We Ohioans are known as a very friendly, amicable, cordial bunch. When we move to other parts of the country, many decide to come back and say that the folks in _______ just weren't really all that friendly. My city, Columbus, the state capitol, has grown from a cow town to the biggest and most energized city in the state. Our metropolitan area has close to two million people, but we have retained that Ohio mien of niceness. We still smile at one another whether we know each other or not. We go around saying "hi, how're ya doing" to whoever we meet. We do it because we know that those are the kinds of niceties that make life more bearable and we do it because it's our tradition. And we do it just because.
Here in Ohio, we have awakened over the past 10 years or so to the fact that every four years we are going to be under the national microscope about who we are going to vote for. Why? Well, we are the quintessential swing state. Ohio became that way because we are completely divided as to our political loyalties. One election cycle we might vote all the bums out and put in the other party, or in another year the pendulum will swing back the other way. We have party loyalists and even party freaks on both sides of the aisle, but neither party gets a permanent toehold on power.
Lately people are trending more towards being Independents and not identifying themselves as a partisan of any kind. Our voter registration files are often misleading because of the way we have to declare our party. In Ohio, you only get pegged with a party affiliation if you decide to vote in a primary election, and then if you do, you have to request whatever party's ballot you want to vote for, and once you've done that, you are identified as a member of that party. If you are a registered Independent, you cannot vote in any party primary, and if you choose to vote in a primary, if you want to retain your "Independent" status, you can only vote on ballot initiatives and referendums. Got that?
We are mercurial, we Ohioans. For instance, as a life long Democrat until 2008, I of course voted the Democratic ticket in the primaries. My husband likes to hop from one party to another. When I decided to run for Congress, he was registered as a Republican because in the previous election, he wanted a voice as to who the Republican nominee would be. Well, he needed to vote for me in the next primary, and he switched to Democratic. It works like that with alot of folks for alot of reasons. I truly consider myself an Independent. I voted last week, and I voted a split ticket, and that felt just fine to me. We love to say here that "I vote the person and not the party." However, I am currently listed as a Republican because I chose to vote the Republican ticket in the primary last March. And so is my husband, at least for the time being. We wanted a voice as to who was going to be the Republican standard bearer. There wasn't that kind of action on the Democratic side.
All of this blah blah blah to say that being an Ohioan in a presidential year has become the most excruciating experience you can imagine. We've been so completely inundated with campaign material and minutiae. It started in May----so early this year. Those of you who don't live in a swing state hear about the various campaign tactics. Well, we Ohioans have to live with them. We've had wall-to-wall TV ads since March. You hardly see any other kind of ads. You can watch a football game, a game show, a comedy or a drama, and when it is commercial time, it's all ads. One ad will tell you Romney is a piece of crap, and then you will get the next spot telling you why Obama needs to be retired followed by another Romney sucks and then another Obama sucks. And if it is a long commercial break, we also get the duelling ads from our senatorial race between my childhood friend Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel. Those ads are even worse. My best friend tells me that the lowest rung in hell would have those ads going 24/7. If you're someone who falls asleep in front of the TV, you fall asleep to Obama and Romney, Brown and Mandel duking it out and then wake up to them still banging each other around. It is an obscenity.
Mind you, this ad scenario has been going on NONSTOP since May. That's SIX MONTHS of it. You cannot even imagine what that does to one's head. First you just want it all to go away. Then you think that these campaigns must think we are really stupid. Then you just stop watching TV all together. But that's not all.
There are the robocalls, six months worth of them. Both sides. And then there are the earnest young folks calling to make sure they know who you are voting for so they can decide what list to include you on for the GOTV (get out the vote) efforts. I just don't even bother to answer the phone anymore unless it is someone I know. Also, your email inbox is loaded with campaign spam of one type or another. I have been erasing this stuff for more than six months, at a clip of at least 50 or more every day. And no matter what I am reading online I am treated to Michelle Obama, Ann Romney, and their husbands being crammed in my face on every page I read. I don't know what all of that is called, but whoever invented that intrusion needs to go to the lowest rungs of hell with the Brown/Mandel campaign.
My snail mail box is full of direct mail pieces too. Unfortunately for me, my public voting record isn't clear on my party loyalties, so I have ended up on both campaign lists. I haven't called to be removed because I want to see what both sides are doing. But the direct mail pieces are increasing in number with each day.
And then there are the candidate visits. OMG-----how will we get through the next two weeks??? We are promised from both campaigns that both Romney and Obama are going to camp out in Ohio. PLEASE DON'T!!!!! Our roads, clogged by intense construction projects (no doubt because every politician wants to win Ohio and so we get as much pork as you can imagine---especially for road construction) become even more impassable for a presidential or presidential candidate visit. Once here, all planes get delayed, all roads shut down, and you should just as well forget about getting done what you needed to get done until they have left. And forget about landing in a Columbus airport if they have landed when you are supposed to land. The airport shuts down, the 40-car motorcade fires up, and the snipers take their positions on top of the airport. This is what business as usual has become in Ohio. It used to be an honor to have the chance to meet these men. By now we are just tired of it all.
But that's not all. A swarm of people from all over the country are descending on us by phone and in person to try to convince us to vote one way or another. I know these folks mean well. It's just that most of them are from states that aren't swing states, and they just don't get the mentality of people who live in a swing state. These people are from much more politically homogeneous places than Ohio and they come here because they want a piece of the action. But you know, it's like this: if you live in a state that is reliably one way or another, you don't live with a Republican to your left, a Democrat to your right, an Independent in front of you. Your children's friends come from all walks of life and so do your coworkers. As a result it is hard to demonize the opposition in the same way that someone from, say NewYork City can or a southern Californian can. It is hard to see "the other" as scum of the earth in Ohio because we all have to live together. That's why we're a swing state. And maybe that's why we're so friendly-----it's necessary to behave that way to grease the social wheels.
At any rate, we get inundated with people from other places painting the most unbelievable dire pictures of what will happen if the other guy wins. I read the Obama endorsement in New Yorker magazine and I asked myself what country they lived in. You see here, we know that neither candidate can possibly be that evil. It's just not that simple to an Ohioan. Not when the Republican down the street keeps your children in an emergency or when the Democrat slips you money cause they know you're having a hard time. And both sides love America.
I'm getting corny and flag waving, but that's what we do in a swing state. So back to my question----how in the world are we going to get through the next two weeks? If it is even possible or imaginable, the screws are being tightened even further and this presidential contest after six months is starting to fray our nerves. We're fighting amongst ourselves and we've gotten cranky. The end can't come soon enough......