Six years ago, this editorial page recommended the re-election of Mike DeWine to the U.S. Senate. We noted that the Republican incumbent had built a record of working across the aisle, often in aiding the poor and vulnerable, even in taking up the problem of climate change. DeWine lost in a year that heavily favored Democrats.
Sherrod Brown won, soon moving to the other side of Capitol Hill, from the House to the Senate. How well has he performed? This editorial page long has shared many policy positions with Brown, and engaged in some vigorous arguments. Hard to miss about his first term as a senator has been his hard work and leadership, his attention to what matters for Ohioans, from manufacturing and jobs to health care and farming (the first Ohioan on the Senate Agriculture Committee in four decades).
At a time of widening income inequality and a struggling economy, Brown sees himself as a determined champion of the middle class. The portrayal has substance. It is evident in his strong support for the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus package, both often criticized yet each essential in elevating many lives. The enactment of health-care reform, though not entirely to his liking, represents a culmination of what Brown has sought for years as a lawmaker.
The substance can be seen in legislation Brown has proposed. He has pressed for aligning better emerging industries, say, in clean energy, with the training of workers, part of his larger focus on advancing manufacturing. He has backed an infrastructure bank to support public works. He plunged into farming matters as something of a legislative newcomer yet quickly got up to speed.
The accusation frequently flies that Brown is just too liberal. The charge is more about slogans. If anything, Brown has added dimensions to the debate. Consider financial reform. He joined others of various stripes in arguing that banks really shouldn’t be too big to fail. He rightly notes that Honda, Ford and other carmakers wanted to see General Motors and Chrysler rescued, fearing for the auto industry as a whole. Brown has navigated a careful, reasoned line in weighing the costs and benefits of environmental regulations.
Our arguments with the senator persist. He engages too much in bashing corporations, casting blame too widely. He can sound too much the protectionist on trade questions, pushing ideas more likely to delay the economic transition the state and region desperately must achieve. He spent a good share of the 2006 campaign clubbing DeWine about high gas prices. Today, they are high again. Might that involve something beyond the immediate reach of a senator, or a president?
Yet even this Sherrod Brown adds value to the debate (when the rhetoric cools somewhat, as it more often has). For instance, China must be pressured to comply with international trade rules, especially in the area of intellectual property. More, the evolution of campaign finance and the culture of Washington has amplified the messages and clout of corporate interests.
As it is, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other weighty players have set out to remove Brown from the Senate, pouring roughly $17 million into ads pounding the senator. (Know, too, the donors are not disclosed.) The distortions are vast. One accused Brown of being a “career politician.” And Mitch McConnell isn’t? Another insisted Brown is anti-business. Not if you consider the full record.
In targeting Brown, these interests prove revealing, all that money suggesting the senator truly does bring a valuable voice to the Senate, one that conveys the indispensable role government plays in improving our collective lives, that speaks to the frustration of stagnating incomes, that takes up the task of afflicting the comfortable.
We recommend the re-election of Sherrod Brown on Nov. 6.
The beneficiary of the big money aimed at the senator has been Josh Mandel, the Republican challenger. He has been the state treasurer since early last year, yet he is not far removed from the Lyndhurst City Council, followed by four years in the Ohio House. A Mandel ad lets the viewer know that he is 34 years old. It captures the problem with his candidacy. He isn’t ready for the job. It is apparent in his shallow positions, mostly the usual talking points of the far right, in his sparse record at the Statehouse, in the approach of a campaign that gets caught telling whoppers and then proceeds to say it will keep doing so.
None of this diminishes his admirable sacrifice for the country, serving in the Marine Corps, including two tours in Iraq. Mandel would have done well to focus on completing a term as treasurer and then see what the political future holds. He might have started by attending Board of Deposit meetings, the panel the treasurer chairs, where Mandel frequently has been absent.
Instead, he leaped into the Senate race, quickly cementing the first impression, of an ill-prepared candidate overmatched by his opponent.