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Published: 1/2/2005

The GOP sits and waits

The Republican Party has become America s majority political party for the first time since before Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But rather than embrace their clout, the Republicans seem to almost run from it, especially here in Ohio.

Let s be clear: We do not advocate a Republican revolution; we have philosophical differences with the GOP on certain issues.

But we are astounded that the Ohio Republican Party seems so paralyzed, so indifferent, to the leadership role it has coveted and happily assumed over the course of the last 15 years.

The GOP gained control of the executive branch in 1990 and both houses of the General Assembly in 1994. It has held every statewide constitutional office governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and auditor since Democrat Lee Fisher left the attorney general s office in 1995.

The Republicans also are comfortable at last with their majority on the Ohio Supreme Court, where the old Gang of Four is no longer in a position to do any harm, and only one seat will be occupied by a Democrat, Justice Alice Resnick, in the court s new term.

In fact, they face virtually impotent opposition from the Democratic Party.

Why, then, is a party with all the power so clueless about how to use it?

Our Republican governor can t possibly share any conservative DNA with his grandfather, Sen. Robert Taft, Sr. The original Mr. Republican never saw such sweeping and long-lasting Republican dominance, but he surely would have known what to do with it.

George W. Bush won Ohio and, as a result, the presidency on Nov. 2, even though this state was hurt more than any other by the loss of jobs during his first term.

What that should be telling the GOP is that most Ohioans at least for now embrace traditional Republican values. They want essential services maintained and they want the cost of government controlled. And they want liberal excesses including public employee unions and their lucrative contracts stopped.

But inexplicably, Governor Taft and the GOP-dominated legislature are presiding over a bloated state government that is being fueled, ironically, by the largest tax increase in Ohio history.

The 18-month-old one-cent addition to the state sales tax, advertised as temporary, shows signs of being anything but. By mid-2005, Ohio is expected to face a budget deficit of something like $4 billion.

Does that sound like the party of Senator Taft, Alf Landon, or Thomas Dewey?

Ohio s steeply graduated income tax has driven many members of the decision-making class the rich and powerful to live in places such as Florida where the burden isn t so onerous.

Doesn t anyone in the state GOP establishment realize that Ken Blackwell has set himself apart from his Republican competitors for governor in 2006 by tapping a rich opportunity to carry out his party s traditional conservative agenda? This is the Republicans moment, and it has arrived because the people expect them to do something. Only Mr. Blackwell seems to realize it, and he may be just the first.

The party is in a position to exercise more power than at any time in decades.

In 1958, Ohio business interests pushed hard for a right to work law in a failed attempt to dilute the power of organized labor. Maybe it was just ahead of its time.

The Blade does not favor right to work, but there is little doubt that the unionization of state and local government workers has accelerated the cost of government faster than the ability of the public to pay. Ohioans forced to take jobs at Wal-Mart can only envy the compensation and benefits that go to public employees.

The point is that politics shifts over time. We want to see both parties thrive, and the best chance for an eventual Democratic revival is for the GOP to now aggressively pursue its historic agenda in Ohio.

But that s no excuse for the Republican Party s inaction. In fact, the Republicans are out of excuses.

Having climbed to the summit, they do not have the option of simply enjoying the view.



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