What do we make of the Columbus Dispatch headline today: “Senate Debate Turns Nasty”? Senator Ray Miller (D-Columbus) was confronted by Republican Senator Jeff Jacobson of suburban Dayton. Bizarrely, the confrontation occurred during a debate over a bill declaring September 22 as Emancipation Day in Ohio. As the Ohio Government TV channel faded to black during the Senate debate yesterday, viewers could see Jacobson walking up on Miller. Miller was giving a speech purportedly about President Lincoln’s views on slavery, when he was gaveled down by Republican Senate President Bill Harris of Ashland. Miller called Harris’ actions “outrageous and discriminatory.” That’s when Jacobson confronted him. Jacobson claims that he walked over to talk with Miller only to debate Lincoln’s views on slavery. The Dispatch reported that the Sergeant of Arms of the Senate had to step in between the two legislators. Ironically, the bill passed 33-0
Miller, an African American, and outspoken voting rights advocate, has been targeted by a thuggish Republican majority that presides over the most corrupt state legislatures in the country. The Republicans attempted to have criminal charges filed against Miller last year because a staff member spent a few hours on a nonprofit voter registration project. Also, when Miller secured the Ohio Statehouse for U.S. Congressman John Conyers to hold a hearing about election irregularities and voter suppression in Ohio following the 2004 election, the Republicans cancelled the room, which is unprecedented in modern times.
The reality is that the Ohio Republicans are used to bullying and berating Democrats, and as the GOP slips in the polls their patience is growing thin. Democratic representatives like Miller, with a backbone, can smell the GOP blood in the water and are once again on the attack. The Republicans, like any authoritarian right-wing authority, respond by stifling free speech and resorting to physical intimidation. They distain open and free debate. Expect the GOP, behind the theo-fascists of Hackwell to grow ever more confrontational and contemptuous of the Bill of Rights.