Curiouser and Curiouser

The Tea Party's crazy contradictions put their stamp on the 2010 elections

[Find all the media, union and PAC picks in the "Who's Endorsing Whom" charts here.]

The 2010 elections will be remembered mostly for the Tea Party movement, both nationally and locally, though the exact meaning of the movement is yet to be determined.

If Republicans are successful in co-opting Tea Partiers' anti-government anger and gain majorities in the U.S. House and/or Senate, the movement will have “arrived.” It's extremely doubtful that Republican leaders in Congress such as potential Speaker of the House John Boehner (Tan-West Chester) would ever address the Tea Partiers' main goal of shrinking government on every level, but the politicians likely would throw them a bone by repealing the recent health care bill or launching investigations into President Obama's birth certificate.

If voters wake up and realize that, on a political level, the Tea Party simply is a “populist” cover for the Republican Party's desire to maintain tax cuts for the wealthy, eliminate the estate tax for the wealthy, deregulate Wall Street firms that almost drove the country into financial ruin and protect profits for health insurance corporations, then Democrats will be given further time to continue cleaning up the mess left by the Bush administration.

One thing is certain: The Tea Party has missed a golden opportunity to become a true populist movement.

Anger swelled throughout the country when we realized how much power a greedy and careless Wall Street had over the nation's and world's economy and how our personal finances (401k savings, home mortgages, loan access) were swamped by the financial markets' meltdown. That anger exploded when the government — first Bush, then Obama — decided to bail out Wall Street instead of us.

We're angry that our health insurance premiums skyrocket while coverage gets scaled back and insurance corporations report record profits. We're angry that BP can dump millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and get away with it. We're angry that the Supreme Court equates corporations with personhood and now allows businesses to pump even more money into an already corrupt political system. And we're angry that this country has spent more than $1 trillion and endured more than 5,000 dead soldiers to fight largely unsuccessful wars in the Middle East.

Vote the CityBeat Ticket 

 Hamilton County Commission Jim Tarbell
 Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes
U.S. House of Representatives (Ohio 1st District) Steve Driehaus
U.S. House of Representatives (Ohio 2nd District) Surya Yalamanchili
U.S. Senate (Ohio)
Dan La Botz
U.S. Senate (Kentucky)
Jack Conway
Ohio Governor
Ted Strickland
Ohio Attorney General
Richard Cordray
Ohio Auditor
David Pepper
Ohio Secretary of State
Maryellen O'Shaughnessy

There are many other races on the ballot, including state senators and representatives, state board of education,
community school and tax issues and judges, including the Ohio Supreme Court. Make a difference! Vote Tuesday, Nov. 2.

There's plenty of anger to go around across the entire political spectrum, from ultra-conservatives to ultra-liberals. A true populist coalition could have been formed and become a powerful agent for change.

Instead, whatever anti-government, pro-personal freedom sentiment existed in the early days of the Tea Party movement quickly turned into an ugly “us vs. them” mentality with “them” defined as the usual punching bags for the Far Right: minorities, the poor, immigrants, “welfare queens,” non-Christians, foreigners, “elitists” and, of course, liberals.

It didn't help the Tea Party that the movement attracted nut jobs of all stripes — racists, xenophobes, black helicopter spotters, conspiracy believers — whose diffuse and unconnected fear/anger turned the Tea Party into a huge blob of rage looking for fights to pick. As Marlon Brando's character says in the classic 1950s movie

The Wild One

when asked what he's rebelling against, “Whaddya got?”

That vacuum created the perfect opportunity for the Republican Party to step in and provide some much-needed focus. And their focus was easy to identify: winning back power, control and influence in Washington.

And so Boehner, Steve Chabot and Jean Schmidt — among many others — embrace “anti-government” anger in their campaigns to keep or win back their government jobs with government-provided health care. They want to “throw out the bums,” who in reality have been toiling to clean up the financial disaster that Boehner, Chabot, Schmidt and their GOP colleagues created in the first place.

