thousands of us are banding together to call you out. To expose you back home. To hold you accountable IN YOUR DISTRICT. To support your opponent, who will knock on doors and send letters to the editor and hold rallies explaining exactly what you are doing at the statehouse.
That the days of engaging in lawless extremism in Columbus with no one knowing about it back in your district are over.
That is the start—the essential commitment we all must make—of a far more offensive-minded strategy to take these people on. That we run everywhere, every year. That’s the new business as usual.
If this interests you, please join Blue Ohio here.
Also, know that we hope to bring this model elsewhere. Because what’s happening here is happening everywhere. I was on a call just last night to build a Blue Tennessee. I’ll also keep folks posted on those efforts.
Finally, another key front in this battle will be state courts. Going on offense means we have to win these court seats. Because state Supreme Courts can either be institutions that stand up to statehouse lawlessness, or they can be part of statehouse efforts to advance it.
In Ohio’s case, it will be our State Supreme Court that will decide the meaning of the new Amendment we just passed. We sit one seat away from having an independent court do that, versus one that looks from recent decisions to be willing to do whatever the statehouse wants. So next year, let’s focus on flipping the Court in 2024, shall we? More on that to come.
Bottom line: we know who they are, and we know why they behave the way they do. They are entirely predictable.
And much of their behavior comes because we have essentially allowed them to engage in it with no accountability.
Join Blue Ohio.
Help us flip the Court.
Help end gerrymandering.
And let’s make loud noise whenever they try to do something along the lawless track they’ve committed to above. Again, they’re used to silence. Don’t give them that.
We just had huge wins in August and November.
Stay. On. Offense!!