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No matter what happens Election Day, the next two years are poised to be politically ugly in America

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The good news is the 2022 campaign is over. It’s been quite a slog in Ohio. Juvenile candidates almost coming to blows. Vile MAGA interlopers spreading the hate. State Republicans ignoring the rule of law to get unconstitutional legislative and congressional districts on the ballot. Again.

Two costly and unnecessary primary elections with record low turnout. Voter confusion. Disgust. Ohio’s Republican elections chief (eyeing a Senate race in 2024) campaigned on the stellar system of free and fair voting in the state then supported election deniers (and a Jan. 6 participant!) on the ballot.

Political ads took the notorious Willie Horton TV ads, circa 1988, to a whole new level of fear-mongering racism. Homophobia was also stunningly explicit in a flyer distributed by the Ohio Republican Party about Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage who is running for state representative.

State Supreme Court candidates were featured on billboards promoting “pro-life” candidates even as the court is facing a constitutional challenge to Ohio’s six-week abortion ban. The three Republicans justices featured as anti-abortion champions, reaffirmed their biases in a Cincinnati Right to Life survey where they all agreed on no constitutional right to abortion. So much for impartial justice.

Ohioans deserved so much better in candidates and campaigns and state leadership this year. We end the crazy season spent, not hopeful. For the rights of Ohio women to make their own medical decisions. For fair, representative voting districts in the state that comply with the Ohio Constitution and the overwhelming will of voters. For someone to “do something!” to end routine gun violence. For affordable housing, food security, livable wages. For investments in people over corporate profit.

For actual, outcome-based problem-solving that benefits the greater good in more opportunity, more rigorous education, more targeted training, more progress for more Ohioans.  For recognition that a pluralistic society coming together as one, “E pluribus unum,” is truly what makes America great. For longer tables not higher walls. For collaboration, compassion, a return to civility. For decency not cruelty.

But we weary citizens, consumed with day jobs, school, family, retirement, etc., are under no illusion of responsible public service making a comeback anytime soon. Political bomb throwers prefer their circus to constructive policymaking. While we welcome the break in wall-to-wall apocalyptic TV ads, that insulted the intelligence of a rock, we brace for what’s to come.

Because the bad news is that the midterm election was just one battle in a long war that’s nowhere close to over. Jim Jordan is itching to fight, not for his Ohio constituents in his safe, gerrymandered 4th District, but for appearances on Fox News as a MAGA darling owning the libs. The congressman and co-conspirator of an attempt coup is salivating at the manufactured hysteria he’ll create as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee hauling Hunter Biden and Biden administration officials in for trumped up inquisitions that will last until the 2024 election.

For right-wing warriors, drunk on power, it’s all about the brawl. A zero-sums take-down of “the other.” Finding solutions and reaching consensus on the peoples’ priorities is not even on the radar of MAGA brawlers out to raise their profiles with the base. They want to hurt and humiliate the opposition party, not help lower prescription drugs, reduce child poverty, fortify social safety nets millions of Americans survive on or address the extreme income and economic inequality holding so many back.

That takes work. Performance artists with a microphone just need to put on a good show.  Attack. Disrupt. Distract. It’s easier to tear down than build up. Republicans promise to defund, repeal, or mute the impact of a landmark Democratic law on health care, climate and corporate tax increases and roll back drug pricing reforms.

They vow to extend expiring provisions of the $3 trillion Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and threaten to shut down the government to force program cuts in Social Security and Medicare. (to pay for those tax cuts) They are willing to put the country into catastrophic default if they don’t get their way on gutting the economic security of over 60 million Americans. They are willing to let Putin march through Ukraine, leaving a trail of atrocities, and into Eastern Europe.

They are willing to be led by a serial liar who tried to overthrow the country before and, if given the chance, will try again. We are in for an avalanche of half-truths, outright lies, self-dealing, racism, sexism and other outrages in the next two years. Political violence, winked at by the hard right, could explode. Death threats to leading Democrats are off the charts. Paul Pelosi’s assault was meant for his wife.

MAGA conspiracies and convictions live in opposition to reason and truth. The struggle to reclaim belief in a shared baseline of facts will be epic. The information warfare of “alternative facts” will take years to turn. But a functional democracy cannot survive if objective truth does not.

So pace yourself. Could be quite a slog.


Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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