Enjoyed attending the Dayton “Town Hall” meeting last night with Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor— Ed FitzGerald and Sharen Neuhardt.FitzGerald denounced his opponent, Republican Governor John Kasich, for his refusal to debate. He said that this refusal rests on a Republican calculation that most of the public won’t care. In this short video excerpt, FitzGerald’s deals with the profound question of how a democracy can function so that citizens have the information they need to make reasoned choices.
Earlier in the day FitzGerald met his Republican opponent with the editors of the Northeast Ohio Media Group — in the only meeting of this type scheduled for the whole campaign. Even in the informal format of this editor’s meeting, Kasich refused to answer FitzGerald’s questions. The headline from that meeting read — “Gov. John Kasich ignores Ed FitzGerald in their only meeting of election season. ” An hour video of the meeting is posted on the Columbus Dispatch.
In the Dayton meeting, FitzGerald paraphrased a quote an early twentieth century journalist that, “The vitality of our democracy depends on the common people understanding complex issues.” FitzGerald didn’t identify the journalist who made that statement, but it sounds like something H. L. Mencken would write. I found this quote from Mencken that seems similar:
When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand.
FitzGerald asked: “How can the common people understand complex issues?” He said three entities have responsibility:
- The common people have a responsibility as a citizens to do that research whether served to them or not.
- Journalists have a responsibility to force public officials to talk about issues and to report on substantive issues, not silly issues — substantive issues in a substantive way.
- Candidates who ask for your support have to show kind of respect by meeting with you and taking all questions like I tried to do tonight.
FitzGerald said that all three of these entities are failing and made the point that Kasish’s refusal to debate is an outrageous insult to our democracy.
The Dispatch reports that “Kasich has $4.6 million for re-election and FitzGerald has $248,000.” Much of Kasich’s money is going into 30 second TV ads. FitzGerald noted:
People cannot understand the complex issues and challenges facing this state by watching 30 second commercials. Would you ever make a an important decision in your life based on 30 commercials? If someone else came to you and had a big crisis in their life — medical or financial — and said “I know what to do because I saw a 30 second commercial.” And you’d say, “Are you crazy? Talk to an expert, do research, look at your options.”
The FitzGerald / Kasich contest — with its propaganda, misinformation and with the power of big money to shape public opinion — illustrates that the very infrastructure of our democracy is in very bad shape.