Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons from History: Ohio in 1958

The Ohio gubernatorial map went blue in 1958.

 It was 1958. A ballot initiative in Ohio was placed to make Ohio a "right to work" state and change Ohio labor laws to mirror those of Southern states.

The initiative lost by nearly a million votes, and it set off a drawn-out, partisan, political battle. For Republicans, it was a political misstep of immense proportions.  Of that, there can be no doubt.

Overreaching in 1958 had GOP repercussions that were still being felt more than three decades later.

In the short term, the Ohio legislature went from majority Republican to majority Democrat in that election. Republicans lost statewide seats too, including the Governor's office. Governor O'Neill won 84 of 88 Ohio counties in the election of 1956 only to lose the office altogether just two years later in 1958 (Ohio's gubernatorial terms were only two years then.)

The impact wasn't just short-term. 1958 gave way to 1962 and Reapportionment Board control allowing Democrats to gerrymander the legislative seats. That, essentially, handed the 1970's and 1980's to Democrat's control too.

I was a just-out-of-college campaign guy in the late 1980's and early 1990's hearing these stories even then.  Pragmatic Republicans had not forgotten the lessons of 1958 even three decades later. 

It wasn't until 1990 and 1994 when the GOP gained back losses from overreaching in 1958.

A pragmatic lesson from history.  History has many lessons like this.

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