Published September 11, 2011
After one of President Obama’s “Why can’t we all just get along” speeches, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras was asked if he were willing to publicly criticize the president for being too conciliatory with the Republicans. While conceding that GOP leaders have been scoring points in their battle with Obama, Betras said he would not join in the bashing. When he was asked if last November’s Republican sweep of the statewide offices in Ohio was the result of Democrats being disillusioned with the president, the chairman refused to give a straight answer.
Therein lies the problem for Democratic Party leaders in Ohio. They know that the low turnout of the party faithful in last year’s general election does not bode well for 2012, when Obama will be seeking re-election, but they’re reluctant to speak their minds — in public, at least.
On Tuesday, the president will be in Columbus to sell his latest jobs creation plan, and Betras has been invited to meet with him as part of a select group of individuals. Here’s what Betras needs to tell the president, if he gets the chance: “Sir, you’re killing me, as chairman of one of the most Democratic counties in Ohio. How can you justify giving more money to Republican Speaker John Boehner’s congressional district than you’ve given to Congressman Tim Ryan’s district, which includes Mahoning County? You can’t win Ohio next year unless you get more than 60 percent of the vote in Mahoning County. I can’t guarantee that today. You need to punish the Republican congressmen who have said that your first stimulus program did not create a single job and did nothing for the economy. And you need to reward your friends.”
Unless Betras and other Democratic Party leaders speak out, Obama will assume that he'll always enjoy strong support from counties such as Mahoning — even if he doesn’t come through with the big bucks.