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Opinion: Ohio Collective Bargaining Victory Shows Tea Party's Overreach

Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - 09:42 AM

As goes Ohio, so goes the nation. The adage finds its way back into political punditry every election year - and with good reason. Both parties view the quadrennial swing state as a necessary component in the math that makes up electoral victory.

Democratic wins for Senate and Governor in 2006 led to Obama's victory in a state where Kerry had failed. Then came last year's Tea Party victories across the country - including Ohio - giving the president and his partisans reason to worry.

Then there was yesterday.

Ohio voters resoundingly defeated SB-5, Ohio's anti-union law which GOP Governor John Kasich had made a centerpiece of his governing strategy. In doing so, Ohioans gave the labor movement and working Americans everywhere an important victory - and gave the president a little more hope.

Following Scott Walker's lead in Wisconsin earlier this year, Kasich was one of a handful of Tea Party-backed Governors who decided to use the budget crunch as a way of squeezing the middle class. The anti-union animus colored the political rhetoric through the spring as conservatives attempted to blame working families for America's economic woes.

When protests erupted across the country, many of the right-wing establishment simply said, let the voters decide. In Wisconsin, voters decided to replace two Republican State Senators in historic recall elections, bring Democrats within one vote in that chamber. Yesterday's election - which AFSCME head Gerald McEntee called "our Scott Brown moment" continued the trend. Voters, it seems, are deciding.

From the start, the Tea Party overreached. Demonizing teachers, police officers and firefighters turned off the public. Attacking collective bargaining just seemed un-American. And dealing with a national jobs deficit by attacking those who work for a living wasn't a winning strategy.

The protest energy inspired by Wisconsin has mingled with the passion unleashed by Occupy Wall Street - and the 99 percent have helped the public identify the real cause of our financial troubles: not working Americans, but the 1 percent that controls a disproportionate amount of our national wealth.

It's too late for Republicans to back away from this failed line of attack. In state after state, they are tethered to their assault on workers' rights and on the middle class. They've now seen this is a doomed strategy.

Which puts the ball back in the Democrats' court. Democrats have been just as complicit in fear-mongering over the deficit, overstating the debt crisis and dragging their feet on job creation. If they continue on that path, yesterday's victory will be an aberration rather than an prophecy.

If, however, they align their campaigns with the successful efforts in Wisconsin and Ohio to stand up for working families, if they adopt a position on the side of the 99%, the president has a chance to forget last year's election which he dubbed a "shellacking" and find a path to victory in the spirit of yesterday's vote. Then, once again, as goes Ohio, so goes the nation.

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."

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Nov. 09 2011 10:51 AM

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