YouTube video

Ellen Ratner: Ohio voted to punish Dems for economic crisis

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Now Joining me from New York City is Ellen Ratner. She’s the bureau chief in Washington for, and she’s also, for this interview tonight very importantly, a girl from Ohio. Thanks for joining us, Ellen.


JAY: So, Ellen, tell us what happened in Ohio tonight, ’cause in terms of the Democrats running for the House it was a bit of a massacre.

RATNER: Oh, it was—you know, I counted three races that I’ve been following very, very closely that went down. The Senate seat we knew was going to go down. My dear friend since fourth grade [inaudible] went down. But, you know, Zack Space had taken over for Bob Ney. When Bob went to prison, he went down. [John] Boccieri, a liberal Democrat, went down. Charlie Wilson, a dear friend of mine, no one, I mean, no one in Ohio thought Charlie Wilson was in trouble, and he went down. It’s just, to me, staggering.

JAY: Well, let’s talk about Charlie Wilson going down. Now, that’s a mostly working-class district in Ohio. Tell us a bit about it. You know the district. Tell us who lives there and what happened.

RATNER: Well, first of all, it’s Sherrod Brown’s old district. So here you have Sherrod Brown—.

JAY: So for people who don’t know who Sherrod Brown was, start there.

RATNER: He’s the senator from the great state of Ohio. A liberal Democrat, Sherrod Brown. You know, maybe not as liberal as you and me, but very liberal. Charlie Wilson, he was a state senator, worked hard for that seat. Well known in that district, a businessman in that district. No one ever thought Charlie Wilson would go down in that district. Again, working-class, obviously furious people—about jobs—listening to the Republican promises.

JAY: So is that an urban district? Let me just ask that, first of all.

RATNER: No, it’s more rural. You know. I mean, it’s not urban. It’s not, you know, one of the great cities in Ohio. It’s not Toledo, it’s not Cleveland, it’s not Columbus, and sort of more on the outskirts of Columbus. And that’s just shocking [inaudible] against their own interests.

JAY: So do you think the voters are being persuaded by the idea of we need austerity, we need smaller government, we need to cut the debt, and all of this? Or are they just punishing the Democrats? You haven’t done what you said you would do, so we’re going to punish you.

RATNER: Well, I think it’s punishing the Democrats. I think people are not seeing results in their pocketbooks, and they’re angry and upset. And the Republicans are saying, we’re going to cut taxes and bring jobs. Well, okay. You know, if somebody—if I’m out of a job and somebody says to me, “I’ve got a job for you,” it’s something to hold on to. And they’re going to hold on even if the reality isn’t there. How many times have you and I in life wanted something desperately—I don’t know what it was; a job, a contact, something—and somebody comes along that says, oh, I know so-and-so, I’ll connect you with it, and we believe them and we [inaudible] and then we’re disappointed. Well, that’s what’s going to happen here.

JAY: What does this mean for 2012? Ohio’s always been one of the critical states in who gets to be president.

RATNER: Well, first of all, it all comes down to the governor’s race, [John] Kasich versus current governor Strickland. If Strickland loses, and—.

JAY: Strickland’s the Democrat.

RATNER: Strickland’s the Democrat. That’s right. They can carve up the state in any way they want. There can be all kinds of, you know, things with what happens in terms of 2012, not only with the House, but just in terms of presidential race, being friendly towards the presidential race. It could be a disaster. And as we like to say, so goes Ohio, so goes the nation.

JAY: And the issue here is the redistricting. Explain to us what that is and what might happen.

RATNER: Well, that means that Ohio has actually lost population. So in terms of redistricting, it means that they’re going to carve up the congressional districts a little bit differently and people will lose their seats. And if the Republican is in there, they’re going to carve it up, they’re going to gerrymander those districts so Republicans keep those seats.

JAY: Now, Ohio didn’t have the best of records in 2004 in terms of fair election results. What might be the implications in that, going forward to 2012?

RATNER: Well, again, it depends who is Secretary of State, how closely Ohio is watched. And I honestly haven’t been paying too much attention to that race. And it really depends how Ohio winds up with the governor’s race.

