Politics Minus Zero/No limit: Electoral strategy when it doesn’t matter.

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By Ben Stockwell and Mark Grauhuis with help from Kyle Galindez and Mark Lause.

Democratic candidate For Ohio Governor Ed Fitzgerald trails incumbent Republican John Kasich by some 20% in the latest poll. This gap has widened over the course of the last year and shows no signs of reversing, especially not in the month before election day. Kasich is going to win this year.

Building a strong, radical movement from below is the only way to force the system to meet the needs and desires of the people. More and more, it’s becoming clear that this system may not even be able to meet our basic demands at all.

This is an appeal to Democratic voters to vote for the Green party candidate, Anita Rios, instead of Fitzgerald.

In 2012, a UC professor hosted a dinner party with members of Occupy Cincinnati and others in the professor’s union. Every half hour or so, the guests would converge in the same room to talk about what Occupy meant and how it might be active in the future. In one session the debate took a turn toward the coming presidential election. While admitting the limitations of, and even their utter disappointment with, the Democratic party, people in the room made it clear that a Republican presidency would be much worse. “This year,” one professor insisted, “it is a zero sum game.”

This is the refrain every year. The Biden thesis – “we’re not as totally bad as the alternative” – is admittedly seductive in the face of the waking nightmare of what’s to come (Hillary, Portman, Kasich, Ron Paul, etc.). Democrats in Ohio are consequently positioning this year’s election as a referendum on Kasich and other Republican policies like SB5, but Fitzgerald’s electability has been reduced to near-zero by a number of scandals involving himself and his running mates. Still, the meme “remember in November” is circulated ad nauseum among Ohio liberals: remember all the terrible things Kasich has done or tried to do when you enter the voting booth.” This is passive, cynical, negative politics at it worse, which begs the question “When do we get to vote for what we want?” — This year, certainly.

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This year, Fitzgerald is the throw away vote.

Sure, we can remember what Kasich did and does, but voting for the Fitzgerald is not the proper response to that memory. We must keep in mind not only what Kasich did, but the realities of what voting for Fitzgerald will do or not do. Putting aside whether or not Fitzgerald offers an actual alternative to Kasich or could support resistance to a system bent on austerity (i.e. making us pay for a system in crisis), if the question is simply about expressing dissatisfaction, there is a non-Republican vote that is much more effective in the long term.

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Messer blinded by class interests

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Ryan Messer, President of the Over-the-Rhine community council, recently wrote of the need for a party that represents “urban interests.” Such a party, he says, would be fiscally responsible but socially progressive. Messer, who recently married his partner in Washington Park and lives in the highly gentrified area south of Liberty Street, laments the fact that neither the Republican or Democratic party matches the interests of the “urbanists” in the city. Without a shred of irony, Messer describes the process that the basin has undergone over the last decade or so:

In the past, the urban core of a city was predominately [sic] poor and Democratic, but that’s changing as people nationally and locally are moving back to the inner city, driving up property values. Those who are willing to pay a half million dollars or more for a condo tend to lean fiscally right yet embrace such socially progressive issues as urban renewal, transit and same sex marriage. For which party should they vote? The answer, it seems, is neither.

8f36b882638911e3907e121b5d90bda3_8He paints the transformation of Over-the-Rhine and the surrounding area as being of a natural origin, and that the new richer residents are moving in as a result of–not a constituent part of–that process. This description is tone-deaf to actual forces at play in more ways than one. His narrative is completely self-serving, Messer is a property owner and he has flaunted his class interests in the past. During the debate around the streetcar, Messer, a leader in the “Believe in Cincinnati” movement, made issue of the fact that his family’s financial interests were tied to the continuation of the project. He went so far as to threaten a lawsuit in order to “protect” his family’s investments along the proposed route. And in this latest opinion piece he ties Obama winning re-election in 2012 to his and his husband’s ability to file taxes jointly in 2014 (seeming to make the cause of gay marriage out to be over an economic relation, but that’s another discussion).

