Commentary Magazine


The Stakes in Ohio’s Union Referendum

The off-year elections in the year before a presidential election often are not very interesting. In the year following a presidential election, there are races for governor of New Jersey and Virginia and the mayoralty of New York, a city with a larger population than 39 states. These can give an indication of how the political winds are blowing, as they certainly did in 2009.

This year, there are governorship races in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The Republican candidate in Mississippi seems very likely to win, taking over from the term-limited Republican Haley Barbour, and the incumbents (Republican in Louisiana and Democrat in Kentucky) seem equally likely to keep their jobs. Barring a late development, they should be ho-hum elections. But there is one election that people should keep their eye on, the referendum in Ohio to repeal a state law enacted last spring limiting collective bargaining for public employees.

The unions have been pouring money into repeal (about $5 million so far) and repeal is ahead in the polls although the lead has been dropping as anti-repeal forces have begun fighting back. The New York Times covered the story this morning.

This election is what American politics is all about these days. Will the old nexus between liberal politicians and public service unions continue in power, or will the change represented by the Tea Party continue the advances of the last two years? If repeal fails, President Obama can more or less kiss Ohio (18 electoral votes) goodbye. If it succeeds, it will be the best political news he has had in a long, long time.