It’s almost illusional. It feels like we are wanderers in a tech-heavy, sci-fi world where reality is seemingly out of reach. We are relentlessly haunted by and hunted by misinformation and disinformation. Fake news consigns us to a never-ending search for news and information we can trust. In the midst of our meanderings, we had an election that was supposed to shed some light on what to expect in the 2024 national elections. Well, I’m still lost but, heh, anything can happen in 12 months of politics in America. So maybe clarity will come my way.
I’ve come to learn that events are constructions that give rise to truth. Meaning? Ohio State beat Purdue this year and lost to Michigan last year. Russia invaded Ukraine and Hamas started the war with Israel. There was an attack on our Capitol, thousands of videos don’t lie. These events are factual. So, what can we say about the recent election outcomes that may give rise to meaningful political trends?
In spite of the highly partisan political environment right now, some emerging trends seem to be sprouting. Like it or not, abortion rights in blue states, red states and purple states appear to have significant support, if not majority support from Americans. On Issue 1, to establish reproductive rights, 56.6% of Ohioans supported the constitutional amendment. In Highland County, only 33.5% supported the amendment. The results in Ohio and Virginia had already happened, surprisingly, in Kansas and Montana. How that will play out in the November 2024 national elections is anyone’s guess, but political strategists are acutely aware of the ballot implications and how this trend may play out.
The passage of Issue 2, to legalize recreational use of marijuana, was not much of a surprise from a statewide perspective. Favoring medical and recreational use is trending nationwide and it doesn’t seem to clearly dress itself in either red or blue. But it still left me scratching my head a bit. In Highland County, it had more support than Issue 1 — 46%.
The big surprise for me was the failure of Issue 14, related to Children Services in Highland County, replacing the existing levy and an increase in services. I had to agree with county commissioner Dave Daniels, who said after the results were in that the county’s children have a proven need, and commissioner Terry Britton, who expressed the irony that the state votes for recreational marijuana and the county can’t manage to renew and up its support for the children who are impacted by drug use and other downstream social misfortunes.
While Ohio was the talk of the nation with its Issue 1 and 2 results, these social and political trends are short from being fully cast in concrete.
Kudos to Governor DeWine for his post-election remarks on Issues 1 and 2. “We respect what the people have done,” DeWine said. “What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio. We are going to see that they have that. We’re also going to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it… People have a right to smoke it. People have a right to consume it. But also that everybody else who doesn’t choose to do so is also protected with their rights as well.”
Faithful to the democratic process, DeWine acknowledged that the citizens of Ohio have spoken on abortion and marijuana. Also loyal to his sense of good judgment, he implored the legislature to put “guardrails” around the recreational use of the drug, much like some of the regulations that govern the use of alcohol. For example, what about responsibility consequences for gummy bears or cookies laced with marijuana lying around a house risking ingestion by children? What about public spaces? Should cannabis users have limits set, like cigarettes, to protect the rights of non-users/smokers? DeWine is spot on when he implores that these governing rules need to be set before the actual commencement of this citizen initiative.
Like alcohol, marijuana is considered by some to be a gateway drug. I’m far from clinically qualified to weigh in on that argument; however, it makes sense to me that it should be treated like other addictive or psychoactive drugs common in our society like nicotine, alcohol and now cannabis.
Another fact from last week’s election was that while Democrats did well on ballot issues, the gap between those ballot successes and President Biden’s weak approval ratings remain large and politically precarious.
Heading into the year 2024, there are political trends under construction that may turn into political reality. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came down hard on the Susan B. Anthony anti-abortion group insinuating that they were “flat-footed” in their efforts against Issue 1 in Ohio. Kelsey Prichard, head of public affairs for the pro-life group, shot back that DeSantis had no idea “how hard the pro-life community fought in Ohio.” Like DeWine, political candidates need to learn to face emergent social, political, economic and national security realities and not cling to ideology and talking points that become overwhelming anchors to their political aspirations.
Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.