by Bob Fitrakis
First, the good news. Both Dennis Kucinich and Ted Strickland won their Congressional races. Make no mistake about it, these are victories by progressive Democrats against reactionary Newtonian Republicans.
Kucinich and Strickland were vilified by their right-wing opponents as “liberals,” “Communist-sympathizers,” or “godless.” In Northeast Ohio’s 10th Congressional district, Governor George Voinovich stopped in personally to denounce “the 1930s-style populism” of Kucinich. His opponent, Republican Representative Martin Hoke, portrayed Kucinich’s concern for working people and support for unionism as coming out of the “Communist Manifesto.”
Also, Hoke repeatedly red-baited Kucinich by alluding to some mysterious plot and unpaid “consulting” by Communist Party official Rick Nagin. Hoke’s retro-’50s hokeyness and McCarthyist smear tactics didn’t work. Kucinich proudly boasted of his “100 percent labor voting record” as an Ohio state senator, and reiterated his commitment to the environment and keeping a multi-state radioactive waste dump out of Ohio.
Strickland, an ordained Methodist minister, was attacked by his opponent as a godless secular humanist liberal. Among Strickland’s alleged un-Christian activity is his admitted “first priority” to provide health care insurance for 10 million U.S. children who now lack coverage. Strickland also rightly pointed out that his opponent, Republican Frank Cremeans, voted both to raise taxes on the working poor by eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit and favored allowing millionaires to move offshore to avoid taxes.
The Strickland and Cremeans races were perhaps the two most vicious Congressional races in the U.S. The choice was clear-cut: Gingrich or progressivism. The progressives won both, despite being outspent by at least 3-1.
Now the bad news. In three other key races, all involving freshman Republican representatives, the Democrats lost. In two of the races-Representative Steve Chabot of Cincinnati vs. Mark Longabaugh and Representative Steve LaTourette of Madison vs. Thomas Coyne, Jr.-much more moderate Democratic challengers were relatively easily dispatched. Both Longabaugh and Coyne refused to engage in the knockdown, drag-out reactionary-versus-progressive campaigning that brought victory to Kucinich and Strickland.
Styling themselves more as Clintonesque “New Democrats,” the candidates were soundly rejected by the voters, thus proving the old axiom: given a choice between a real Republican and near-Republican they’ll choose the real thing every time.
In the third race, State Senator Robert Burch narrowly lost to Representative Bob Ney. Burch declined to cloak himself as a New Democrat and made direct overtures to the Perot supporters. If Burch had been given money from the Democratic Party Congressional Campaign Committee or the AFL-CIO he would have won. Burch’s district was initially rated one of the 10 most winnable by a Democrat in the nation.
Instead, a couple hundred thousand dollars was wasted on Cynthia Ruccia’s pathetic and futile New Democrat, gone-a-gay-baitin’ campaign against Representative John Kasich. Her bizarre Congresswoman wannabe slamming-the-prison-cell door commercial was not only truly twisted beyond belief, but played to Kasich’s strength.
Anyway, perhaps the even more pathetic Franklin County Democratic Party can get off their “Republican-lite” binge and field some progressive candidates for a change.
Of course, there’s always the problem a la Mary Jo Kilroy that the party might field a progressive who then feels immediately obligated to run as a centrist.
Speaking of red-baiting, I had the pleasure of spending election night on WCBE doing political commentary with Ms. Republican Right-to-Life Janet Folger. Janet, with her lightning-quick mind, honed through countless hours of Rush Limbaugh agi-prop told the listeners that I was a “communist” because I believed in the “redistribution of wealth.” There’s nothing worse than a self-righteous Right-to-Life Christian who’s not familiar with the Good Book. Having spent my youth as a fire-breathing, proselytizing evangelical Christian, let me simply refer Ms. Folger to Acts, 2:45:
“Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need.” And to the Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s comments to Nicodemus, virtually every prophet in the Old Testament, etc., etc.
Speaking of religious matters, the Franklin County Democrats need to convene a political inquisition. Franklin County Chairperson Denny White and his top advisers should be figuratively put on the rack and grilled on the following races: Why was Republican Probate Judge Lawrence Belskis allowed-with that ethnic name-to run unopposed? Why did you put up your best political name, Tony Celebrezze III, against Richard Metcalf, who has been elected to public office in Franklin County since the Eisenhower administration? Why didn’t Celebrezze run against the eminently odorous and highly beatable Jesse Oddi, who had never won election in Franklin County? Why didn’t Beverly Farlow get more funds? And, are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Republican Party?