Monday, August 29, 2005


Washington Post slants RON coverage

A few days ago, the Washington Post profiled the Reform Ohio Now effort. Although the recognition of the campaign is nice (and deserved), parsing the following bit of the Post coverage suggests which side reporter Brian Faler was listening to:
As California goes, so goes Ohio? The Buckeye State is awaiting word on whether it will become the second state, in addition to California, to vote this fall on whether to change the way it draws congressional districts.

A Democratic-leaning group called Reform Ohio Now has submitted more than 500,000 signatures to put a handful of proposals on the state's November ballot, including one that would take the power to draw those districts from state lawmakers and give it to an independent panel. [emphasis added]
We understand it when RON opponents try to put the “Democratic-leaning” spin on the RON coalition, but it’s another thing for a Post reporter to fall for this attempt to re-frame this battle.

It would have been just as accurate if Faler had described the group as "leaning in favor of gambling” because some of the members had played poker before. In other words, the presence of some past and present supporters of candidates of the Democratic party doesn't, therefore, make this some hidden campaign of the Democratic Party, and the use of description like "Democratic-leaning" in this context is both terribly irrelevant and terribly offensive.

We’re not playing a semantics games here. The “Democratic-leaning” comment is an blatant red-herring and part of a planned effort to get the media to describe it thusly. Let us explain.

As anyone even somewhat close to the RON process knows, the amendments arose out of a frustration with 1) the GOP opposition to ending the bash they have thrown for themselves at the public's expense, and 2) the Ohio Democratic Party's inability to orchestrate any significant change.

The reality is that RON amendments evolved in spite of opposition, indifference, bewilderment and poo-pooing of among both the ODP and the GOP. Yes, indeed, many in the ODP have now openly endorsed RON and there was a big surge of support after the petitions were submitted. But the ODP establishment had nothing to do with the beginning of RON.

It is true that at least one of the RON initiators is a former high-level ODP officials (e.g., Paul Tipps). On the other hand, another RON initiator, Andy Douglas, is a former top GOP office holder (Ohio Supreme Court). Both have been around for a long time. Both claim to be disgusted by the direction of the state and alarmed at the lack of prospect for significant change. But, neither have reputations for being beholden to any entity, political or otherwise (except perhaps to their considerable egos). Both are considered, in fact, to be known mavericks.

Likewise, Douglas and Tipps were able to rally a couple of large unions (OEA and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association) around the RON concept in its beginning stages. But neither union is synomous with the ODP either. Ironically, both have even incurred the wrath of the ODP on a regular basis because they have supported Republican candidates fairly often.

Douglas and Tipps were also able to gather support from a couple of major newspapers (e.g., the Dayton Daily News) very early in the process.

RON has become popular precisely because it will eliminate a huge layer of partisan political shenanigans - something both the GOP and the ODP will have to learn to live with.

The point of this ranting about the Post story is that the Dick Finans, the Kevin DeWines and the Ken Blackwells of Ohio plan on taking the most sick, sinister and cynical approach to attacking RON - to paint the RON amendments as just another example partisanship when nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem is that political reporters want every issue to fit into a nice, neat, predictable format. Democrats propose "A". Republicans oppose "A". Republicans propose "B". Democrats oppose "B". If they can't make a story fit that template, they change the story instead of tossing the template. If the square peg won't go into the round hole - fuck it, get a bigger hammer!

The Post isn't the only paper to fall for the "Democratic-leaning" frame. We were disappointed to see the usually sterling Jim Provance of the Blade get suckered in too:
RON - a coalition of Democrat-leaning groups like Common Cause, the Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and Planned Parenthood - had expected a court challenge but not until after the signatures were filed. [emphasis added]
Just two paragraphs later, Provance confesses
The Democratic political machine has largely remained quiet so far on the process . . .

So, to the reporters who read this blog, today's lesson is this: RON is NOT the product of the political machine of the ODP. It is not a covert scheme by Denny White and company. It is not the brainchild of the Democratic leaders of the Ohio House or Senate. So quit implying that it is.

ODP officials and candidates are certainly welcome to get on the RON bus. The same goes for the GOP. They are all welcome to join - but not lead. They are also welcome to stay on the sidelines.

But both the GOP and the ODP knows that Ohio voters in 2006 may judge candidates on where they stood on reform in 2005. Needless to say, a lot of candidates are already jumping on the RON bandwagon.

Finally, we'd like to give some kudos to
Elenamary and her fascinating, eponymous blog (subtitled, "Irish Xicana in Ohio Ponders") that covers many political and latino/hispanic stories. We discovered Elenamary while doing some research of this post, and it turned out that she had starting banging on the Post before we did. Her summary of Faler's story:
So many inaccuracies in so few words.
Well said!

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