They've formed an alternate universe where Tea Partiers can actually hold signs at rallies that say, “Keep your government hands off of my Medicare.” Where people whose homes are being foreclosed on actually created the financial mess instead of investment banks that created, marketed and profited from subprime mortgage loans. And where Barack Obama — a relative unknown who took on and defeated the Democratic Party establishment in 2008 via an energized grassroots network of young people and independent voters — is the enemy.

As Alice once said of Wonderland, her own alternate universe, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

If you're looking for a way out of Tea Partyland, where up is down and you're the enemy, check out


's election endorsements below. Let's not take our country back, as the Tea Parties say — let's take it forward!

Hamilton County Commission: Jim Tarbell

The county’s fiscal problems are a microcosm of the overall U.S. economy: Mismanagement by Republicans created huge problems that Democrats are slowly but surely cleaning up. The three-member Hamilton County Commission was controlled completely by Republicans for almost 40 years until Democrat Todd Portune was elected in 2000 in the wake of the stadium sales tax boondoggle, and David Pepper’s 2006 defeat of Phil Heimlich gave Democrats a majority. Pepper and Portune have pushed through budget reforms to cut expenses by 22 percent, back to 1998 levels. Pepper is not up for reelection, running instead for Ohio Auditor (see below).

The Republican candidate is City Councilman Chris Monzel, an ultra-conservative who focuses on social hot-button issues; his campaign Facebook page lists his top endorsements as Cincinnati Right to Life, Citizens for Community Values (CCV), Family First and Buckeye Firearms Association. Yeah, exactly the kind of causes the county needs to be dealing with right now.

Jim Tarbell is an active and engaged leader whose understanding of the complexities and relationships inherent in urban life — from support of the arts and public transit to the power of small business development — is legendary. There’s a reason his image is painted on a four-story building leading into Over-the-Rhine on Vine Street: He was for reinvigorating that neighborhood’s history and life force before it was cool.

Now Tarbell’s urban sensibilities might not play well in suburban Hamilton County, where an anti-city bias often derails serious discussion of regional cooperation and common opportunities. But of all the candidates running for local offices this fall, he has the best opportunity to present a vision for moving this region forward in a holistic, progressive manner. And he’ll partner with Portune to continue finding ways to keep the county’s finances afloat while protecting government services for its neediest citizens.

Hamilton County Auditor: Dusty Rhodes

There isn’t a huge difference between the candidates in this race, incumbent Dusty Rhodes and former State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. Rhodes is a conservative Democrat who’s embraced the Tea Party movement, and Brinkman is a leader of the local conservative political group COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) that’s been eclipsed by the Tea Party. They both hate “big” government but enjoy being employed by government.

Still, Rhodes has accomplished much in his 20 years as county auditor. His office Web site offers transparency for the department’s expenditures and lots of resources for citizens to use in calculating property tax and tax levy costs and in doing business with the county.

If you focus on Rhodes’ years of useful service instead of his Tea Party craziness, you’ll realize that the incumbent wacko is far superior to his much wackier challenger.

U.S. House of Representatives (Ohio 1st District): Steve Driehaus

Like Barack Obama, Steve Driehaus knew that going to Washington, D.C., in January 2009 would be a difficult assignment: After the Bush administration led the country to the brink of financial disaster, he had to clean up the mess — meaning that he’d be judged by both the solutions and the original problems.

Driehaus rightfully says he’s accomplished more his first two years in Congress than his predecessor, Steve Chabot, did in 14 years. The mildly progressive legislation he’s helped pass — health care reform, Wall Street regulation, infrastructure, education — has started to chip away at corporate domination of the U.S. economy, though there’s a ton more work left to do.

Chabot announced his intention to run for his old seat about 10 minutes after he lost to Driehaus in 2008. Like most Republican challengers this year, his campaign is based on saying “No” to all the changes made or proposed by Congressional Democrats over the past two years. Not a very optimistic game plan.

