Top Progressive Senator Shares What It's Like to Fight Against $15 Million Deluge in Right-Wing Election Money
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Do all these ads really make a difference? Rothenberg has his doubts. “Because we're a swing state and all of the television commercials started so early, it's hard to be anywhere in Ohio where somebody doesn't have an opinion one way or another,” he says. “I think that it's going to come down to voter turnout at this point.”
Yet on that level too, the fight isn't quite fair. As Brown noted, the attacks on voters' rights have been ongoing around the country, but in Ohio, opposition to early voting and a battle over provisional ballots have targeted Democratic counties and voters of color. (A good overview of the struggle over the vote in Ohio is available here.)
“Clearly they're trying to make it unfair,” Rothenberg said. “That's part of what we have to deal with so at some point you just deal with the reality you're given and push forward and try to have turnout.”
Brown will have to try and counter organized money with organized people. Podhorzer noted that labor is supporting Brown as much as anyone, if not more. “We have workers talking to each other in the worksite, going out to their neighborhoods, calling people on the phone, to make sure that workers remember how good a friend he's been.”
While the AFL-CIO has its own super PAC now, the idea that the unlimited, unaccountable money is equivalent on both sides is simply laughable. Podhorzer said, “It's like a billionaire and a homeless person competing to buy a yacht.”
And so as the election gets closer, we'll be watching Ohio—not just to see who wins the presidential race or who controls the Senate, but to see if you really can buy an election. If Sherrod Brown wins despite the amount of money spent to defeat him, Rothenberg said, “It means that you can't buy and own government, that you can be a strong populist and progressive and you can fight and win.”
In other words, it means that Democrats can counter corporate cash not by swinging right and kowtowing to banks to try to get their slice of the big money, but by arguing for principles, standing up for working people and struggling students, defending women's rights to their own bodies, and doing politics the old-fashioned way, door to door, person to person.
Miller Zimon is hopeful. “It feels like there is just an enormous amount of activity on the ground. I am quite confident Sherrod will pull out the win but what the other side is doing is just obscene.”
For Sherrod Brown himself, that's the only answer. “We fight back by out-organizing them and speaking with a clear message.” It's what got him to the Senate, and he's betting it'll keep him there.