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Published: Saturday, 11/3/2012

Obama did the right thing for Ohioans; now it’s our turn

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

It's almost over. Living in the mother of all battleground states, amid a presidential campaign that will be decided by a whisker, is no picnic.

Ohio voters, on whose collective shoulders apparently rests the fate of the free world, have been pummeled and polled to pieces. We’ve been studied and surveyed about attitudes and trends.

Every four years we’re the premier political lab rats of the country. Our responses to all sorts of external stimuli, including policies or proposals that challenge or affirm the status quo, are painstakingly scrutinized.

Any discernible change of heart or partisan habit prompts immediate investigation. There are always new theories to test, new demographics to exploit.

By now, Ohio has been reduced to a pie chart. Most Ohioans are in one slice or another, separated by gender, race, education, and economics.

Ohioans are divided down the middle in an excruciatingly close presidential race. A teensy percentage of registered voters allegedly sit on the fence about their choices.

Their supposed indecision — holding the state’s 18 electoral votes hostage — makes Ohio ground zero for the presidential nominees, their running mates, and their political surrogates.

The circus is here 24/7. You can’t turn around anywhere, from Toledo to Youngstown, without bumping into a politician preaching to the choir or pressing the flesh in a last-minute visit to get out the vote.

The same stump speeches, ubiquitous campaign commercials, and in-your-face sales pitches grate on our nerves. Everything is oversimplified, generalized, politicized.

In our polarized Midwest universe, anything passes for truth. Lies repeated long enough become believable. Phoniness masquerades as authenticity.

The media are largely complacent, dutifully reporting what rival campaigns say and do. But coverage about charges and counter-charges comes without benefit of factual context.

Few members of the media aggressively question politicians about discrepancies in the record or glaring deficits in disclosed information. For the most part, citizens are at the mercy of what money can buy to manipulate opinion.

The messages that bombard Ohioans are seldom subtle or distortion-free. They aim for gut appeal, not rational argument.

Those campaigns that are spending a fortune in the state want the most bang for their buck. They want to stoke heated emotion in the public square, not advance reality-based discussions.

Don’t let slick marketing by super-political action committees and closet moneybags con you. Ohio is pivotal in deciding the presidency.

Four years ago, the bottom fell out of the economy. From Wall Street to Main Street, the market was in a free fall, and bringing us down with it.

Emergency government intervention was critical to prop up businesses and banks that supposedly were too big to fail. Key players in the auto industry, drowning in bad decisions and debt, were thrown a financial lifeline to remain afloat.

The bailout came with strings attached to ensure smarter, more strategically efficient future operations. The journey to solvency and renewed success was a struggle. But the federal action saved big job creators such as Chrysler and General Motors.

Today, hundreds of thousands of Ohioans are working for car companies, assembly plants are running, and auto suppliers are in business because the Obama Administration did the right thing.

After successive administrations kicked health-care reform down the road, the administration did the right thing with passage of landmark legislation. Finally, medical coverage and cost are addressed in near-universal terms and include pre-existing conditions.

Women cheered new provisions covering preventive care, including contraception. Women trust the Obama Administration to uphold their rights from abortion to pay equity in the workplace.

They can’t rely on Mitt Romney to do the same. It’s a perception many voters share about the Republican nominee, whose shifting positions on rescuing the auto industry to repealing health reform appear less grounded in conviction than in crowd-pleasing calculations.

We don’t need a vacillating opportunist in the White House. We need the dependable, forward-thinking President who had our back four years ago, who stabilized the economy, who preserved a disappearing middle class, who protected national interests.

It’s almost over, Ohio. Battle back the naysayers. Do the right thing.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade. Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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