There are hot takes. There are scorching hot takes.
But a recent analysis in the Beacon Journal (“Getter redder and more polarized,” Feb. 5) that pronounced the Buckeye State “a poster child for … polarization” is a launched-into-the-center-of-the-sun take.
Mike Dawson, a former operative for Mike DeWine, spends more than 700 words making the case that the state is forever red — and fails to mention that Ohio just re-elected our Democratic senator by a margin greater than DeWine’s.
As a reminder, here’s what happened in 2018:
• Ohioans re-elected U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to a rare third term by nearly 7 percentage points.
• Ohio Democrats picked up two state Supreme Court seats, with Justice Melody Stewart becoming the first African-American Democratic candidate ever elected to statewide office.
• DeWine won the governor’s race with just slightly over 50 percent of the vote.
• Democratic candidates won 49 percent of the total votes cast statewide in legislative races — picking up a net of five seats in the Ohio House — and 48 percent in U.S. House races.
For those who are keeping track — that’s three statewide wins for Democratic candidates and Republicans garnering a little over 50 percent in the closest statewide results in 12 years.
That doesn’t sound “reliably red,” unless you’re cherry-picking the stats.
Indeed, there is a complex realignment happening in Ohio politics, and understanding that realignment demands more than facile explanations.
It is perhaps interesting to muse, as the analysis did, over how Pike County or Monroe County or Delaware County are shifting their political allegiances. However, if you gloss over the fact that Delaware County’s population is nearly five times larger than Pike and Monroe counties combined, you’re not conducting a serious analysis.
A serious analysis would find that Ohio Democratic candidates improved their vote share from 2012 to 2018 in far more counties than where we lost ground. Even more important, those gains took place in the larger and more quickly growing parts of the state, including former GOP strongholds in the suburbs, such as Delaware County.
Ohio is a poster child, for sure, but it isn’t for polarization. It’s for hyperpartisan perversion of democracy.
If Ohio Republicans have succeeded in anything the past eight years, it has been gerrymandering our state in a way that divides us and undertaking a non-stop effort to make it harder to vote. From curtailing early voting to rejecting valid absentee and provisional ballots for minor issues, the GOP has lodged one attack after another against Ohioans’ voting rights.
The coup de grace has been the nation’s most aggressive voter purging policy, which has resulted in more than 2 million registered voters being removed from the rolls since 2010. (As a comparison, DeWine won the governor’s race by 160,000 votes.)
Ohio isn’t a red state — it’s a rigged state. And if Ohio is a polarized state, it’s only so because Republicans have made it that way.
Pepper is the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.