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Steve Driehaus for First Congressional District of Ohio HA-8-5-08


By Tony Sanders


On May 8th Ohio Representative Steve Driehaus, candidate for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, met with locals to discuss ideas for change and to finance his campaign from 6-8pm.  The meeting was held in a gracious house, that had been designed by an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, that is owned by Michael Ramundo and Beverly Thomas.  Work on the roof had been stalled because the reputable workmen didn’t want to fix their error and instead went to court, leaving their supplies.  Wine, cheese, fruits and vegetables were served.  Former Governor John J. Gilligan, Former Congressman David S. Mann, and candidates Brian Garry and Connie Pillich were there.  The majority of attendees were elderly however there were a few young staffers and middle-aged political buffs, about forty in all.  Two other meet and greets are scheduled in St. Bernard and Butler County in the month of May.


After half an hour the candidate arrived at the meeting and introduced himself, “My name is Steve Driehaus.  I have served the past eight years on the state legislator and am the minority whip.  When I was approached in ’06 for the Congressional post, I declined.  There was too much work needed in Ohio – to elect a Governor and win seats in the House.  When approached again in ’08 I accepted.  My father, Don Driehaus, ran for the office, it is fitting that I should try again.  I am the hugest Democratic vote getter on the west side of town where Chabot’s district is.  The District runs north to several Butler County townships and west of Erlanger to the Indiana border. The Democratic Party lists this as one of the top races.  We are doing well raising money”. 


It is not easy to unseat an incumbent, officeholders win 95% of the time (Raymond & Spiegelman 2008).  The current generic ballot for Congress according to the NY Times/CBS poll is 50 to 32 in favor of the Democrats (Gingrich 2008).  Cincinnati Republicans seized nearly every elected state office in 1999, until they were chased out of office in a corruption scandal that broke in 2004.  Many people are disgusted with the Bush administration and his yes men, an elder statesmen calls it, “the most corrupt administration in my lifetime” (Gold 2007).  Independent voters are voting Democratic, die hard Republicans are defecting and almost all newly registered voters are Democratic.  Steve Driehaus says, “People are abandoning the Republican Party in droves”. 


The 1st Congressional District contains the majority, 80%, of Cincinnati and the northern and western suburbs of Hamilton County. The District is also comprised of southwestern Butler County. The 1st District has the typical characteristics of a swing district. Congressman Steve Chabot won his 2006 election 52.3% to 47.7%, analysts speculate John Cranley (D)’s attack ads backfired.  1st District voters however narrowly favored Democrats Ted Strickland for Governor and Sherrod Brown for Senator; President Bush edged his 2004 Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, by just one percentage point (Giroux 2007).  Although Cincinnati has a reputation as a Republican community, many offices are held by Democrats, and there is considerable faith that a clean campaign could elect a Democrat to Congress.


On March 12, 2008 the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that Steve Driehaus, along with 12 other candidates, were chosen to participate in "Red to Blue," a fundraising and infrastructure program that focuses on flipping Republican-held House seats. "These candidates have come out of the gate strong, and the Red to Blue program will give them the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November," DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said. The DCCC credits Red to Blue with raising $22.6 million for 56 campaigns during the 2006 cycle, an increase of $15.1 million over what was spent in the 2004 cycle, when 27 Democratic House candidates benefited from Red to Blue at an average clip of $250,000 per campaign.


In response to the first question, what he would do different than John Cranley? Driehaus said, “John is a friend of mine.  John is single, I’ve been married for sixteen years and have three kids.  I think that matters.  Chabot’s ads regarding his daughter’s wedding were devastating.  I went to Elder, my father and grandfather went to Elder.  The local people understand me.  Cranley lost to ads about moving Section 8 to the suburbs.  The Democratic Congressional Committee is important but you cannot let them take over.  I have spent the past few months defending my independence.  We organized a survey.  In a poll without info Chabot wins but in a poll with biographical information about me I consistently came out on top”. 


First elected in 2000, Driehaus represents the people of western Cincinnati, Addyston, Cheviot, Cleves, and North Bend.  In the legislature, Steve Driehaus has fought to expand health care coverage and led the charge against predatory lending and foreclosures in Hamilton County that led Governor Ted Strickland to create the Governor’s Foreclosure Task Force.  For his efforts, Driehaus is recognized as one of Ohio’s political rising stars by the Cincy Business Magazine Power 100 list. He was named legislative “Rookie of the Year” by the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Legislator of the Year” by both the Ohio Association of Election Officials and the ARC of Ohio, and selected as one of the Cincinnati Business Courier’s “Forty Under Forty."   A pro-life, fiscally conservative Democrat, Steve Driehaus is running for Congress because he believes that our Cincinnati communities need new leadership and a strong, new voice.