Change is certainly scary, but to most Cincinnatians the prospect of returning Chabot to Congress is even scarier. Driehaus clearly deserves to win reelection and continue digging us out of the mess Chabot helped create.

U.S. House of Representatives (Ohio 2nd District): Surya Yalamanchili

There’s really no use in heaping more scorn on Rep. Jean Schmidt. She’s a sitting duck, an easy target, the very embodiment of know-nothing Republican politicians who enabled the Bush administration to rig a near-Depression and then sniped at Democrats’ efforts to fix things the past two years while offering no good ideas of their own.

Surya Yalamanchili is an impressive political newcomer who settled in Cincinnati in 2001 to work for Procter & Gamble and went on to several Internet companies, including LinkedIn. His policy platform focuses on three areas: responsibility (being responsible to future generations by reining in the deficit and requiring corporate America to behave responsibly); growth (economic of course, but as the son of Indian immigrants also making immigration work better for American business); and security (financial, energy and physical).

And with his slogan “Vote Chili,” it’s hard to imagine that Skyline and Gold Star fans in the 2nd District will be able to resist replacing Schmidt this time.

U.S. Senate (Ohio): Dan La Botz

We don’t have a good feeling about this race to replace retiring Republican Sen. George Voinovich. We’re unexcited about the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, and squeamish about the GOP nominee, former Cincinnati area Congressman Rob Portman.

Fisher beat the more progressive candidate, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, in the Democratic primary but has had trouble connecting with disaffected voters across Ohio. He hadn’t served in statewide office between a term as attorney general in the early 1990s and his 2006 race as Ted Srickland’s running mate in 2006. He’s the establishment Democrat who’s offering little in the way of new ideas.

Portman is the establishment Republican offering something even worse than no ideas: recycled, discredited ideas from the Bush administration, where Portman served as both U.S. Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Before that he served six terms in Congress from Ohio’s 2nd District and two years in the George H.W. Bush administration. Nothing new here, folks, move along.

That brings us to another local person competing for the office, Clifton resident Dan La Botz. The former history and Latin American studies professor, who currently teaches Spanish at Cincinnati Waldorf School, is running what he calls “a campaign of justice” as the Socialist Party candidate.

La Botz supports radical democracy, the democratic control of the economy by the majority of Americans instead of by a small minority. Working people make the country run, he says, and working people should run the country. He sees the answers to our national problems and international conflicts coming not from the Democratic or Republican parties but from powerful labor and social movements he hopes to foster.

If elected, La Botz would be the Senate’s second socialist, joining Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. The heads of those on the Far Right who consider Obama a socialist would explode, and that could be fun to watch.

U.S. Senate (Kentucky): Jack Conway

The race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning has been closely watched across the country and features one of the highest-profile Tea Party candidates, Rand Paul, son of 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul. Rand’s upset victory in the Republican primary, when he beat the party’s endorsed favorite, propelled him onto the national stage with Delaware Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell, Nevada Senate hopeful Sharron Angle and several other Teabaggers.

Like O’Donnell and Angle, however, the bloom has come off the rose of Paul’s candidacy via shifting positions on major issues, poorly thought-out policies, verbal gaffes and personal weirdness. At least he hasn’t had to deny he’s a witch.

Jack Conway became Kentucky’s attorney general after winning the statewide race in 2007 and earlier spent six years in the administration of Gov. Paul Patton. His term as AG has focused on fighting cybercrimes, prescription drug abuse and price gouging, and he’s cut expenses in the AG office by 26 percent.

As Senator, Conway plans to focus on job creation, cutting the deficit and restoring accountability to Wall Street and Washington. He has a plan to save $430 billion by shutting down offshore tax shelters and closing loopholes in the corporate tax code that encourage companies to invest and ship jobs overseas, making drug companies negotiate with Medicare for lower prescription prices and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.