These show two great disconnects with reality. First, Messer ignores the fact that the majority of the non-voting electorate are the people he identifies as the traditional population of the urban core–“poor and Democratic.” Blacks make up about a 45% of Cincinnati’s population, and about 70% in OTR. This population has faced obstacles to actually being able to vote that harken back to the Jim Crow Era. Black men, disproportionately targeted by the racist and corrupt criminal justice system, the “New Jim Crow,” face high levels of disenfranchisement based on criminal histories, along with a slew of other setbacks coming out of prison that affect their ability to find housing, education and employment.

Even so, in the last presidential election Historic Black turnouts were a key indicator early on of an Obama victory. However, in the area of OTR north of Liberty, which still has largely black streets and is relatively untouched by the gentrification in the neighborhood’s southern half, voter turnout in the last presidential election was lower than black turnout overall (about 40% of registered voters in the precinct turning out, with 66% black turnout nationwide). But Messer’s focus is a different population, a wealthier, more conservative group, which have not been historically apathetic or disenfranchised in the political system in America. On the contrary, this group is representative of policy makers, now and historically.

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A Rebuttal to Don

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Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about the state of the local Green Party, drawing attention to their endorsement of John Cranley for Mayor in the upcoming elections. In a response, Don Rucknagel, co-chair of the Green Party, called the piece and uniformed attack.

Throughout his reponse, Don suggests that my presumed lack of knowledge of current economic realities in the city cloud my view of the election. I’ll let that assumption stand, because I am not overly concerned with being forced to prove something I never claimed to have knowledge of in the first piece, since that wasn’t the intention. I think it’s important to first say that my piece was less about the actual endorsements than it was about party politics, which is why I talked at length about Kshama Sawant and her campaign for Seattle council, running on the Socialist Alternative ticket. My original piece was not meant to be an attack on Gwen Marshall, but rather, what I perceived to be a local manifestation of the shortfall in the way that the party has functioned nationally since I have been politically aware.

Never-the-less, I will take on key point in Don’s response that, I think, illustrates that the Greens see this election as a zero sum game, like they have for so many elections before.

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Don Rucknagel Responds

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Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece questioning the Local Green Party‘s endorsement of John Cranley for Mayor, and offered some thoughts on the way forward for third parties in this period, using Kshama Sawant’s inspiring council run in Seattle as an example. Don Rucknagel, co-chair of the party, responded. This piece was published in Streetvibes, along with my rebuttal on Friday, October 25.

As Co-chair of the Hamilton County Green Party, I feel obliged to respond to Ben Stockwell’s uninformed attack on Gwen Marshall, my co-chair. There are some relevant facts that Stockwell seems not to understand. First, times are tough, revenues are down, and the City Council is striving to forestall bankruptcy. We have an $850 million unfunded pension liability that needs addressing. The major issue in this election is that the predominantly Democratic City Council, lead by Democratic Mayor Mark Malory and Democratic Mayoral realtor hopeful Roxanne Qualls want to blow $150 million on a vanity streetcar. The original proposal was for the Streetcar to run from Downtown up Vine Street to University Heights. But when the Governor withdrew his offer of $50 million, the project was scaled back to go to approximately Findlay Market.

The original route was problematical, because it is not clear that there are enough people downtown who will want to ride a streetcar to the stores on University Heights (likewise to Findlay Market), especially if the fare is more expensive than the buses that already go there. Ah, but it may allow people to walk to the University Medical Center (ten blocks from University Plaza rain or shine), or to the University of Cincinnati proper (3 to 9 blocks, depending upon destination) its proponents say. Because they need money to fund it, they are also flirting with a proposal to lease the City’s profitable parking meters($8 million/year) to Xerox in return for a $53 million loan for thirty years. The city would then be at the mercy of a national corporation, despite the proposed high tech nature of the parking meters . The situation may be even more complex than this, because the Port Authority may also be involved. Then there is the question of operating expenses. Qualls is eying Casino revenues. Neither Qualls nor Cranley are addressing the pension problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

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