Three white men

US Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Attorney General David Yost and Ohio Lt. Governer Jon Husted

Ohio’s elected Republicans at all levels of government fail the public. It worsens rather than improves. They act against public health and safety; imitate reactionary policies in other states, often unrelated to Ohio; act unconstitutionally; misrepresent basic facts; and contradict the needs and wishes of their constituents. From free speech to voting rights and basic Covid protocols, they violate the law and common sense. While they consider themselves conservatives, they are actually right-wing radicals who violate the traditional respect for others and support for limited government (not wildly “banning” all they oppose). 

First, Republican state legislators create a public health crisis. They refuse to obey the state’s mask mandate or practice social distancing. They vote to override the governor’s and public health officials’ orders despite lacking expertise or any commitment to the public interest or general welfare. They expand gun “rights” while restricting abortion rights, ignoring experts’ testimony, federal and state laws, and the U.S. Constitution.  

With the support of the state’s Attorney General and Secretary of State, the legislators move to further limit already restricted access to voting and voting rights. They violate their own laws in reinforcing some of the worst political gerrymandering in the nation. Republicans refuse to criminalize distracted driving for persons older than 18 (supposing that it would infringe on their liberties), while penalizing younger drivers. They have thus far refused to follow others in the state and the nation in declaring racism a public health crisis despite powerful arguments to do so. Most recently, on totally false grounds, they act unconstitutionally to ban teaching about race (falsely confused with the legal studies field of critical race theory) in Ohio’s K-12 schools. In this, they are supported with contradictory, muddled statements by the governor and attorney general. 

Second, the state legislature’s reactionary Republicans recklessly imitate other states’ – especially Southern states’ – rush to enact policies that either “solve” problems that do not exist or create new ones. This includes actions limiting the governor and health officials and banning state “vaccine passports” that no one is proposing. They move to forbid transgender girls from playing on girls’ school sports teams, a nonexistent problem and an act of blatant discrimination.  

Most bizarrely, two representatives proposed an Ohio “Trump Day” on June 14, to celebrate a man considered by almost all historians and other impartial experts to be the worst president in American history. A lack of originality marks these efforts to copy the worst of other states’ examples. Yet, they do not follow even redder Georgia with increased hate crimes laws or AAPI state commissions. 

Third, when he is not misunderstanding basic economics, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted tweets about the “Wuhan virus,” parroting former CDC Director Redfield’s admittedly baseless suggestion. Husted dangerously ignores both the association of such phrasing with rampant Asian-American hate and repeated calls (by CDC, WHO, and others) not to associate diseases with nationality. He refuses to admit his mistake and apologize. 

Fourth, Secretary of State Frank LaRose refused to authorize the expansion of ballot drop boxes, despite court rulings that he has that power. More recently, he voted to accept new state redistricting maps that violate laws he and his party proposed.  

Attorney General Dave Yost sued the U.S. Census Bureau, demanding flawed data for redistricting. He falsely claimed victory when the court affirmed that the Census Bureau must release their data at the time to which they had already agreed. He also sued the federal government for its prohibition of the use of American Rescue Plan funds to lower taxes. He alleged that that is unconstitutional despite the absence of any such stipulation in the document. And he joins the nearly two dozen Republican AGs who rush to threaten to sue the federal government almost once a week. 

Fifth, at the local level, despite raging gun violence, more than 30 Ohio counties either passed “Second Amendment sanctuary laws” or expressed support for guns. Such declarations ignore the fact that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an unlimited right to gun ownership. Only symbolic, these decrees are unconstitutional and dangerous. 

Sixth, elected Republicans at almost all levels condemn the American Rescue Plan, infrastructure bills, and voting rights legislation. In interviews, public statements, and emails to constituents, they misrepresent their contents and ignore overwhelming public support and economists’ analyses. They fabricate fictitious consequences, such as increasing unemployment. Hypocritically, none of them calls for rejecting the funding when bills are passed. I regularly receive dishonest statements from my Rep. Troy Balderson and retiring Senator Rob Portman. Only Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown responds to my emails and telephone calls. 

Finally, in Congress, Ohio Republicans unanimously oppose almost all proposed legislation, ignoring widespread popular support and benefits to their constituents. Many of them, in turn, tout the benefits of economic legislation to their constituents as if they had supported it.  

All Republican members of the House of Representatives also rejected the For the People Voting Rights Act, the George Floyd police reform bill, the Equality Act against gender discrimination, and modest gun safety bills. Almost all voted against reauthorizing the Equal Rights Amendment and the Violence Against Women Act. They refuse to negotiate or compromise responsibly, while voicing false claims of their bipartisanship and moderation. 

In public statements and messages to constituents, they distort the bills’ contents. They create fake constitutional arguments, revealing their ignorance of the Constitution’s actual text, history, and court rulings. Portman did this with respect to impeachment. They also misunderstand federal government finances and basic economics. Instead of legislating, many complain about nonexistent “cancel culture.” Jim Jordan is more interested in Dr. Seuss and Mr. and Ms. Potato Head than any legislation on the floor of Congress. They regularly blur the lines between misrepresentation and dishonesty. 

At all levels of government, elected Republicans fail to serve their constituents. They refuse to act with integrity. How long will Ohio voters continue to support them? When will the state Democratic Party mount an effective alternative? 


Harvey J. Graff is Professor Emeritus of English and History at The Ohio State University. He is the author of many books on social history and in retirement is dedicated to “public education.”