JAY: Okay. So they’re sending—a majority of the House seats from Ohio are now Republican. They’re heading to Washington.

RATNER: They lost three Democratic seats like that [snaps fingers].

JAY: So what will be people’s expectations now of the Republicans two years from now? What will they have to have delivered not be punished?

RATNER: I just wrote an article saying be careful what you wish for. The Republicans may hit it lucky and the economy might bounce back in 2012, and then they can take credit. Or they can hit unlucky and the economy pretty much stays like it is, unemployment doesn’t move, and Obama doesn’t veto too much of their legislation—if they can get it through the Senate. Then they lose again and we become a seesaw. My theory is that we didn’t become such a seesaw until recently, until the 24-hour news cycle, and until information was just, you know, pushing out so quickly.

JAY: The Tea Party movement, did it have much strength in Ohio? Do you know, in terms of the seats that they’ve gained, how much of that can be attributed to Tea Party?

RATNER: No, the seats really aren’t Tea Party seats, but they are, you know, Republicans seats, conservative Republicans seats. So we’ll see what happens.

JAY: So, nationally what’s your take? What does this mean going—over the next two years, what’s it going to look like?

RATNER: It means that the Democrats have got to get their messaging together. It means that Obama has got to try—I mean, he’s got to sort of be a Bill Clinton if he’s going to not completely lose the 2012 election. I mean, I have all kinds of theories about why they didn’t do so well. I mean, and part of it actually has to do with [inaudible] and the fact that, you know, Bush was very, very good about taking care of his base. Obama’s forgotten that his base was there. That’s a big problem.

JAY: He thought the base had nowhere else to go, so he fought for the center, and not realizing how easy it is for the base to stay home.

RATNER: Well, that’s one issue. But the other issue is—I mean, it’s a mix. On one hand, he didn’t take care of his base, be it gays or blacks or whatever. On the other hand, he never did what good presidential timber in some respects could do. He did it with the financial committee, but way too late. He should have sat down initially with Republicans and Democrats and said, look, you guys don’t agree, but you’re going to hammer out something and move America forward. You know, I just came back from China. Not a government I want to emulate, but, hey, they don’t have to worry about getting everybody’s approval; they just do stuff. And that’s part of the reason they are going to kick our tails.

JAY: [inaudible] also President Obama seemed to have considered himself the chairman of the board that have Republicans on this side and Democrats on the other. And he had other CEOs. He hands the whole health-care bill over to John Baucus and let him be the CEO of the health-care bill. There’s something about—.

RATNER: And look what he did [inaudible] Defense Department.

JAY: Is part of the issue who Barack Obama is? But is also not part of the issue who the leadership of the Democratic Party is? They’re much closer to Wall Street than Main Street, and maybe they can’t envision policy that will speak to the problems of ordinary people.

RATNER: Well, I think, honestly, bailing out, which Bush started and Obama continued—and they may have had to do that. I don’t know enough about economics (and frankly, most people don’t). They may have really had to bail out those big Wall Street firms to prevent a disaster. There’s a lot of debate about that, and frankly, I don’t know the answer and most people don’t, and there’s debate on both sides of the fence. But it didn’t play well back home and people didn’t understand it. They didn’t understand why, you know, Lehman—well, it wasn’t Lehman Brothers, but all these big companies got bailouts, and they weren’t getting help paying their mortgage. People don’t understand that.

JAY: Yeah, and they weren’t very good at explaining their economic policies. But maybe some of it was difficult to explain, because the idea of, you know, funneling so much money into Wall Street without some kind of public interest control or mandate attached to it, I think it’s very hard to understand and maybe they couldn’t explain it.

RATNER: Right. Hard to know. But he’s got a big task ahead of him. Tomorrow, Wednesday, the president at 1 p.m. Eastern has a press conference. It’ll be very interesting to see how he handles all this.

JAY: So just very quickly, is tomorrow the start of the 2012 election? Or are we actually going to see some kind of bipartisan agreements?

RATNER: For some people this is the start. It’s probably—for several of the Republican candidates it’s a big start of the election.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Ellen.

RATNER: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And you can find more of Ellen at

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Ellen Ratner is the chief political correspondent and news analyst for Talk America as well as Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine.