Fight Of The Century: Democracy Hinges On Ohio Senate Race

The Ohio Senate race between Ted Strickland (D) and Rob Portman (R) may be the most important political fight of our lives.

Do I exaggerate? Republicans don't think so. Look at the Super PAC money being poured into the race, 33 million dollars so far: "...the most expensive (race) in the nation. The bulk of that... has been spent opposing Strickland."

Want another example? "... conservative outside groups have laid out more than 35 times as much on anti-Strickland efforts, as his backers have spent supporting him."

Why are the Republicans so desperate to defeat Ted Strickland?

The Supreme Court may ride on that one race.

Crucial: whoever wins the Presidency will appoint at least one and perhaps three Supreme Court justices for lifetime terms.

But there is a catch. Follow this next part closely:

"Democrats are most likely going to win 3-4 seats...(in the Senate)."

Three seats or four -- that difference is everything.

Three seats and the Republicans still control the Senate, and could continue to block a Democratic President's Supreme Court nominations.

If Dems win four, (with President Hillary in the White House) her Supreme Court appointees will be voted, to win or lose, as is fair and Constitutional. Right now, the opposite prevails: President Obama's nominations (like the very moderate Merrick Garland) are denied a hearing by the Republican-controlled Senate.

For decades, we have had a Republican majority in the court, which gave them CITIZENS UNITED, which allows the rich to flood elections with campaign cash.

A Democratic majority? That could sweep corruption out of the system, restoring limits on campaign contributions.

A liberal court would almost certainly re-consider CITIZENS UNITED. A Republican-dominated court? Never.

Why would they? As long as CITIZENS UNITED continues, people like the oil billionaire Koch Brothers will continue to dominate, flooding money into all the political races they want. All they have to do is set up a Political Action Committee, (they already have a network of such groups with different names) pour a few million bucks into it, and watch the ratings change.

The race between Strickland and Portman started off even, 40% for both of them -- but then came an inundation of TV, radio, print ads -- and "volunteers" sent door to door, praising the candidate backed by the big money. Today, after all the paid ads, Portland has gained a small lead.

But just four new Democratic Senators would give the Democrats equal control of the Senate -- 50/50 -- and a tie-breaking vote goes to the vice president.

Who are these men on whom the fate of democracy depends?

Rob Portman seems essentially a lobbyist, who has spent his career working for the rich and special interests.

Portman was a registered agent for Haiti, when it was being run by one of the cruelest men on Earth, Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, infamous for his use of torture and murder to crush out dissent.

He denies this today, and apparently he took no action on Haiti's behalf. But he did sign a document stating his willingness to represent that most brutal dictatorship.

He also signed a document to work for J.P. Morgan Chase, which corporation received $25 billion in bailout money.

He was described as a "champion of privatization" for Social Security, and worked closely on that effort with former President George W. Bush.

Guns and violence? The gun lobby funds Portman lavishly: roughly $1.4 million.

Women's rights? Forget it. Portman's voting record is 100% against a woman's right to choose.

Equal pay for equal work? He is against that too, voting against it five times.

But for me personally, the reason I am working on this essay in the middle of the night is Portman's opposition to stem cell research. He has made clear his willingness to ban embryonic stem cell research, potential therapy made from bits and pieces of human tissue, otherwise to be thrown away.

In a few hours, I will go help my paralyzed son Roman get out of bed, which we have done ever since Roman was injured in a college football game, twenty-two years ago. And as we go through the chores paralysis requires, I might remember how people like Rob Portman have slowed research down, research which might one day free my son from paralysis.

But I will also think of another man, as different from Portman as day from night.

Ohio's Ted Strickland stood up for stem cells back when it was politically risky, when fear and ignorance were in the way. But Strickland recognized the potential and voted for it when it counted most.

Strickland led the fight for Ohio's Third Frontier (perhaps better known as the Jobs One program) which provided grants for work projects in many areas, including biomedicine.

This year, what happens in the Buckeye state will affect everyone in America.

The political process itself can either be corrupt or clean, free or for sale -- depending on what we do in the next three months.

Yes, the odds are against us. The Koch brothers are staggeringly wealthy, each one worth roughly $40 billion dollars; they are tied for sixth place in the richest men on earth. They and other billionaires are backing Portman strongly.

But there are 72 million registered Democrats. Maybe we cannot outfund the Koch brothers and all their wealth, but we can outwork them. We can raise enough money that our side will be heard, and raise our voices loud enough that our shout will be heard across the world.
To all my progressive brothers and sisters, look to Ohio.

Visit Ted Strickland's website:

Support him if you agree with me that he is a leader of decency, compassion, vision and courage.

Above all, do not sit idly by.

Democracy is on the line.