“What is going on in Ohio?” is a question asked to John Green, a distinguished political science professor, every four years. Here we have an inside prospective from the Director of Applied Politics at The University of Akron on how Ohio packs a global punch on the forefront of politics and economics.
The Buckeye State is a bellwether in presidential elections. That distinction has special resonance these days, thanks to the locale of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to address the question of Ohio and its economy with prominent journalists and editors in London, New York, and Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Cleveland Plus.
London was most interesting because we arrived right after the Brexit referendum determining whether the U.K. remained in the European Union. The vote to leave stunned the British journalists we met. They expected the “remain” side to prevail largely because of the economic merits, but they under-estimated the impact that the combination of immigration, security and trade had on their fellow citizens. We discussed the strong similarities between the “leave” voters in the U.K. and the Trump voters in Ohio. On both sides of the Atlantic, these voters are disproportionally drawn from social groups that have lost ground in the new global economy, such as older working-class men.
Journalists in New York and Washington had experienced a similar shock with Trump’s success in the Republican primaries. As in the U.K., this result defied the conventional wisdom and discredited political leaders. Even though Trump lost the Ohio contest decisively to Governor John Kasich, his strong appeal to such voters was evident. And this week in Cleveland, we’ll see how the insurgency plays out in the GOP.
These trends are front and center in the Buckeye State. For example in Northeast Ohio, the growth of high-tech manufacturing, medical services, and natural gas production is expanding ties to global trade and investment. These trends have and will continue to increase our overall standard of living. Journalists are surprised and eager to learn about this economic transformation of what was once a “rust belt” state.
But not everyone has benefitted from these gains and those who feel left behind are expressing their grievances at the ballot box. Journalists are impressed with the potential of this revolt to reconfigure voter coalitions, as well as national and international institutions around the globe.
The challenge comes at a time when compromise and accommodation are especially difficult to obtain.
John C. Green is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and is the Director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.