'No on Issue 2': Yes, GOP, this is really happening
Last week the Ohio politics blog Plunderbund had a series of posts about the sudden and dramatic sense of desperation that had seized the right. The panic began with an editorial from the conservative Columbus Dispatch. It was so completely at odds with reality that even a casual follower of state politics might have taken it for parody.
It really has to be read to be believed. It has garden variety inaccuracy: "Neither side has reason for undue optimism about the outcome of this battle." It has bizarre claims: "A monstrously expensive campaign...undoubtedly would create deep divisions not only among Ohioans, but within individual voters who see merit on both sides of the issue." (Their worry for my potential cognitive dissonance is touching.) It has political wish fulfillment: "If only those millions of dollars could be redirected to the state's most-promising economic-development initiatives".
Worst of all, it claimed "John Kasich previously has made overtures to union leaders for compromise" and called on lawmakers to "determine if compromise is possible." What was the compromise they wanted? Removal of Issue 2 from the ballot in exchange for some tweaks to SB 5.
Perhaps in another bit of kabuki designed to pave the way for Kasich to broach the subject, the Cleveland Plain Dealer followed with an editorial of its own calling for sweet, sweet compromise. This is the same group that warned last December: "Kasich and his fellow Republicans are setting up a battle royale with union interests." When the actual battle royale was launched, though, where was the full throated condemnation? Where was the dire concern trolling we are seeing now about a "nasty, divisive, expensive war"?
ModernEsquire immediately went through a long list of ways Kasich had refused to compromise on SB 5 (or anything else really). Virtually from the moment he was elected last year he began to issue demands and threats, pressure lawmakers to pass the law exactly as he wanted, and even had his fingerprints on maneuvering like the removal of a committee member a half an hour before voting. He is famous for his peremptory governing style. Claiming he has any interest in compromise is ludicrous.
At least, until Wednesday. Now that the citizen veto has a 56-32 advantage there is an air of incredulity on the right. Republicans won big last November! We have a mandate! Even to do stuff we didn't campaign on! And lo and behold, John Kasich is suddenly willing to take counsel from others and be persuaded ("Outside observers, including Ohio's two largest newspapers, have rightly asked whether [Issue 2] is our only option. It is not."). Hooray! Comity at last!
So what did our bored and irritable CEO propose? Meetings with union leaders to, um, talk about some kind of changes to the bill. In exchange for taking Issue 2 off the ballot. This led to the following hilarious news conference with We Are Ohio's Melissa Fazekas:
For those who can't watch, Fazekas says We Are Ohio will happily talk compromise once SB 5 is repealed. She must say "repeal the entire bill" about ten times, but reporters keep asking what exactly she is getting at. This is not difficult to grasp. Opponents of the bill were completely locked out of the legislative process. SB 5 is not the product of a good faith negotiating effort; it is tainted. That was the reason for the referendum! If supporters truly are interested in sitting down at the table with opponents, going back to square one is a prerequisite. Relinquishing the gains they seized over strenuous objections is the only way to show a genuine desire to work together.
If Kasich and the rest of the Republican leadership really has gotten religion on this, the way forward could not be simpler or clearer: Repeal the bill in its entirety. They do not need Fazekas' permission to do that, or anyone else's. The very same people who wrote it, pushed it through and signed it into law can use the very same process to repeal it.
Doing so will not only demonstrate a sincere willingness to work with those on the other side of the aisle (note how state Democrats were absent from Kasich's plea), it will validate the concerns of the citizens who worked to put Issue 2 on the ballot. After all, they didn't sign petitions to re-negotiate SB 5 - they signed petitions to overturn it. Unpalatable though that might be to Kasich and company, repeal is a lot better than the alternative: A waking nightmare from now until November 8th. Because activists aren't going away, and they aren't going to get any quieter either.