This editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:
In uncertain times, we can take heart that voters in the Great Republic still have the sense their leaders sometimes lack.
The Nov. 8 election results across the country provided another example.
In Ohio, voters overturned by a 61-39 margin a law that restricted the collective bargaining rights of all public employees. The Ohio law was a prime example of overreach and a play in the blame game that has characterized too much of the national debate. Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers passed the law and triggered a battle similar to that over public employees in Wisconsin.
Unlike Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kasich included police and firefighters in the law, a move that fortified the opposition and swelled the number of votes against it.
But here’s the question: Did Kasich and his allies truly believe that voters in Ohio — a state with rich political traditions both red and blue — would agree that 350,000 state employees should have no say in their working conditions beyond wages?
To his credit, Kasich said he got the message and that it’s time for “a deep breath.”
In the same election, Ohio voters overwhelmingly opposed the mandatory health insurance provisions of President Obama’s health reform act. It’s a symbolic vote — the mandatory purchase provision will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Health-care reform advocates didn’t campaign against it. But the lopsided nature of the vote says that people in Ohio don’t care to be forced to buy insurance coverage under pain of financial penalties. Whatever the court decides, the health-care reform already under way may need more than tweaking.
In Mississippi, a reliably conservative stronghold, voters rejected a measure that would have defined “personhood” as beginning at conception. Not even all committed abortion foes rallied to this one, which sensible people reckoned went too far.
In high-profile votes, Americans on Nov. 8 came down on the side of sense — and fair play.
Spinners would have us see the results their way and morning-after analysis may have no staying power beyond the morning after. What does 2011 mean for 2012? It’s likely to be close. Beyond that, guess at will. We’re still a divided nation but that division may not run as deep as some would have us believe.
If the 2011 elections can inspire our leaders to take that deep breath and rethink not their strategy but our purpose — get the nation back to work, back to solvency and, most of all, back to hope for better days, then voters will have done more than reject bad law and blame games.
Drop the search for scapegoats. Seek fair solutions. There we’ll find both the votes and the future.
2011 election message? Give us real solutions in 2012.