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Ohio, Land Of Broken Promises

Take Ohio. Republicans have practiced one-party rule in the state since 1994–more than enough time to lose one’s principles. Former Gov. George Voinovich set the standard in 1992 by breaking his word and signing tax hikes. His successor, Bob Taft, with the help of the GOP legislature, in 2003 broke pledges not to raise taxes without voter permission. Some $3 billion in tax increases later, Ohio jumped to fourth place in the rankings for state and local tax burdens. (It was 23rd in 1994, when the GOP took over.) Over their first 10 years in power, Republicans increased Ohio’s general operating budget by 71%–the highest increase in the nation.

The Taft and Spend strategy socked it to the Ohio economy. Its gross state product grew a measly 1% between 2004 and 2005, while Ohio lost 150,000 jobs between 2000 and 2005. Unemployment levels have hovered above the national average. If corruption is the product of big, unconstrained government, it was no surprise to watch the GOP engulfed by scandals that swept up everyone from Mr. Taft to Congressman Bob Ney. By November of last year, Mr. Taft’s approval rating was 6.5%; if anyone had been keeping track, the legislature may have scored even lower.  

Mr. Blackwell didn’t sign onto any of this. While the rest of his party was riding down the big-government river, the secretary of state was pushing a voter initiative to create a constitutional limit on spending. He’s been running this year on tax cuts, charter schools and privatizing the Ohio Turnpike. He hasn’t been touched by the scandals.

“There hasn’t been a bigger critic of the Taft administration than Ken Blackwell,” says Ken Blackwell . . . again and again. Voters can’t find it in themselves to make the distinction. The Ohio Democratic Party understands that better than anyone, and routinely refers to its opponent as “Ken Taftwell.” Mr. Strickland is so good at keeping the focus on the failed GOP, nobody has noticed he’s a fan of the very tax-and-spend policies that landed Republicans in trouble in the first place. ~Kimberley Strassel, OpinionJournal

It’s a shame that the corruption and misrule of the Ohio GOP, to which Mr. Blackwell did not contribute and in which he had no real part, has come back to hurt his candidacy so much.  He has appeared to me to be one of the last real conservative leaders at the state level, he is favourable to religious conservatives and he is intelligent and polished without being a party lackey as Alan Keyes is.  Unfortunately, the Ohio GOP was one of the leading pioneers, along with their Illinois brethren, in blazing the trail of Republican corruption that seems to typify only too much of the party, and Blackwell has been caught in the wake of the scandal.  Add that to the gross mismanagement of the state’s budget, and you have a recipe for disaster in the state that once gave you Mr. Republican.  Now, the Taft dynasty has gone down in flames and disgrace, and has taken the GOP with it. 

Ohio stands as a stark reminder of what happens to a party when it pursues fiscal irresponsibility, presumably in the expectation of buying support, rather than pursuing the policies for which it can provide a coherent rationale and for which it has philosophical justification.  People who want to replicate the Ohio GOP’s fate nationwide, keep pushing for Big Government conservatism and the reckless spendathon that has characterised it so far.  By all means, if you would have the GOP across the country suffer the blowout they are going to suffer in Ohio, enable the irresponsible party leadership that thinks constituents are suckers to be ignored rather than the people they are supposed to serve and support the GOP in November.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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