Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Like chickens with their heads cut off

Many Democrats, Republicans and progressives have already talked themselves into a panic about Kenny Blackwell's Last In Everything Amendment. That's because, for months now, the common wisdom around the state is that 7 out of 10 Ohioans are going to vote for it.

Alas, the moans, the hysteria, the gnashing of teeth have already started. The headless chickens are running amok. Take this nugget, for example, from the Dispatch:
[Speaker of the House Jon A.] Husted said Taft and legislators must create an alternative to a plan pushed by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that would sharply limit tax and spending increases. Without another option, seven in 10 Ohioans would support the Blackwell-backed proposal.

"In the absence of a $3 million campaign (against it), there's no question in my mind that it's going to win,'' Husted said.
Get fucking real. IF the ONLY question taxpayers are asked is if they want to limit government spending, then, yes, a sizeable majority will support the LIE Amendment.

But of course that isn't going to be the ONLY question voters will be asked. That is, it won't be unless the opponents run a dumb campaign (or better put, a not-smart campaign like the anti-Issue 1, aka the Gay Marriage effort) which we admit is always possible.

Now, there are some campaigners and strategists who clearly haven't learned any lessons, have taken no responsibility for their misjudgments and errors, and are still wondering what happened to Ohio in November. These should be avoided like the plague.

But, truthfully, there are a few smart Democrat campaigners around who sound like they have learned the right lessons from the Kerry and Issue 1 defeats. At least we think they have.

The smarter, wiser strategists will immediate see that the campaign to defeat Blackwell and the LIE amendment could shape up as a major clash of two "framing" strategies. If you don't know what framing means, you had better catch up on your Lakoff readings - a point we expect to make again and again on these pages.

Blackwell will frame the amendment as simply being about the need to require government spending to stay in line with economic growth, something necessary because of a feckless legislature. It values the protection of taxpayers, etc.

Opponents will have to frame the amendment as simply being about a conservative scheme to cut spending on education, health care, parks, the elderly and infrastructure investments. It values preserving and expanding the opportunities for low-income and middle class Ohioans.

With the two choices posed like that, Ohioans on both sides can/will vote their values. And when we can pose the choices like that, then we can have some real polling and have a more accurate test of which way voters wanted to go.

There is one other thing that the opponents of the LIE Amendment have the edge on: we know it doesn't work, we know it wreaks economic disaster and we can beat the supporters to death with the Colorado experience.

We're bettors and we strongly like the odds that would result from combining a good framing strategy and wise use of the Colorado experiences.

One important additional point needs to be made. In the Dispatch story above, Husted says Taft and legislators must create an alternative to a plan pushed by Blackwell. This comment about an "alternative" is NOT a reference to a campaign to defeat the lie amendment. Instead, Husted and others want to introduce a watered down version of the LIE amendment, Blackwell "lite" if you prefer.

This is asinine and will only harm LIE amendment opponents. Husted and his acolytes will try to spin it that they are only trying to drain votes from Blackwell, but the opposite will occur. The only people that will be attracted to a milder amendment are those that are convinced that some amendment is going to pass and that it is the lesser of the two evils. Each of those would be a vote drained from the anti-LIE camp.

Democrats and progressives should dig their heels in fight those that would throw up a diversion to a head-on battle against Blackwell.


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