The results of the Virginia governor’s race last month have renewed our newsroom discussion about how we’ll cover the races for U.S. Senate and governor in Ohio, with questions about the economy.
Virginians who voted for Biden for president in 2020 but in 2021 voted for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor, said it was about the economy – inflation, mainly. Prices are rising all around them, and they did not feel that Democrats understood the pain of living paycheck to paycheck.
We have a lot of candidates running for statewide office in Ohio, and so far, they are talking ideology but not of the economic situations of Ohioans. What are the chances, we wonder, that votes will come down squarely to inflation.
Overall, the economy is roaring, and if not for the pandemic, would be in overdrive. As we learned in Virginia, though, a lot of voters don’t look at the overall economy. They look at their own situations.
Should we spend much of the next year writing about the financial straits of many voters and the specifics of how candidates for statewide office would attack them?
If we did, how many people would read that content?
Whenever we ask what election topics people would like covered, we get a wide array of suggestions. When we write about many of those subjects, however, we don’t see large numbers of people read them. Importance does not translate into interest.
It’s like gerrymandering. We can trace many of Ohio’s problems these days to gerrymandered legislative districts. The super majority of Republican legislators in both the Ohio House and Senate, which are grossly disproportionate to the number of Republicans and Democrats in the state, has resulted in a lot of bad legislation, much of it unfair to the state’s cities.
Voters overwhelmingly went to the polls to end gerrymandering with the 2021 redrawing of maps, but Ohio’s elected leaders have cheated so far, to maintain the indefensible super majorities. We have published stories about many aspects of the latest gerrymandering attempts, but these are not high readership pieces. We write them because we know they are important, even if importance does not translate into interest.
Is it that people don’t care about how the deck is being stacked? Is it that they are so busy dealing the pandemic and financial strife that they don’t have time to worry about the topic? There was a time when this kind of political shenanigans mattered to a lot more people.
And that brings me back to the elections. Do we write about what is important, even if many people are not interested?
We know that large percentages of voters will cast ballots along party lines, no matter who the candidates are. Nothing we write about the candidates, the issues or the campaigns will matter to these voters.
For the portion of the population that assesses candidates to make choices, we wonder how we can best help. If it all comes down to pocketbooks and wallets, we could try to corner each candidate to get them to explain how they boost the state’s economic prospects. We could line up their fiscal plans side by side for comparison, with background on how the candidates’ strategies have worked elsewhere and historically.
Voters, though, might not care about any of that. They might look at their cash balances and their prospects and make gut-based decisions as they vote.
Campaigns like those ahead are filled with noise. The ads will come nonstop on every platform we visit. Candidates will attempt to tap into what makes voters anxious and tailor their ads to prey on those anxieties. Ohio doesn’t have a lot of independent sources to cut through the noise, but we’re here.
If you are not a party-line voter, what, specifically, will move you to choose your candidates next year? And what election stories would you take the time to read?