Friday, October 31, 2008

"Beautiful Ohio"

You didn't ask me, but I was born and raised in Ohio. Cincinnati, Ohio to be exact - in the northern suburb of Greenhills - that Roosevelt era planned community (but more on that later).

I was a red-diaper baby - no, not that kind - I mean the kind of red-diaper baby born into the reddest part of one of the reddest states in the Union. Nothing is quite as red as Southwestern and Southeastern Ohio. And Greenhills was where fathers of my era belonged to the Kiwanis Club and the American Legion and spoke disparagingly of everyone who wasn't a white Christian, and mothers were encouraged not to work, but instead join gardening clubs and be involved in other civic activities that fostered community good.

This area sometimes gives conservatism a bad name. Intolerant and insular are just two words to describe it. A lot of people that I went to high school with who stayed in the Cincinnati area exhibit all the traits of extreme insularity - they are arch-conservative both socially and politically, and in their discussions of politics & race are comfortable using the "N" word to describe Senator Obama. They hate everything for which progressive people advocate - "choice," equal pay for equal work, same-sex marriage, universal health care. etc.

They circulate hate filled racist e-mails about Obama endlessly.

I've been reading a lot about Ohio in this run-up to the presidential elections, and one of the things I discovered is the official Ohio State song, "Beautiful Ohio."

Here's an excerpt...
Beautiful Ohio, where the golden grain
Dwarf the lovely flowers in the summer rain.
Cities rising high, silhouette the sky.
Freedom is supreme in this majestic land;
Mighty factories seem to hum in tune, so grand.
Beautiful Ohio, thy wonders are in view,
Land where my dreams all come true!
Can you see the waving grain? Can you hear all those factories humming with the buzz of machines and workers?? Can you smell that freedom? Oh, but were it still true. But the farms have been decimated, the factories closed, and freedom's just a word for something else to lose.

Ohio hosts both the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum (Cleveland) yet despite these two institutions which speak to the best of our collective conscience and experience, ugly political rhetoric and potentially criminal voter suppression continue unabated.

Ohio has such a recent tortured history in denying people the right to vote. 2004 will always be remembered as among Ohio's darkest days - forcing hundreds of thousand of people onto provisional ballots - which may or may not have been counted. As The New York Times reported, "In 2004 Ohio, unlike most other states, increased the percentage of provisional ballots used by voters. In the 2004 presidential election, which hinged on Ohio, the margin between the candidates was about 118,000 votes, of 5.7 million cast. Of those, more than 158,000 were provisional ballots."

And it seems that Ohio still has State officials and an electoral infrastructure ready, willing and able to pull off similar voter disenfranchisement this election.

One of the most egregious actions which has recently taken place is the Republican Party's attempt to get their hands on new voter registration lists. As TPMMuckracker reports...

"Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid by Ohio Republicans to require Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Democratic secretary of state, to provide local election officials with lists of new voters whose registration information did not match that on other government documents. That prompted House Republican leader John Boehner to write to US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking him to require Brunner to hand over the lists. When Mukasey did not respond, Boehner contacted the White House, which said today that it had passed his request on to Mukasey, and asked for action."

conscionable! This is unprecedented interference in voting rights - an interference that will cause a slew of GOP challenges, forcing hundreds of thousands of voters to cast provisional ballots.

Which won't be counted.

As the ACLU said in it's letter to the White House:
"With the election one week away, this kind of intrusion represents partisan politics at its worst. In addition, challenging -- or purging -- lawfully registered voters in the days before the election invites chaos and undermines the integrity of the democratic process."
Ohio is heading for disaster. I can only hope that cooler heads prevail in the next few days. Otherwise Ohio will be the State where the election was stolen.

Mark my words.
Watch OHIO!