Everyone's calling this presidential election the most important in a generation. Who are we to argue?
If George W. Bush is granted four more years, the damage his administration has caused domestically and internationally will grow to almost unimaginable levels. If John Kerry wins, much of that damage can be undone, though the situation in Iraq likely will continue to be a mess.
As always, however, the choices facing voters this fall are varied and complex. And, since it's a presidential year, we have more options than ever.
Even though the Kerry-Bush race presents the Big Decision on the direction of the country, it's the smaller races that really shape our communities and directly impact our daily lives.
Who will represent our interests in Congress and at the Statehouse? Who will direct the local justice system as Hamilton County Prosecutor? Will Cincinnati emerge from the dark cloud of ignorant anti-gay attitudes?
Will we spend money to fund our school systems? Will Ohio and Kentucky codify religious fundamentalism into our state constitutions by narrowly defining marriage?
As is the case just about every November, this year's ballot offers small steps toward or away from a progressive path in Greater Cincinnati. Individually, none of these votes will make or break this region — but together they'll demonstrate a willingness to push ourselves forward to a more hopeful future or a desire to give in to fear and turn on each other.
We live in strange times when those of us who point out how screwed up things are — from Iraq to the economy to the lack of education funding to race relations to local police-community relations to the brain drain from Cincinnati — are labeled complainers and pessimists. Meanwhile, the government officials in charge — from conniving right-wing ideologues to compliant career bureaucrats — squirm and squeal when we try to hold them accountable.
Considering how conservative everyone in Greater Cincinnati thinks this area is and how often our progressive pitches fall short on Election Day around here, you'd think we would be pessimistic. But we're not.
Every ballot issue and every race offers a new chance for optimism. A chance to take baby steps toward making Greater Cincinnati the kind of open-minded, tolerant, fair, vibrant and successful region we know it can be.
And so we become informed, we get involved and we vote. We stand up for what we believe in. We don't take "no" for an answer.
If you believe in a brighter future, join CityBeat to elect progressive candidates, pass ballot initiatives that lift us up and stop zealots from casting us back to the Dark Ages. We offer here our election endorsements in what we consider the Big Four races on November's ballot. Next week we'll publish our remaining endorsements, plus our comprehensive and popular "Who's Endorsing Whom" charts.
If you're still looking for background on these and other election issues, check out our Election 2004 archives (more than 80 articles and columns) at citybeat.com/special/election2004.html.
President: John Kerry
Like many of you, we began this election season planning to vote against President Bush. We now find ourselves enthusiastically backing Sen. Kerry.
We won't waste space detailing all of Bush's failings over the past three-plus years. Suffice it to say that it's not just his mistakes of judgment we abhor — presidents make difficult decisions that rarely please everyone — but his total lack of regard for opposing opinions, for outside-the-inner-circle thinking and for the possibility that other options exist. Bush's arrogance, ignorance and small-mindedness have seriously harmed his presidency and this country.
Kerry isn't the perfect candidate, of course. He's a career politician, and the calculating promotion of his Vietnam War heroics leaves us cynical about his motives.
Still, he's clearly the better alternative in this race. So very clearly. So clearly that it's difficult to understand how, with Bush's alarmingly poor record as president, anyone could vote for someone other than Kerry.
On the non-life-and-death issues of the day, Kerry offers real hope. Citizens looking for federal help to battle corporate scandals, health care costs and media consolidation and to save the environment, reproductive rights and public education have a friend in Kerry.
His plan to rescind Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy will not only help reduce our record deficits and pay for building better homeland security, but it'll go a long way to helping us feel like all Americans are sharing the burden of building this economy, not just the middle class.
On Iraq, well, who really knows what's going to happen? The war changes constantly, and some days we're hopeful democracy can take hold and other days it's Apocalypse Now all over again.
There are just two things we're certain of — Bush is the last person we'd trust to extricate us from the disaster he created, and Kerry will prove to be a thoughtful commander in chief who won't send U.S. soldiers to die for the wrong reasons.
There's nothing but upside for Kerry as president and, based on the past few years, nothing but downside for all of us if Bush remains president. Call us optimists, but we're choosing the upside.
Ohio Issue 1 (Define Marriage): No
Kentucky Amendment 1
(Define Marriage): No
These are essentially the same directives that would become part of each state's constitutions if passed. Check out the wording closely.
Ohio: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect or marriage."
Kentucky: "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be a marriage in Kentucky, and a legal status identical to or similar to marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
We happen to favor same-sex marriage, for very simple reasons — what transpires in a marriage between two consenting adults has no impact on our own marriages or relationships, and frankly there's not enough love in the world as it is. A long-term, committed relationship between partners of the same sex does a lot more to strengthen the institution of marriage than failed marriages and divorces involving "family values" hypocrites like Phil Burress and Mike Allen.
