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Ohio pols focus on 'God, Guns and Gays'

Sometimes I think the Southern states should adopt Ohio, because so much of the wingnuttery that comes out of that state resembles the stereotype that the rest of the country holds about our region (see prior Ohio Blend posts). They’ve already got a heinous marriage amendment on the books (note: NC doesn’t).

If you’ve been paying attention to the governor’s race in the Buckeye State, you’ve seen the incredible marvel of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell sucking up to the extremist fundie base for some time now, harping on homo-bashing and bible beating as a strategy to reach the governor’s mansion.

An interesting AP article tries to figure out why the wingnut campaigning doesn’t quite seem to align with the average voter priorities, despite the huffing and puffing over hot button issues.

Scriptural references are flying like a plague of locusts in one of America’s most watched governor’s races this year. Yet only about half of Ohioans belong to a church. Voters have been told that Democratic nominee Ted Strickland is a friend of the National Rifle Association and that his Republican rival Ken Blackwell is a gun-owning Second Amendment supporter. But, of 11 million Ohioans, only about 400,000 hold a hunting license or concealed carry permit.

Rounding off this holy political trinity of hot-button issues — “God, guns and gays” — Ohio’s governor candidates are also at the ready with their positions on traditional vs. same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census, only a fraction of 1% of the state’s residents reported they were gay or lesbian living with a partner in 2000. The highest estimates put the nation’s gay and lesbian population at around 5%.

Well, gee, the state’s inhospitality toward its gay and lesbian citizens made itself quite clear when the amendment was on the ballot in 2004, so I wouldn’t have imagined there would be a large reporting of out queers in the state four years earlier.

Democrats are fighting fire with fire in Ohio this year, running a more religious and gun-friendly candidate in Strickland in hopes of neutralizing some of the wedges that have allowed Republicans to dominate the state. Strickland, a former prison psychologist and minister, has taken his campaign message to Christian radio, typical territory for more conservative candidates. His ads quoted the same Bible verse that Blackwell’s primary opponent, Attorney General Jim Petro, tried unsuccessfully to use in a flood of values-oriented television ads. Both campaigns sought the upper hand against the openly religious Blackwell, who routinely speaks to both Christian and secular audiences with a Bible in hand, lauding the importance of a government centered on God.

I’m sorry, but Jeebus H. Christ. This is the same Ken Blackwell who has earned the support of anti-gay Talibangelist Rod Parsley of Reformation Ohio and Russell Johnson, founder of the Ohio Restoration Project and the Patriot Pastors movement. This is the same Ken Blackwell who worked day and night to disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of voters with registration hurdles, law-breaking, and simply not putting enough machines to accommodate voters in select areas. You know, the precincts that wouldn’t swing for Dear Leader.

Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence says that the governor’s race and others like it are really about courting the voter base that is firmly committed to Guns, God and Gays positions, and cultivating the irrational fear factor for the rest of the undecided voters (a hallmark of Rovian political gamesmanship).

“They scare people with these hot-button issues. Whether you care a lot about one of those issues is not really the point,” she said. “If I can make you be afraid of one of these issues — they’re going to take your guns away, or gay marriage is going to be everywhere — then I can guide your vote. It’s always about fear.”

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And then we have this targeted Ohio fun:

Picture of aborted fetus to be flown over Cleveland

A story in The Plain Dealer seems to makes that case for Southern adoption of Ohio as well, since it’s clear that the fundie forced birth crowd sees the state as fertile ground for the movement.

As a shock tactic, a national group that opposes abortion plans to fly a billboard-size picture of an aborted fetus over Cleveland beginning Monday. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which frequently employs such attention-grabbing advertising, hopes to jar people into reconsidering their support of abortion, director Gregg Cunningham said. He said the banner would be the most graphic picture ever displayed from the air.

“It will be categorically the most shocking we have ever done,” he said. “The imagery is so horrifying that I can’t almost stand to look at it.” Cunningham wouldn’t describe the advertisement, which also displays a toll-free number to the organization. But he said the advertisement would compare an aborted fetus to a second graphic image related to the war in the Middle East.

“This thing just sucks the wind out of even me,” he said. The California-based group, which has an office in Columbus, is best known for displaying on college campuses giant photos of mutilated bodies of genocide victims or lynchings next to photos of aborted fetuses. The group advocates nonviolence, but its displays often set off aggressive protests that result in vandalism and lead to arrests.

The group’s nonprofit status prevents it from campaigning for candidates or ballot issues, but it is targeting Ohio because of its heated races for governor and other statewide offices. The group flew pictures above Cincinnati and Columbus in the weeks leading up to Ohio’s May primary as part of its 2006 Key States Initiative.

The group is spending millions on this airborne campaign (here’s a prior one); the state NARAL group noted that if the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform was serious about reducing abortion numbers, it should really be working to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Do they support sex education (I guess it depends on what the meaning of “education” is)? The use of contraception and Plan B (no)? And, of course, do they care as much about the fetus once it is post-birth?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding