Franklin County Libertarians join the Libertarian Party of Ohio in opposing this effort to increase the burden on all Ohioans to affect change through public legislation.
Since 2013, Ohio Libertarians Have Known All Too Well About Republicans “Changing the Rules in the Middle of the Ballgame”
– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
COLUMBUS, OHIO –– May 2, 2023 –– The Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) announced today that it will be joining over 200 other organizations in the multi-partisan alliance against HJR1 and SJR2, the resolutions being advanced by Republicans in the Statehouse that could potentially usurp Ohioans’ right to amend the state constitution via a simple majority vote at the ballot box.
In 2013, when the LPO was gaining electoral traction with conservatives, independents and moderates alike, the Ohio Republican Party passed new ballot access laws to derail minor political parties’ access to the ballot. The law –– called SB 193, but also known as “The John Kasich Re-Election Protection Act” –– was signed by then-Governor Kasich almost immediately.
Consequently, the LPO and all minor political parties in Ohio found themselves under new restrictive ballot access laws and were unable to grow or compete in the state’s elections, paving the way for further Republican dominance. Now, Ohio Republicans are shamelessly trying to apply their “win-by-rule-changing” strategy to limit Ohioans’ ability to amend the constitution.
“Ohio Republicans are once again changing the rules in the middle of the ballgame because they know their ideas are going to lose,” said LPO Communications Director and former Libertarian candidate for governor in 2018 Travis Irvine. “Libertarians have known all too well that when the Ohio GOP’s power brokers get nervous about someone else taking power, they cheat to win.”
As 2023 arrives and the two-year anniversary of the infamous January 6th insurrection approaches, there is plenty to be grateful for as our imperfect nation ventures into the new year. Of course, there is also still much work to be done and more good fights to be fought. Here in Ohio, fascism continues to stand on our doorstep –– and is perhaps even knocking on the door –– especially as a new GOP supermajority is set to be seated in our Statehouse in January and Governor Mike DeWine starts his second term, both of which were decided by a majority of Ohio voters. Because of these recent midterm results, Ohio Republicans have been given a mandate –– and they will likely use it to their own advantage, just as they have since seizing power of every branch of our state government in 2010.
Case in point –– one of the Ohio GOP’s first power grabs after 2010 was to gerrymander Democrats out of relevance, redrawing Ohio’s state legislative and congressional districts in such a way that Democrats would eventually be relegated to obscurity. Consequently, Ohio’s Democrats have been plagued by a lack of funding, infighting and an inability to recruit quality candidates ever since. Then in 2013, when the GOP was gearing up for former Governor John Kasich’s re-election campaign in 2014, Republican power brokers realized the Libertarian Party of Ohio posed a threat to their win numbers, so they passed new ballot access rules to relegate Libertarians to obscurity as well. Consequently, Ohio’s Libertarians have been plagued by a lack of funding, infighting and an inability to recruit quality candidates ever since.
After their landslide victories in 2022, now the GOP is “coming for it all” –– to paraphrase Athens, Ohio’s own Joe Burrow in a less-fun way, when he was asked about the Cincinnati Bengals’ run for the Super Bowl earlier this year. In Ohio Republicans’ case, their next power grab will be to make it harder for Ohioans to amend our state constitution through a direct vote, a procedure that has been in place for over 100 years. This constitutional right ensured that Ohioans had a way to bypass an unresponsive state legislature and was endorsed by principled high-profile Republicans at the time, such as former President Teddy Roosevelt. Perhaps the irony is lost on Ohio’s modern day “Republicans” that their name derives from the term republic, in which power is held by the people and their elected representatives.
In fact, one of the most famous and often cited stories of the founding of our country –– an imperfect representative democratic constitutional republic as it may be, for anyone who needs an even longer definition –– is that as Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall in 1787, he was asked by a bystander about what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had created. Would it be “a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin reportedly replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those poignant words still ring true today, especially as the potential tyranny of the supermajority –– or even a vocal minority –– attempts to enact policies that negatively impact millions of individuals’ rights. After all, republics are supposed to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens, not take them away.
Perhaps Ohio’s modern day Republicans need a reminder of this fact, especially considering that the Republican Party was originally founded as a third political party in the 1850s that sought to create a coalition of abolitionists –– those who were vehemently opposed to the practice of slavery in the United States –– as well as disenfranchised Whigs, the only political opposition at that time to the powerful and growing Democratic contingent in the country. Instead, this political party that started as a minor political party focused on protecting the rights of minorities has now turned their backs on both of those groups, while their supermajority only grows. From destroying minor parties’ ballot access to making it harder for poorer Ohioans to vote, Ohio Republicans seem to not understand the basic definition of “republic” at all.
