When I was teaching Chinese history many years ago, one of the texts I used was a book by William Hinton titled: “Fanshen.” Quite literally the word means “to turn over.” This somewhat controversial book was about the Chinese revolution and the title referred to the peasant land-reform movement, e.g., to turn over things and create anew. I thought of this book title when I read about the alleged racketeering charges against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and his various associates.
Our state Rep. Shane Wilkin was spot on when he said, “There’s nothing more important than the public trust in their representatives.” Brent Larkin, longtime but now retired editorial page editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer was a bit more emphatic in a recent CPD.com opinion column. “It’s difficult to rank these things, but this might be the worst Ohio House in history, one with Hall of Shame qualities,” Larkin wrote.
Regardless of the merits of House Bill 6, whether one supports the legislation or not, Governor DeWine’s sensibility about it is politically pragmatic. The creation and execution of the bill and subsequent law was fatally corrupted. “The process by which it was created stinks… and it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on Speaker Householder to resign immediately,” DeWine said.
Those sentiments have also been expressed by Lt. Governor John Husted and Republican Chairwoman Jane Timken. House Bill 6 will likely be revisited.
According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), trust in government at the national level is nearing historic lows. Only 17 percent of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3 percent) or “most of the time” (14 percent), according to the PRC. The numbers peaked during the Eisenhower-Kennedy years when 73 to 77 percent said they trusted government “always or most of the time.” This precipitous democratic collapse in trust in government has to be disturbing to patriotic Americans, and again Rep. Wilkin put his finger on it.
For democracies to thrive and be healthy political and constitutional entities, “there’s nothing more important than public trust in their (elected) representatives,” Wilking said.
Trust in our Statehouse representatives is now the number one priority for Ohio legislators. As U.S. Attorney David DeVillars admonished, “This is likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio… This was bribery, plain and simple. This was a quid pro quo. This was pay to play.”
Ultimately, the courts will sort all this out. But there seems to be a growing consensus over what needs to be done.
It’s encouraging to see that both Ohio senators have called for a Householder’s resignation. The process is already underway to find a replacement. It only takes a simple majority vote to remove a Statehouse office holder from an official position. This process will be watched closely and the need for high moral character should be exceedingly high on the dossier of any potential replacement. Ohioans need to be assured that our next Speaker of the House is someone we can trust to lead the legislature from high moral ground with an abiding respect for the people whom they represent. It’s a “Fanshen” moment, a time to turn leadership over and rebuild a Statehouse where the vast majority of Ohio citizens can say they trust their state government “most, if not all of the time.”
Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, an author, and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.