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Friday, August 22, 2014
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Published: Friday, 2/28/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

COMMENTARY

Politics as comedy and neccessity

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

What did Marx say? History is first tragedy and then farce? Sometimes it feels like politics is comedy. Ask Mr. Dooley, Will Rogers, Mort Sahl, or Lewis Black.

Take Rep. Rex Damschroder, a Republican representing Ohio’s 88th House District. The poor guy, in his own words, “screwed up.” And since then, things have gone further south.

His error? When he turned in his filing petitions, he neglected to sign them all. He says he missed one signature, but the Board of Elections says it is two. This made his petitions technically invalid. So he did what any red-blooded politician would not do: He withdrew from the race and got his wife to run as a write-in — but only as a “place holder” for him. In Ohio, a candidate can hold a place for another candidate to be named later. I find this bizarre, and closer to fraud than missing a signature. Either he’s in or he’s out. Now, Mr. Damschroder, who was a shoo-in for re-election, with no opposition in sight, is off the ballot, and there are now four write-in candidates, including Mrs. Damschroder, who, if nominated, will not run and if elected, will not serve.

One of his opponents says the signature error was “inexcusable.” But my guess is that at least 10 of Mr. Damschroder’s votes in the legislature are worse than a missed signature.

We need to admit it — politics is often a mess. And full of folly. We have to keep at it anyway.

I’ll give you two more examples of folly: the history of the city of Toledo’s housing policies, and the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Toledo’s housing policy is both a comedy and a disgrace. Hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used to help house our citizens were frittered away — wasted, misspent, and placed in the pockets of contractors, managers, and middlemen. In the words of one of the most liberal City Council members, “it’s enough to make you a conservative.”

But Toledo still needs a housing authority (the Department of Neighborhoods) and a neighborhoods-based city housing policy sustained by grass-roots participation and measurable results. We can’t give up on that just because ONYX was a bust.

Finally, the GOP majority in the U.S. House: Imagine a legislative majority that refuses to legislate. From Teddy Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower to current GOP icon Ted Nugent is a long way down. Mr. Nugent called our president a “subhuman mongrel.” No Republican congressman protested. And Mr. Lincoln wept.

This is a tragedy, not a farce, because we need a party of limits as well as a party of progress. We need the Goldwaters and Jerry Fords, who ask hard questions so that we don’t waste millions, locally and nationally.

Yet government is an instrument of collective reason and goodwill. So no matter how many times we make a mess of it, we have to keep trying.

The Republican Party will rise from the ashes. The U.S. House will one day be functional and a proud institution again. Toledo will find a way to better use federal and local funds to house and feed people. We learn, and we keep on.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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