What Happened in Ohio: Executive Summary

By Matt A. Mayer

For conservatives, the election results in Ohio in 2012 proved a bitter pill to swallow. In the presidential race, President Barack Obama prevailed despite an economy and record conventional wisdom would deem problematic. How did President Obama do it?

In the seven days following the November 6 election, I analyzed the Ohio results for National Review Online and described what I think happened in Ohio. In Parts I to VI, I cover the following topics:

  • Ohio’s primary foreshadowed base problems for Governor Mitt Romney;
  • How a long primary and an internecine fight on the Right delayed vital actions;
  • The Left’s ground game was far superior to the Right’s ground game;
  • The impact the liberal state media had on conservatives;
  • The Right lost by talking to the voter’s mind as the Left talks to the voter’s heart; and
  • The other mistakes made by the Right.

Importantly, this report doesn’t just cite the problems, but lays out the solutions needed to get a different outcome in the future.

Specifically, Ohio needs a permanent Infrastructure focused on identifying and educating Ohioans on the key issues. This infrastructure includes both a 501(c)(3) component — an education tank like Opportunity Ohio (www.opportunityohio.org) – and a 501(c)(4) component like Ohio Rising (www.ohiorising.org) that do the spade work across Ohio week after week, month after month, and year after year to identify and to educate millions of Ohioans.

As I discussed in Part VI, without this effort, all of the money invested in political ads during the last four months of a campaign will hit hardened soil. This combined (c)(3)/(c)(4) effort will soften the soil so those ads hit a receptive audience.

Importantly, this effort cannot be controlled by a political party, as then it becomes about a candidate. This effort expressly is not and cannot be about candidates. It must be about advancing the freedom agenda in Ohio to make our state a leader among the states, which will benefit candidates who advocate that agenda.

The key is to begin this work as soon as possible so that it can be a force in 2014 and the determining factor in 2016. The foundation for this effort already is in place. We must now expand it dramatically. As more and more Ohioans are brought into the growing network, it will serve as distribution network for our freedom agenda.

We also must improve how we talk about conservative ideas and principles with more heart and less mind as described in Part V. We must drastically improve how we tell stories about real people that make our points. PowerPoint slide decks put people to sleep. Stories inspire and move people to act. How we communicate to this growing distribution network is as important as building the network itself.

In order to ensure that conservative ideas and information reaches Joe and Jane Ohio, we must substantially expand the alternative news outlet created at Media Trackers Ohio (http://ohio.mediatrackers.org/). Over the last six months, Media Trackers Ohio wrote hundreds of stories on the big events happening in Ohio. Media Trackers Ohio covers news from an unbiased angle. Equally as important, Media Trackers Ohio covers items Ohio’s mainstream media refuses to cover. As I highlighted in Part IV, how are Ohioans supposed to make informed decisions if they are presented only one side of the story and that side contains a liberal bias?

Finally, it won’t be enough to just identify and to educate Ohioans by providing them with unbiased news. We must make sure that conservatives prevail on Election Day. To do that, we must leverage a robust Ohio network using Ohio Rising and other electioneering components to advocate for candidates and issues and to execute a get-out-the-vote program that didn’t just arise in the last few months. As detailed in Parts I and III, conservatives cannot afford to rely upon a candidate or a political party to build a GOTV effort in just the few months available between a primary election and a general election. That formula doesn’t work anymore. We must catch up to the other side and surpass its efforts.

This work must begin now and it must be done correctly.

Let me put things in the larger context that I believe is why we fight and why, despite this most recent setback, we must redouble our efforts and fight even harder. With the growing fiscal problems in Washington, D.C., we are rapidly approaching that point along Alexander Tytler’s Cycle of Democracy from which no country in the history of the world has been able to turn back. Tytler’s observed:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.

Either we enter America’s long decline to being a country lost among countries, or we pull back from the edge and reinvigorate the idea of America as an exceptional nation among nations. If any people can do what has not been done before, it is Americans. As I’ve said before, it is in our DNA to fight, to solve problems, and to light the way towards a better tomorrow.

The path to a better Ohio and a better America does not begin in Washington, D.C. – it ends there. We must renew America from the grassroots by re-embracing the power of federalism to find the best solutions to America’s toughest challenges. By leveraging our fifty laboratories of competition, we will fix our states and, by doing so, fix America.

It is time to get over the regrets of the last election and get to work advancing freedom.