Something awful happened to the Ohio Democratic Party between last year’s annual dinner and the one last night – an election. With the exception of Vice President Joe Biden, the keynote speaker, the Greater Columbus Convention Center last night featured politicians with the word former attached to their names, including former Gov. Ted Strickland. At the same venue 10 months ago, the stage was crowded with incumbent statewide officeholders.
The first paragraph is inaccurate. There were four speakers featured: a sitting state supreme court justice, Ted Strickland, Sherrod Brown and Joe Biden. So one of the four is a “former”. I know, I’m a stickler. I’ll stop there and just go ahead and tell you what I heard.
Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio, connected completely. He has a great voice with a beautiful rolling cadence, and when he lit into former FOX News personality John Kasich and roared that Kasich “has disrespected and insulted you” people rose in unison in that spontaneous way where the back of their knees push the chair back. Strickland connected because it’s true. Kasich isn’t a public servant and he isn’t a governor. He’s a bored and irritable CEO who is not pleased with our quarterly earnings and wants us to shape the hell up before he’s forced to make good on his threats to fire us all, whether we’re public workers or not. We’re not meeting the high performance benchmarks Kasich became accustomed to at his former employer, the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, apparently. Get cracking, peons! Yes sir.
Sherrod Brown addressed us on video, because he was at his daughter’s wedding. He also connected, but in my experience (since 2005) he always does. Sherrod Brown was a populist well before it was fashionable to appear on Morning Joe and hand-wring and moan about the middle class and he talks like a populist. He took Strickland’s narrow state-specific theme and expanded it to include national conservative attacks on workers and the middle class.
Which brings me to the Vice President. I like Joe Biden as VP and I haven’t met a single real live Democratic voter who finds his weekly “career-ending” gaffes anything but humanizing and endearing, so the following isn’t savage criticism but is instead a recitation of the facts. He does speak in a slightly eccentric, rambling way. He has a script. He just can’t stay on it. So, most of this address was like those of his I’ve heard, where we’re in Scranton and then we’re in Delaware, and somewhere in there he remembered a word he’s supposed to hit so he (literally) yells out “IMAGINE!”, completely unconnected to anything else he said. Like that.
But, Biden did hit one specific subject that I haven’t heard him cover before, and that was voting rights. He used the word “suppression”. He asked us to think about the fact that 15 or so years ago there was some bipartisan support for passage of the motor-voter law, which is (enacted) federal legislation designed to make it easier and more convenient to register to vote. Biden asked us to compare that law with the current conservative assault on voting rights underway in 22 states, and said “this is not your father’s Republican Party”.
Good that he said it, and nice to have a report from DC to the states that (shockingly!) the GOP is not and has not been for a very long time the mainstream Party that misty-eyed nostalgic pundits would have us believe. But, everybody in that room just came off a 3 month campaign to gather 700,000 signatures to try to roll back one piece of The National Conservative Agenda, so everybody in that room already knew that.
*The Columbus Dispatch reporter wrote that Sherrod Brown said “disrespected and insulted”. That’s not what I remember. Ted Strickland said that. This reporter’s account of events is ( I believe) correct.