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Published: Saturday, 11/24/2012

Ohio’s Turkey of the Year beat a flock of candidates

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

Time to talk turkey. Not white and dark meat. No, my friends, it’s time for the 2012 Turkey of the Year award.

Candidates come from all walks of life and professional disciplines. From athletes to artists, from coaches to four-star generals, there is no shortage of losers.

One need look no further than the Cleveland Indians/Browns to find stellar examples of collective losers with team records that rival the worst. Next year will be different.

A few career paths, especially those that dangle position and power as carrots, attract a gang of turkeys like a mating call. But fowl flock to politics. Turkeys with obscene amounts of feed to go the distance trot onto the political stage with more beak than brain.

They preen for the cameras. They squawk incessantly, slinging mud wherever they peck for votes.

Presidential elections are the Super Bowl of cockfights. Wild turkeys put up their talons over anything, even the fate of a big bird that is yellow and not found in nature.

Early in the 2012 campaign, birdwatchers were intrigued by the staying power of one surprise turkey. Herman Cain dominated the GOP field as a front-runner before the self-inflicted hatchet came down.

Other domesticated species similarly were dispatched from the competition as voters took a closer look at the birds and winced. Turkeys were drawing blanks in debates, embracing extremes, and proposing colonies on the moon. Gobblers named Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry quickly were sent back to the pen.

Right-wingers in the Republican roost demanded a race to the bottom of conservatism. They got a mutant version of their wish with two losers who campaigned as authentic compassionate conservatives.

At least 47 percent of turkey connoisseurs saw through the ruse. Mitt Romney was exposed as a faux ideologue and Paul Ryan as a faux visionary.

That didn’t matter to a majority of white-breasted toms. They went strutting off to the polls, confident of victory for Caucasian males in vanishing breeds.

They didn’t count on birds of a different feather voting in droves for the status quo. Up until the very end, the turkeys circling the Romney/Ryan roost were sure the chopping block in the foreground was for somebody else.

They lost their heads over the fantasy that turkeys could fly. It happens. Losers convince themselves that they’re invincible, too much of a prize not to be recognized and rewarded.

Samuel Wurzelbacher fell under that illusion after a brief campaign encounter with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008. The Toledo-area man, known as Joe the Plumber, became greedy for more than his 15 minutes of fame.

He parlayed his fleeting conservative celebrity into a candidacy for Congress and was soundly trounced by Ohio’s 9th District incumbent, Marcy Kaptur. The Democrat suffered no fools in retaining her seat.

But Republican turkeys downstate conspired to make her job more difficult. They redrew the voting districts to marginalize Democratic areas while gerrymandering absurd advantages for the GOP.

Fair play had nothing to do with it. This was about control. Just as turkeys of all stripes stoop to lying in political campaigns or launching personal attacks to win at any cost, partisan birds of a feather leave nothing to chance.

In Ohio, the predator party went after its prey with more than egregious redistricting.

One turkey vulture, perched high in the Secretary of State’s office, aimed for individual voters.

As chief election officer, Jon Husted is enabled to play all sorts of games with poll hours, ballot language, and vote-counting rules. The underlying scheme was to confuse, intimidate, or otherwise discourage traditionally partisan-leaning Ohioans from voting.

We can retire this turkey in two years. But for now, let’s give Mr. Husted the award with his name on it as the hands-down winner of the 2012 Turkey of the Year.

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



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