Ohio Governor: Ted Strickland

A longtime U.S. Representative from southern Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland swept into the governor's office in 2006 after eight dreadful years of Bob Taft. A longtime U.S. Representative from central Ohio who changed careers to work for an investment banking division of Lehman Brothers, Republican John Kasich is challenging Strickland's reelection bid.

If you believe the polls, a large number of Ohioans have jumped on the Kasich bandwagon, preferring his “excitable” personality to Strickland’s bland and moderate approach to governing. Like all incumbents, the governor’s decreased popularity is tied directly to the state’s increased financial distress. As President Clinton’s campaign advisers once famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Strickland has focused on several core issues in his first term — business development, health care cost stabilization, industrial revitalization and public school funding reform — with some success and some failure. He’s presented balanced budgets without tax increases, expanded health care eligibility and held the line on tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

Remember that four years ago the former Methodist minister campaigned on a promise to clean up state government’s image in the wake of scandals in the Taft administration. He did, and now Strickland deserves a second term to continue the financial, education and business reforms he’s begun.

Ohio Attorney General: Richard Cordray

Cordray has won two statewide races in the past four years, winning easily in 2008 in a special election to fill out the remaining two years of Marc Dann's term after Dann was engulfed in scandal and resigned. A former Franklin County Treasurer in Columbus, Cordray was elected Ohio Treasurer in 2006.

Cordray had brief experience in the AG office in 1993-94 as the state’s first Solicitor General, who is appointed by the Attorney General to argue cases on the state’s behalf before the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served as a State Representative, so he's helped create state laws and now protects those laws as the state's top lawyer.

His two years as Attorney General have resulted in a number of lawsuits against Wall Street banks, either seeking restitution for damage caused by the financial meltdown or protecting consumers from aggressive housing foreclosures. Just last week his office announced a settlement with General Motors to secure $39 million in cleanup and remediation funding for former GM plants in five Ohio cities.

Ohio Auditor: David Pepper
Ohio Secretary of State: Maryellen O'Shaughnessy

Cincinnatians are familiar with David Pepper via his two terms on City Council (finishing first in the council field race in both elections) and his one term as Hamilton County Commissioner. As mentioned earlier, he's worked well with commission colleague Todd Portune to trim costs to fight the county's budget deficit.

The state's current auditor, Mary Taylor, decided to forego reelection to run as Lt. Governor with Republican John Kasich. The auditor serves as Ohio's financial watchdog, and Pepper has promised to focus on reforming the office itself to be more efficient and cost effective and on proactively fighting government fraud throughout the state.

Maryellen O'Shaughnessy currently serves as Franklin County Clerk of Courts and was elected three times to Columbus City Council. Based on her campaign's 10-point plan to improve the state's election system, O'Shaughnessy appears set to continue the reforms begun by current Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who declined to run for reelection in order to seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate (she lost to Lee Fisher).

It's no small feat what Brunner has accomplished following eight years of Ken Blackwell in that office: Ohio is no longer a national disgrace for mystery election results and partisan maneuvers to hinder voting access for certain segments of the population. Brunner has focused on one overriding goal — assuring trust and integrity in Ohio elections — and O'Shaughnessy will follow suit.

We grouped together the endorsements for auditor and secretary of state because those two positions make up 2/5ths of the state's Apportionment Board, which uses the U.S. Census figures to redraw the boundaries of Ohio’s 99 House districts and 33 Senate districts every 10 years, including this coming year. The other board members are the governor and a member from the majority and minority parties in the General Assembly, so this fall's statewide elections will determine whether Democrats or Republicans draw the boundary lines to influence state elections for the next 10 years.

If you're ever in doubt in the ballot booth Tuesday, just remember our endorsement theme: Republicans are the problem, not the solution.

ELECTION DAY is Tuesday. Ohio polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Kentucky polls are open 6 a.m.-6 p.m.

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