By David Pepper
Years ago, in the middle of a messy political maelstrom, accusations were thrown my way that made absolutely zero sense. We’re talking so out of the blue to the point of being confusing.
I expressed my frustration to a friend and ally. “Where do they come up with stuff like this?” I asked.
“David,” this wise friend responded, “When an accusation feels completely out of the blue, nine times out of ten, you’ll find that what they’re accusing you of doing…is exactly what they’re doing (or would do if they could). That’s why the accusation occurs to them in the first place.”
At the time, his words seemed a little over the top, but he’d said them in a way that stuck with me. And ever since, I’ve been amazed just how often it’s proven to be true when one side hurls accusations at the other. Nine times out of ten is about right. (This conversation occurred pre-Trump, but Trump later proved to be a true master of this very type of “projection” on the nation’s biggest stage).
Well, the words echoed in my ear again late last week as this exact type of “projection” reared its ugly head in the latest battle of Ohio’s democracy.
From the beginning of their cynical, mad-dash effort to raise the threshold to amend the Ohio Constitution to 60%, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the gerrymandered GOP legislators have repeated the same line: Ohio has to protect its Constitution from big-dollar, out-of-state interests.
Of course, those of us paying attention in Ohio knew this was nonsense to begin with. For two reasons:
1. It’s the gerrymandered legislature that is always advancing big-dollar and socially extreme interests from both in and out-of-state. That’s what the rigged districts that result from their gerrymandering allow them to do—push interests that have little to do with the people of Ohio (and are often unpopular) while those unaccountable districts leave the people with almost nothing they can do to stop it. And that’s what national groups like ALEC are literally designed to facilitate.
2. This means that the direct Constitutional amendment route, just as reformers intended when it was first created more than a century ago, is one of the only avenues left where the people of Ohio can exercise their will and hold in check an out-of-control and unaccountable legislature imposing unpopular policy after unpopular policy.
No surprise, the people of Ohio have used the Amendment process in just this way. It’s how fed-up grassroots groups came together to vote – twice – to amend the Constitution to curb gerrymandering (which Ohio’s Statehouse then violated in 2021-2022). And it’s why grassroots groups are coming together now to gather signatures to place a Constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to protect abortion access in Ohio. (Which would undo the unpopular abortion ban, with no exceptions, imposed by that gerrymandered legislature).
So, the current Amendment process turns out to be a safety valve for the people to overcome inside and outside special interests getting their way via a rigged legislature—the exact opposite of what LaRose and the others have been saying. And making that amendment process more difficult works to curb the people’s power while protecting narrow interests.
Although correct, the problem of what I’ve just written is that it’s theoretical, which often doesn’t win the day in politics.
Which is where a big story in The Dispatch last week comes so in handy.
It turns out almost all the funding—$1M—for the organization pushing for this 60% threshold is coming from one conservative billionaire family from Illinois, which pushes its conservative cause in states all over the country. (This family is also a big proponent of rolling back child labor laws).
This means that as grassroots volunteers across Ohio are working night and day to gather enough signatures to protect a woman’s right to choose, an “out-of-state special interest” is dumping a mint into Ohio (including running ads targeting GOP lawmakers they think may not support putting the measure on the ballot) to try to make it harder for that grassroots effort to succeed.
Like my friend said: Projection. It’s always projection.
But think for a minute about Frank LaRose and the GOP legislators who’ve been pushing this false line of attack for months. They know full well about this Illinois billionaire’s effort to interfere in Ohio’s democratic process. Yet still, they accuse the other side of doing exactly what they know they are doing!
My friend may be right that this is what always happens. But it still shouldn’t make any of us less disturbed and angry that politicians would knowingly spew such deceitful and two-faced rhetoric. The fact that a sitting Secretary of State would do so is doubly appalling.
So…channel that anger into fighting back.
The Statehouse’s decision may come in the coming days. Let’s make some calls, shall we?
Be sure you call Speaker Jason Stephens (614-466-1366) and Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (614-466-8258). Feel free to call some of these reps: Abrams, Pavliga, LaRe, Manning, Ghanbari, Cross, Jones, Dobos, Cutrona, Robb Blasdel, Richardson, Hillyer, Oeslager, Edwards & Patton. Here’s where you can look up their numbers.
Some of these folks are the ones being targeted by the Illinois billionaire. Some may be on the fence and know the whole thing is just a bad idea. So be sure they know it’s an actual Ohioan calling.
And then, politely tell them that YOU’re the one who doesn’t want out-of-state special interests buying Ohio’s Constitution and YOUR power to determine the direction of this state…and that you’re appalled by any Ohio politician who would sell our Constitution to a billionaire in that way. And that you trust they won’t be one of those politicians.
*Permission to publish generously granted by David Pepper. To see more of his videos or read more of his writing, go to Pepperspectives.