, 27 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
It’s time to talk about Ohio.
Yes, Sherrod Brown won reelection, which shows the enduring appeal of his rumpled brand of economic populism. (Though his flawed opponent got almost 48% despite getting relatively little party/outside backing.)
But overall 2018 was brutal for OH Dems. They lost every other statewide race—guv, AG, etc. They didn’t pick up 1 US House seat—they hold 4/16. And they netted only four state reps and LOST a state sen seat in ex-Dem stronghold of Mahoning Valley, preserving GOP supermajorities.
Obama won the state twice, albeit narrowly. And past big Dem years produced major gains in Ohio, like winning governor in 2006. This year, MI and WI saw big Dem successes, despite also contending with gerrymandering. Not Ohio.
So what’s going on in Ohio? I’ve spent a lot of time reporting there in recent years but don’t have a firm answer. Here are some possible explanations. I’m curious what people make of them.
Maybe Cordray was just a weak draw at the top of the ticket—a policy guy gone from the state a few years. But DeWine ain’t exactly Beto either. And Cordray’s Warren-ish issue profile is a decent fit for OH. And low-key-ness didn’t keep Evers from winning WI.
Or maybe it has to do with Kasich’s mildness. There was plenty to hit Ohio Republicans over, including cuts to local gov’t and a huge for-profit charter scandal. But Kasich didn’t spur a reaction like Walker or Brownback/Kobach.
Another explanation is that the Ohio Dem party still hasn’t recovered from its upheaval of recent years. The Dems lost FIVE state legislative races by three points or less. Why didn’t they get more of the resources that went to the suburban Columbus races Dems won quite easily?
There’s also a case to be made that Ohio was simply never as blue as Dems liked to imagine in the late aughts. Fact is, Obama’s margins in the state were a lot smaller than in MI and WI. And Ohio is more Southern-inflected than the Upper Midwest.
But then there’s a more foreboding possibility for Dems, that there’s a transformation underway in Ohio that is going to put the state ever further out of reach. To put it bluntly, that is going to make the state closer to IN and MO politically than MI, PA and WI.
What could be driving such a transformation? Well, for one thing, demographics. As the share of white non-college voters drops nationwide, it’s holding strong in Ohio. The state is 82 percent white and only 28 percent of Ohioans have completed some higher ed.
That’s partly because of brain drain—college grads leaving the state. But it’s also because the state’s investment in education has fallen way off. In the past decade, it actually declined: dispatch.com/news/20180815/…
The state also tilts old. Only 750K of those registered to vote are between 18-24 compared to the 3.2 million who are 55 and over: clevescene.com/scene-and-hear…
These facts may seem at odds with all the buzz around Columbus. But Columbus stands in stark contrast to midsize cities like Akron, Toledo and Dayton, and esp to small cities like Mansfield, Lancaster, Zanesville, Portsmouth, Springfield, Middletown, Chillicothe, Lorain, etc.
Beyond Columbus, the state has been HAMMERED by manufacturing losses since 2000. “The trajectory of Columbus diverged dramatically. Its economic & population growth masked some of the challenges facing much of the state when looking at state-level trends.” greaterohio.org/publications/a…
This regional inequality worsens matters for the rest of the state, as more and more young people head to Columbus for Ohio State or other opportunities and don’t return, a dynamic that @jdvance1 and others have lamented.
Ohio has an astonishing array of these small cities and towns—all with handsome old courthouses, coherent downtowns and grand Victorians, and almost all of them in a condition that breaks your heart. And that’s not to mention the truly desperate rural areas of southern & SE Ohio.
I was in rural SE Ohio Tuesday and the monolithic Republican support was palpable. In 2012, Obama won almost 40 percent in Meigs County. But Hillary got only 23 percent in 2016. Cordray brought that up to only 29 percent this week.
How big was the rural surge for Ohio Republicans? Cordray actually got more votes than Kasich did in winning in 2014. But it still wasn’t enough: . DeWine won more than 70 percent of the vote in 15 counties!
So how should Dems think about all this? It’s tempting to cut the state out of 2020 plans—after all, Trump won it by 8, and Dems don’t really need it to win. But it seems hard to imagine how Dems could ever hold Senate and House majorities without still being competitive in Ohio.
If the party is still going to give Ohio a shot, it’s going to mean reckoning in a serious way with the gathering crisis in rural America, as @mattstoller argues here: and @mtomasky argues here: nytimes.com/2018/11/07/opi…
But it’s not just about truly rural counties. It’s also about all those small postindustrial cities, where Dems have been losing ground but which new research shows remain more receptive: washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-ca…
So many big-city Dems respond by declaring it all a lost cause—those people are beyond hope. But it’s not about getting all of “those people.” It’s only about getting enough to keep from getting killed at the state or district level.
And the place to start with that work may be in all those small cities. This is one of the things that Sherrod Brown, who is from Mansfield, seems to grasp more than many other Dems. And it’s not just about going TO those places, but getting charismatic people FROM them to run.
Regional inequality is creating big winners and losers even at the state level. It’s benefiting Democrats personally in the sense that they are increasingly concentrated in the winner cities. But it’s not helping them politically in state like Ohio.
Columbus (and Cleveland and Cincinnati) can only deliver so many votes. And being so clustered in Columbus also limits one’s perspective. It’s hard to understand how rough things are getting elsewhere, what people are up against.
And they’re getting pretty rough.
Addendum: it's worth noting that the rise of Trumpism in Ohio is especially striking in light of the state's past as a beacon of northern progressivism: ALL BUT ONE of Ohio's 24 members of Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Alec MacGillis
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!