It’s officially over. I cast my vote, sealed the envelope and dropped my ballot in a locked metal box inside the lobby of the Preble County courthouse.
And, like comedian Samantha Bee, I’m glad it’s finished.
It has been the most contentious election I’ve known and it definitely changed my opinion of the GOP — locally and nationally. For more than 30 years, I voted as an Independent, but this year’s debacle drove me to the primaries for the first time where I cast a vote as a Democrat.
Under Ohio law, I will remain a Democrat for two years.
Heroin, Not ISIS, The Killer Here
This election opened my eyes to the failings of the local political process and to the degree good people go to in the effort to rationalize their choice. The latter has become glaringly obvious on social media and in letters to the editor. Yet, despite all the local discourse about ‘stopping ISIS and Clinton’ and Trump being an ‘outsider’ — in Preble County we have more down-to-earth problems.
Residents in Preble County earn 75 cents on the dollar (it fell to 70 cents during Dubba’s presidency), heroin cases have skyrocketed in our court system — in 2011 five heroin-related cases were processed in Common Pleas Court, but today, through 10 months of 2016, 43 cases have been.
We have an underemployment issue — 45 percent of our residents cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment (pdf) and only 11 percent of our 25 or older population (pdf) have a four-year degree — considerably less than Ohio’s 25 percent average. This, coupled with the fact that 11 percent of our 18-to-25-year-olds do not have a high school diploma, makes it difficult to attract higher-paying positions to the region.
Without higher paying jobs it is hard to build a strong tax base and so the Catch-22 begins: low-paying jobs, more children raised in poverty, children — who in adulthood — accept a reality that low-paying jobs is all they can have, take a low-paying job so our tax base declines, storefronts and buildings are empty, etc., etc., etc..
It seems, solving the local employment situation is more within the realm of what local leaders could — and should — address.
This issue impacts local lives significantly more than ISIS, Clinton or Trump.
Solutions, Not Slogans
But, addressing local problems means politicians must become effective. They must become astute at creating viable solutions for their constituents. They must generate answers.
Since I live in a One-Party town, I do lay the responsibility at the GOP’s feet. They should follow the advice found in the 2013 national GOP report, instead of
- decorating their Victory Center with “Lock Her Up” signs,
- embracing the counterproductive ‘deplorable’ movement,
- posting alt-right videos on their Facebook page or,
- promoting conspiratorial theories about the media (as the image above demonstrates).
In the Internet age, those with initiative can dissect information and come to an understanding of what most closely aligns with the truth. Fortunately, most Americans do not daily feast on a diet of conspiratorial stew.
The absence of solutions is just one issue though. Another symptom of GOP woes can be found in the plethora of flyers I’ve received this election cycle. GOP flyers have a common theme: Fear.
- of a ‘liberal’ Supreme Court,
- of someone taking all our guns,
- that someone, somewhere is getting a social good that I am not getting.
The list of GOP fears feels endless, while their list of viable options, solutions and ideas, based on the flyers I have received, is non-existent.
Republicans, it appears, have become the Puritans of the modern era.
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. — H. L. Mencken.
Brand Needs An Overhaul
I don’t have the mental energy to absorb the Party’s fear, distrust and paranoia. I want a political party that believes in progress, in America and in its people, one that embraces diversity — not a Party determined to oppose everything.
The GOP brand is tainted for me. It is the brand of anti-intellectualism and regression.
My Vote Counts
But, oddly enough, my little corner of the world may be an indicator of Ohio’s political pulse. According to political columnist Thomas Suddes,
Trump has to attract such anti-establishment voters, many in Ohio’s southwestern corner. That’s where to look, on election night, for clues about whether Clinton or Trump will likely carry Ohio.
This does give me a little bit of hope.
As the resident of a Trump County, I know Clinton will not carry it, however I do think, based on the political signs I have seen, her appeal is growing beyond the 30 percent I originally predicted she would carry. This upward tick may indicate she will carry Ohio since moving 5-10 percent of Preble County voters suggests she can do it on a wider scale in more liberal — and less anti-establishment — regions of the state.
Oh, the audacity of hope.