So now it is our job as citizens to remind them. Earlier this month, I was proud to join over 500 demonstrators from over 170 organizations at the Statehouse to remind our elected representatives who exactly they are representing and what they can and cannot do as our elected representatives. We were there to remind them that their plan to make it harder for Ohioans to amend our state constitution would not be an easy fight. Fortunately, the legislature scrapped their plans to pass HJR6 due to a lack of support –– and while it may be gone for now, the effort could come back in 2023. If it does, this same coalition of Ohioans will be ready to fight again. After all, this is still a republic –– if we can keep it.
Travis Irving, 2018 Ohio Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate
“This column was also published in The Columbus Free Press.”
One of the few perks about being a third party candidate after an election is the eventual collective realization that your campaign was right about most of the things you said, despite the fact this realization happens too late for it to matter. Of course, by “perk” I mean sometimes it’s just nice to say “I told you so” after everyone seemed to ignore your contribution to the political discussion. Whether it happens to be our various stances on an assortment of issues or what we predicted that our establishment, two-party opponents would eventually do if elected (despite what they said they’d do) it’s something third party candidates from local to federal office often get used to in the year after the dust has settled.
Naturally, as the Libertarian candidate for governor of Ohio in 2018, these “I told you so” moments keep popping up as my once-opponent Mike DeWine continues to live up to what I told people he would do and more. Yes, when DeWine said that his Democratic opponent Rich Cordray would raise taxes to pay for road repairs, many of us knew this was just another trick in DeWine’s political bag, as he’s been a “tax and spend Republican” himself for decades. I called him as much at multiple Tea Party meetings last year to little fanfare or recognition. Sure enough, one of DeWine’s first big acts as Governor was to advocate for an 18 cent increase on Ohio’s gas tax. At least Cordray had the courtesy to tell the truth, saying he’d put a bond issue in front of the voters, in comparison to DeWine’s boldfaced lie.
Then there’s the issue of guns, a real soft spot in DeWine’s political record that we tried to exploit in 2018 and once again were proven correct. DeWine has since announced that he’s going to look into a “red flag” law that would take guns away from “high risk” individuals in Ohio — obviously something that he chose not to bring up on the campaign trail. Whatever your stance is on gun rights, even the most vocal criticsknow that “red flag” laws can result in a slippery slope of accusations without merit, as evidenced by several instances in states where these laws have gone into effect.
But DeWine’s eventual turnaround was just another chapter in his 40+ year stint in politics, one that the more politically astute knew was coming after the election. We tried to warn people on both sides, whatever their political beliefs, to no avail. Now both conservatives and liberals have to live with the consequences while we third party candidates can only post eyeroll emojis on social media.
Of course, it’s not just the third party soothsaying that applies to DeWine — there have been plenty of policy positions that I advocated for that have come to fruition in some form or another as well. The state legislature is thankfully taking up criminal justice reform, which has been badly needed in Ohio for decades, especially with the opioid crisis ravaging our state. Republicans and Democrats, perhaps with some encouragement because of the Issue 1 campaign, are looking to treat Ohio’s drug problem as a health issue, not a criminal issue. This was something I advocated for throughout 2018, especially as people across the state told me their own stories about how the opioid crisis was impacting them.
Similarly, Ohio’s medical marijuana program is finally rolling alongslowly but surely, as dispensaries across the state are opening despite the state’s backwards way of doing things. Growers and producers of marijuana products are now somewhat operational, leading to a less-than-largesse rollout of products for patients. This was something I said needed to be fast tracked since the program was approved over two years ago, especially because marijuana has been proven to help fight such things as opioid addiction. Thankfully things are now moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.
Again, this is the bittersweet aftermath of being a third party candidate, no matter what election you run in. You can be right as much as you’d like, but likely no one will realize it until it’s too late. I used to watch Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson talk ad nauseam about the need for criminal justice reform and the benefits of legalizing marijuana in America. The pain of knowing we were right while we didn’t have any chance of winning didn’t seem to phase Johnson, to his credit. But in my case in 2018, I knew I was advocating for policies that would have affected many voters in a positive way, whether they knew it or not. It is this mere sliver of joy that makes telling people “I told you so” after the fact worth it, although I’m starting to hate to have to do it.
Travis Irvine, 2018 Libertarian candidate for Governor