Besides rallying anti-gay sentiment with these amendments, however, the religious groups sponsoring them tacked on bizarre language about "unmarried individuals." And the language is so unclear as to be scary.
What exactly is the "significance of marriage" or "effect of marriage" that unmarried couples won't be allowed to obtain? What is a "legal status similar to marriage" that must be protected?
To us and to many others, it looks like an attempt to restrict rights for single people, both gay and straight. It looks like yet another step in the ultraconservatives' stealth campaign to restore their idealized vision of America — Dad works, Mom stays at home with 2.5 kids, everyone goes to church on Sunday and no one thinks of or talks about sex or anything unpleasant.
Of course, that's not going to happen. If passed, though, these amendments would chip away rights from both gays and straights — all in the name of protecting some vague sense of "traditional families."
That's why, somewhat surprisingly, many of Ohio's top Republicans, including Gov. Bob Taft and Attorney General Jim Petro, have come out against Issue 1. And it's why you need to get informed about what's really going on behind the scenes and defeat these amendments.
Ohio Issue 3 (Repeal Article 12): Yes
This vote is as much of a no-brainer as they come. Article 12 was created more than a decade ago in a climate of gay-bashing fear, when scheming religious zealots from Virginia and Colorado convinced African Americans here that protecting equal rights for gays and lesbians weakened the civil rights black Cincinnatians had fought for all of their lives.
Amazingly, now that a repeal of Article 12 has finally made it on the city ballot, the religious zealots have returned to the city's black neighborhoods to spread their particular brand of hate. We're confident Cincinnati voters won't fall for their devilry again.
Article 12, of course, has long distinguished Cincinnati as the only American city to officially allow discrimination against its gay and lesbian citizens. Other cities have passed laws to limit legal and other benefits for their gay employees, but only Cincinnati has brought the might of government down to smite tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who happen to love someone of their own gender.
And how the city has thrived under Article 12! Population growth is through the roof, home ownership couldn't be more robust, the schools have waiting lists of new families dying to get in, convention business is booming, downtown is exploding with growth, The Banks project is almost done, we have so many creative young people moving here there aren't enough apartments to house them, the police and the community are working hand-in-hand and folks of all races, colors and religions get along famously.
Has Cincinnati truly discovered the magic bullet? If so, why hasn't any other city in the United States jumped on our gay-hating bandwagon?
Probably because they've figured out that discrimination is wrong. Probably because they value all of their tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. And probably because they've noticed that Cincinnati actually isn't thriving at all under Article 12.
When Issue 3 passes and Article 12 is repealed, Cincinnati won't become a tolerant place overnight. Gays and lesbians won't immediately feel they're welcome as equals. Only time and information can cure misguided attitudes.
But at least the sign will be removed from Cincinnati's figurative doorstep that says we openly, legally and happily discriminate against our fellow citizens. And that will be a significant step toward a better future.
Hamilton County Prosecutor: Fanon Rucker
The prosecutor's office has long been the center of Republican Party power in this region. It's been described as the "farm team" for developing political talent that spreads the GOP's dominance into county administrative offices (Phil Heimlich, Greg Hartmann), judgeships (many local judges are former assistant prosecutors) and statewide office (Joe Deters). Plus, under the last two prosecutors (Deters and Mike Allen), the department staff routinely provided the elbow grease for helping elect Republicans.
Everything has been going swimmingly under this system, of course. Democrats manage to provide opposition in a few races here and there, but otherwise Republicans tighten their lock on power with each election. Cincinnatians mosey up to Columbus to take their turns running Ohio, from Bob Taft to Ken Blackwell to Deters.
And the results speak for themselves. Ohio is the envy of the United States in terms of job growth, exquisite public schools and a booming economy. Hamilton County is bursting at the seams with population expansion and boasts a light tax burden, paid-for stadiums, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a completely race- and class-neutral justice system.
This imaginary bliss was shattered, of course, by the one thing people around here seem to get steamed up about — sex. With Allen admitting to an extramarital affair with one of his employees, his unopposed run to re-election has turned into a surreal write-in contest between Deters and 32-year-old attorney Fanon Rucker.
Deters is returning home from his own scandal in Columbus. Unfortunately, it only involves money and just his chief of staff and chief fund-raiser have been convicted, so few folks in these parts seem to know or care.
Meanwhile, Rucker, son of an Indiana Supreme Court Justice and someone who by all accounts oozes integrity, has thrown himself into a seemingly hopeless campaign. Republicans have controlled the prosecutor's office since 1932, and we can't find any records that indicate an African American has ever been elected to countywide office here in a contested race.
Yet Rucker is the better choice in this race, and not by default. He can clean out the political machine in the prosecutor's office, restore honor to the crucial position and help build faith among all Hamilton County residents that our justice system is indeed blind to outside influences.
NEXT WEEK: More CityBeat election endorsements, plus our annual "Who's Endorsing Whom" charts. Endorsements written by John Fox.
photo: anthony antal