Driehaus explains, “When one looks at the nation and locally, there is a lot of change needed.  Cincinnati Business review of the Power 100 was missing Steve Chabot.  Mallory and Portune were in there, however the US Congressman was not there.  While he might be a nice guy we need a leader.  Where is the leadership to bring people together to get solutions?  He’s been there for fourteen years and hasn’t done much of anything.  I know the race is winnable.  This race is going to cost around $2 million, I’ve raised $750,000.  We need volunteers.  If you want a better representative, help me.  People understand things are changing and want to be on the winning team.”  


The bottom of political work is to organize volunteers, write letters to the editors of local newspapers, knock on doors and put up dozens of yard signs.  You don’t ascend to the heights of political power by backing obvious winners.  You make your name by winning the race that can’t be won.  Ninety percent of any campaign is in the details.  That labor is the only way you can really earn anyone’s respect.  There are a hundred ways to earn owed favors, paybacks and kickbacks, but none of those is equivalent to respect.  Respect is the gold standard.  Having all the candidates in an election show up to make their case to a paper’s editors and reporters is an ancient ritual that is supposed to help the paper decide whom to back in a coming election and win the hearts of the people.  Earned media plans are drawn up when your candidate did something to merit press attention without having to buy it.  Any campaign for political office is reliant upon the distinguished members of the press to get their message to the people.  Press releases are routine for campaign staffers who must not let their enthusiasm for their candidate cause them to commit unethical and illegal acts (Raymond & Spiegelman 2008). 


Driehaus has done a considerable amount of work to mitigate the impact of the housing crisis and live up to his family name.  In the state legislature, Steve Driehaus led the charge against predatory lending and foreclosures in Hamilton County that led Governor Ted Strickland to create the Governor’s Foreclosure Task Force. In Congress, Steve Driehaus promises to continue to fight to make home ownership a reality for more citizens.  Expressing a high level of understanding of the mortgage lending industry he said in part, “We want to collaborate to deal with thousands of foreclosed homes.  I have worked with the US Attorney to prosecute unscrupulous lenders.  Cincinnati cannot do it alone, the state and particularly the federal government have a responsibility.  We transferred risk from both borrower and lender to irresponsibly relieve the lender of a duty of care.  Democrats tried to legislate reforms in the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and when they were thwarted did so by appointment.  My brother was appointed to CMHA”. 


In regards to what committees he would sit on besides Housing and Banking Driehaus responded, “I am an interested in tax policy.  I’ve spent time working on tax policy.  We have holes in our revenue system so that the system runs on a deficit.  We must close the loopholes.  The erosion of the tax base is complicated because of exemptions.  When I talk about fiscal responsibility it is a double edged sword – revenues must equal expenditures.  I am also interested in foreign policy”.  It seems Driehaus is interested in the House Financial Services Committee, the powerful Ways and Means Committee and Committee on Foreign Relations.  Having a representative on these benevolent committees would be a great asset to the community.


Driehaus has a fiscally conservative tax policy that both protects the vulnerable middle class taxpayer and seeks to close loopholes for corporations.  In the state legislature, Steve Driehaus voted against Governor Taft’s tax increases and championed reforming Ohio’s tax code, which lowered taxes for our senior citizens. Steve Driehaus does not believe we should be giving big oil companies big tax breaks.  This is a clear contrast to Congressman Chabot who voted for tax breaks for big oil companies who are reaping billions in profit all while Cincinnatians are hurting with soaring gas prices.  Driehaus’ fiscally conservative tax policy will avoid the political debacle of Bill Clinton who laid the groundwork for the Republican Revolution of 1994, almost as soon as he took office in ’93, with an income tax increase that struck the GOP as morally outrageous.  While moderate Democrats and Republicans are about balancing budgets and reducing government spending; neocon Republicans are about cutting taxes no matter what the results and tax and spend liberal Democrats are about increasing taxes irregardless of the waste, fraud and abuse in the administration they finance.  Although there is opposition the pay-go budget rule, requiring that revenue and spending legislation be deficit neutral, pass because common sense overwhelms stubborn tax-cut dogma (Raymond & Spiegelman 2008)


Thousands of Ohioans and millions of Americans lack health insurance.  This trend is worsened by the increasing price of health care and insurance premiums.  Steve Driehaus will fight to expand health care coverage and supports programs like SCHIP that expands coverage for our children. Driehaus’ position on health care is, “I believe we should provide universal coverage, not necessarily single payer, but I think everyone is entitled to affordable health insurance”.


