In response, a fellow Oath Keeper responded: “Ohio just texted me, they need help in Columbus”
Photos of a woman to the left and a man to the left

Photo by Paul Becker

When it comes to our rural-urban divide in Ohio, and anywhere USA for that matter, our nearest county to our northeast – Licking County, with its largest town being Newark – might as well be Mars. And after Biden defeated Trump, will the divide be bridged or become worse?

As for wearing masks, there’s a clear separation. This Free Press reporter noticed in a recent trip to Newark and further east to Zanesville fewer and fewer masks being worn the farther you go into rural Ohio.

Nevertheless, the Licking County Democratic Party was confident things would be different in 2020. The county in many ways reflects rural Ohio as it has a record amount of kids in foster care due to their parents drug addiction, but at the same time on the verge of a potential renaissance if and when its Native American Earthworks are designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations.

And even though numerous Trump flags flew on their country roads, there were tangible signs Licking County would have a strong turnout for Biden.

“We were going through Biden signs so fast we had a hard time keeping inventory. We were getting inundated with phone calls, Facebook messages, emails. They went fast and furious,” says Licking County Democratic Party executive committee vice chair Michelle Newman.

The hopes and dreams of the Licking County Dems did not materialize, however.

Indeed, 2020 was arguably worse for Licking County progressives and center-lefties than 2016.

The county once again went strongly for Trump, who won 63 percent (58,000 votes) to Biden’s 35 percent (35,000). In 2016, Trump won 62 percent of the vote (49,000) to Clinton’s 32 percent (26,000).

There are silver linings, as Newman herself was an anomaly this Ohio election cycle. She ran for the State Board of Education which has 19 members, with 11 elected and eight appointed by the governor, and won her District 9, which is designated by the State Board of Education. It comprises 13 counties, including Franklin County, and the rest rural counties with some Central Ohio suburbia mixed in.

Newman, an advocate for public education, suggested her diligent campaigning and outreach, coupled with the fact her party affiliation did not appear on the ballot, meant the difference in defeating Republican Ron Hood, who is currently in his 8th term in the Ohio House.

Nevertheless, following Biden’s victory there wasn’t much to celebrate at the Licking County Dems headquarters which is not far from downtown Newark. 

“Everybody is still really struggling with it, to be completely honest with you. It’s not just Licking County, I feel like it’s a lot of our rural Democratic parties, and we have a lot of work to do and reconnecting with voters,” said Newman.

Something just isn’t translating though, she says.

“We are not all having the same conversation. But the fact is rural values align so well with Democrat principles. Taking care of your neighbors, making sure everybody is OK. For rural counties to turn out so red, where many voters are taking care of self over community, it doesn’t add up,” says the 42-year-old single mother who told us someone in the middle of the night stole the Biden sign planted in front of her Newark home before the election.

No doubt this election cycle has put a chill in the air, which is already carrying something deadly. And as Trump’s chances slowly slipped through their (white) fingers, some MAGA lovers from rural Ohio lost their manners, which is easily exposed when you have so many talented anti-fascists scouring the Internet.

Ohio like other Midwest states has militia-types, “Patriots” or “Preppers” who fear the government will take their guns and then make them put on a mask. Some are buffoonish and sociopathic. In October, right-wing activist and mask-denier Renea Turner of Springfield stood in front of the Statehouse declaring she had kicked Governor Mike DeWine out of office and that she was now leading the state.

But other Ohio right-wing groups are not as obvious or in need of mental health services. Their potential for political or racially motivated violence against their perceived enemies is far more disconcerting when you consider who the Oath Keepers are.

Founded in 2009 when President Obama first took office, the Oath Keepers began recruiting military veterans, retired police officers and firefighters.

Oath Keepers have followers in Ohio, but their numbers are unknown and true intentions unclear. But if you were to see their recent threats online one could easily deduce they may take their anger “IRL” or “In Real Life,” as the Michigan militia was headed for when it planned to kidnap their governor.

North of Cincinnati in Lebanon, a resident linked to the Oath Keepers was exposed last week by AntiFash Gordon, who relishes in revealing closeted fascists via Twitter.

The Lebanon resident on Parler began telling fellow Oath Keepers, “It’s time to start killing the news media live on air.” And this loving post, “Can we get the identities of these BLM people? We can make them non-living.”

And another, “Time to start executing lefties openly and violently.”

In response, a fellow Oath Keeper responded: “Ohio just texted me, they need help in Columbus.”

The Free Press reached out to the Lebanon county prosecutor’s office, but they were not aware of these online threats.

“He’s definitely dangerous,” said AntiFash Gordon in a Twitter message to the Free Press. “That’s why I put his ID out there.”