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Commentary: Ohio Republicans Love 'Cancel Culture' As Much As They Say Democrats Do

warren davidson
Warren Davidson on the House floor in Washington, D.C., in January 2021.

The next time you hear a Republican politician barking at liberals and Democrats over "cancel culture," find a nice-sized grain of salt and swallow it, immediately. Republicans in Columbus, Washington and, yes, even the charming little 'burg of Lebanon, Ohio, have been so busy "cancelling" lately they are setting new records for political hypocrisy.  

Most of the Republican "cancelling" consists of setting up fearsome-looking straw men and then bravely knocking them down.

So heroic.

Here, in my humble opinion, are the three most egregious examples of Republican "cancel culture" lately:

  • The decision by six members of the Lebanon City Council to ban abortion providers from setting up shop in the county seat of Warren County, as if that were going to happen any time soon.
  • A pandering, self-promoting piece of legislation filed by U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson of Troy, whose 8th District includes Butler County, which he calls the FIRED ActFauci's Incompetence Requires Early Dismissal Act. Get it? "FIRED Act." Warren made a funny.
  • A bill introduced in the GOP-controlled Ohio House of Representatives that would ban the teaching of "critical race theory" in Ohio schools, sponsored by Republican Rep. Donald Jones of the booming eastern Ohio metropolis of Freeport, population 368 as of the 2019 Census update.

Goodness, where do we start?
How about Lebanon? If that lovely little town with a famous, historic restaurant and a world-class ice cream shop across the street had as many clincs that provide abortions as it has antique shops, the good people of Lebanon might have a problem.

But there is nary an abortion clinic in Lebanon and never will be, even if Lebanon City Council had not begged for a long, expensive legal battle by banning abortions in the city. Maybe the Texas anti-abortion activist who "advised" council on this legislation will help pay the legal bill.

The fact is that women in Lebanon who choose to terminate their pregnancies will continue to do what they have always – go to clinics in Hamilton County to the south and Montgomery County to the north. Nothing will change.

Were the six council members just pandering to the conservative electorate in a very Republican town? As Captain Renault famously said in the film Casablanca, I'm shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

One person who came out of all this Tuesday with her dignity intact is Council Member Krista Wyatt, the only one who did not sponsor the legislation. She resigned from council earlier in the day, saying "I no longer want to be affiliated with the current council membership."

There is a core group on council, Wyatt said, who are bent on forcing their political, personal and religious views on all residents of Lebanon.

And, now, Lebanon City Council has done just that.

Even though they are simply shadow boxing.

Then there is the congressman from Troy, Warren Davidson, who says he may run for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat in 2022, or challenge incumbent Republican Mike DeWine in a GOP gubernatorial primary next year.

Apparently, he thinks only conservative Republicans vote in general elections in Ohio. Congressman Davidson, meet Cleveland, Ohio; it's only a three-hour drive northeast from your home in Miami County.

Davidson wants Congress to pass his FIRED Act because he believes Fauci, who has been on the job since 1984, has overstayed his usefulness and is now being accused of flip-flopping on key components of the fight against coronavirus. He's an immunologist and head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has advised two presidents, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, on the pandemic.

His "Fauci's Incompetence Requires Early Dismissal Act" has absolutely no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled House and now Davidson is calling on Fauci to resign voluntarily.

Don't hold your breath.

All of this plays well with a base of anti-vaccine Trump voters who might support him in a Senate or gubernatorial primary. But not so much with a general election crowd.

It's a way to grab attention but probably a pretty poor way to climb up the political ladder.

But a bill introduced this week by Republicans in the Ohio House might top them all.

The bill, the handiwork of chief sponsor Don Jones of Freeport in Harrison County, would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Ohio schools, a concept that has been around for more than 40 years.

Those who support critical race theory, or CRT, believe it is the only honest way to study history such as the post-Civil War treatment of Blacks, the Jim Crow era, redlining in the real estate business and health disparities between whites and people of color. 

But Jones and his 27 co-sponsors, all Republicans, say it teaches that everything must be looked at through the lens of race, "which is the very definition of racism. CRT claiming to fight racism is laughable."

But it is not at all clear how many – if any – Ohio school districts have CRT as part of the curriculum. The Ohio Department of Education sets standards for school districts but doesn't promote any particular curricula.

Most of the legislators who back this bill come from small, rural counties where Blacks are few and far between. Jones, for example, hails from the village of Freeport, which had a population of 369 in the July 2019 Census. The entire county where Freeport is located – Harrison in eastern Ohio – had a population of 15,040, which is about 10,000 less than the Cincinnati neighborhood of Westwood.

Nearly 96% of the population of Harrison County is white. Only 2.1% of the population is Black.

I guess Jones must figure this makes him an expert in race relations.

But it is another straw man to knock down. The GOP will probably go on like this for the foreseeable future., because straw men don’t fight back.

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Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

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Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.