28 April 2014

With a stroke of his pen on November 6, 2013, Ohio Governor John Kasich demonstrated his utter contempt for democracy. Fearing that Ohio Libertarian Party nominee Charlie Earlwho has strong Tea Party support would cut into his conservative base, Kasich outlawed all third parties in Ohio for the 2014 election.


The offending law is Senate Bill 193, which passed last week amidst controversy and turmoil at the Statehouse. It has been dubbed the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” for obvious reasons. The ever-arrogant Ohio Senator Bill Seiz (R-Cincinnati) introduced the draconian law the same day the Libertarians publicly announced Earl’s nomination.


Kasich has always been a bit contemptuous of competitive elections. Other than his first campaign, most of his electoral victories were landslides aided by gerrymandered districts and an incredibly safe noncompetitive seat in the 1990’s. When Kasich ran for president in 2000, he often polled 0% of the vote in the early caucus and primary states.


In between that failed presidential endeavor and running for Ohio governor in 2012 – despite suspicious exit polls results showing him losing – Kasich took up residence as a Fox News commentator and peddled junk bonds for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers. It was no surprise when Fox’s owner Rupert Murdoch kicked in a million dollars for Kasich’s gubernatorial bid in 2010.


Following his initial attack on the public workers’ union in Ohio, Kasich was the most unpopular governor in the nation according to Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina-based Democratic polling firm. Nor is he all that popular today.


The latest poll shows Kasich tied with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Fitzgerald, each with 41% of the vote, and the rest undecided.


The backstory here is that Rupert Murdoch and other conservatives want to make Kasich President of the United States in 2016. For that to happen, he must be re-elected as governor in 2014. The Libertarian candidate, Mr. Earl, could easily take 5% of the vote on the Right. So, Kasich adopted an approach to governing that is reflected in the unitary executive theory put forth by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. It is a simple approach. Take any unconstitutional action you want if it helps you politically: wage illegal wars, torture people, destroy minor parties…the ends justify the means.


The law Kasich signed can only be described as un-American and unconstitutional. The minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and Socialist Parties – are being purged for failing to meet a standard that was not in place during the 2012 statewide elections. In Senate Bill 193, Kasich and his Republican co-conspirators decided that the minor parties should have received 3% of the statewide vote in 2012. Can you say ex post facto? Our Constitution forbids these types of laws – those passed after the fact.


In order for the Republican Party to pass the bill in the Ohio House, they had to remove the committee chair who opposed the bill and another Republican representative who found the bill undemocratic. In fact, there were no “proponents” or interest groups on record urging the passing of the bill.


The Ohio Libertarian Party has already filed suit to overturn the Kasich Re-Election Protection Act, which bans them. The Ohio Greens, of which I am the co-chair, will soon follow. Several Libertarian candidates are currently circulating petitions for the 2014 primary election, according to their lawsuit. The same is true for the Green Party, but Green candidate Bob Hart running in the 12th Congressional District had already turned in his filing petitions before the bill passed.


The Franklin County Board of Elections refused to count Hart’s signatures. Even though he is entitled to begin his campaign and raise money, he’s now been knocked off the ballot.


The timing of the bill is highly suspect. By throwing the minor parties off so close to the 2014 primary, the law provides no legal means for them to run candidates in their own primaries next year. Under Ohio law, the only way that a voter can become a member of a political party is by voting in the primary for that party. Thus, nearly 2000 Green Party members in Ohio have been disenfranchised from the party of their choice.


Brian Cummins, who just won re-election as a Green in Cleveland’s 14th ward, has just been stripped of his party affiliation. The more than 26,000 voters who voted for the three Green Party congressional candidates in 2012 are unable at this moment to vote for any Green Party candidates in Ohio.


But the real tragedy at this moment in history is that third party voices that are needed now more than ever will be silenced in our state. Polls indicate mass dissatisfaction with the two major parties. A recent national poll revealed that 30% of the voters desire a new third party.


In U.S. history it has been the third parties that have incubated and brought new ideas into the public debate. The Republican Party itself is the most successful third party in history. But it grew from the roots of other minor parties, the Free Soil and Abolitionist Party. If this law had been in place in the 1840s and early 50s, it is not likely the Republican Party would exist today. While I realize many voters see that as a good thing, it was the Republican Party that dealt with the issue of slavery in the electoral realm.


Kasich, fearing democracy might spring forth, has acted like any other autocrat from King George to Saddam Hussein. In Kasich’s world, he prefers the two-party system – one party more than a dictatorship. But the long American legacy of third parties – with candidates like Eugene Victor Debs, Teddy Roosevelt, Fighting Bob LaFollette, John Anderson, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader – suggests that Americans long for other options.