Driehaus’ opinion on immigration is moderate, “My wife is Mexican.  I think we’ll have comprehensive legislation in the next Congress.  I thing we need to increase worker visas.  Building a wall on the border did more to keep people in than keep them out.  We need a process of legalization that is fair and doesn’t divide families”.


Driehaus’ stance on the environment is based in experience, “I taught environment in Africa with the Peace Corp and studied environment in graduate school.  Corn based ethanol was a mistake in the move forward.  We will make progress in the next few years”.  After college, Steve volunteered for the Peace Corps serving in Senegal, West Africa.  He worked with village groups and local schools to promote sustainable environmental practices.


In regards to the war Driehaus says, “I see Chabot as a lap dog who has sold out to Bush and his elite constituency.  The day of the S-CHIP veto the President came to raise money for Chabot after the Congressman had been censured for sending toxic letters to the author, ostensibly to ensure the public health bill was killed, as it had to be because the bio- terrorists against it were pardoned by the President.  Every dime spent on the war went straight to the debt.  We have a $9.8 trillion debt and much of it has been caused by Bush.  If people would pay for the wars out of tax dollars they would be more just and we would be fighting because the people wanted to not some dictator.  I don’t know how we can call that fiscally responsible”. Steve Driehaus believes it is time for our soldiers to come home from Iraq, however, understanding that the United States will have to retain a presence in the region; our efforts to fight al Queda terrorism should now be focused on diplomacy.  


Congressman Chabot claims to be a deficit hawk however the federal deficit has grown to record levels on his watch. Until recent years the Republican party was anything but the party of war hawks.  National defense hawks, yes.  President Eisenhower’s cautionary words about “the military industrial complex” have largely been ignored by GOP lawmakers whenever the Pentagon comes calling.  But as to committing American troops to battle overseas, until George H. W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in 1991, no Republican president since William McKinley in 1898 had initiated a war; nor until Richard Nixon in 1968, had any Republican president opted to carry on a war initiated by Democratic president. In many ways today’s conservatives are party men and women not unlike those we saw in totalitarian countries, people who spout the line and slay the enemy without a thought as to the principles involved.  Yes, they hate the Left.  But only because the Left is the ‘other’ (Gold 2008).  The truth of the matter is that over investing in defense is the leading cause of federal deficits, and to balance the budget one must limit spending on the military, because it is a bad investment.


To run a dictatorship Bush administration has had to enlarge the scope of various statutes to tip the checks and balances scale in favor of the executive branch.  Wiretapping surveillance, the Guantanamo Bay detainees, interpretation of the Geneva Conventions disregarding torture, the White House/RNC e-mail Freedom of Information Act controversy, the suppression of scientific research, the firing of the US attorneys with fabricated cause and uniquely illustrative Vice President Dick Cheney’s abuse of executive privilege.  (Raymond & Spiegleman 2008). The Weimar Constitution of 1919, was never repealed, even after the Nazis took power, was indeed liberal and democratic, and yet, as Shirer also wrote in the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, it contained a loophole large enough to drive a panzer tank through.  Under Article 48, called the Emergency Decree provision, the head of government, through his Minister of Justice, could suspend all civil liberties in the event of a threat to national security; which as history tells us, is precisely what Hitler did when, shortly after he came to power, a terrorist torched the Reichstag.  In the twelve years he ruled Germany as an absolute dictator, Hitler ironically operated within a constitution that journalist/historian William L. Shirer called “the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the 20th century had ever seen” (Gold 2007).


It was no secret that in the last hours of the first Gulf War, Cheney had urged George H. W. to finish Saddam Hussein off, marching to Baghdad, if necessary, while Colin Powell urged restraint, arguing that if Bush followed that course it would lead into a Vietnam like morass.  “We’ve finished what we set out to do.  We’ve run Saddam out of Kuwait and crippled his army.  Let’s call it the One Hundred Hour War, declare victory and bring the troops home”.  Dick Cheney is however a high maintenance vice president with an exaggerated sense of al Qaeda’s outreach and/or his own importance.  His daily motorcade to the office, a distance of little more than two miles, consists of anywhere from a dozen to eighteen vehicles, sirens blaring, tying up traffic at the peak of Washington’s morning rush hour.  The president himself requires only a third that many. The US military, argued the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, had been run into the ground by eight years of benign neglect under Bill Clinton.  To rebuild it a strong, experienced hand was needed to upgrade and streamline America’s armed forces for the 21st century.  The selection of George H. W. Bush’s most bitter political enemy, Donald Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense however signaled not only distance, but also a wall between the two Bush presidencies (Gold 2008).


George W. Bush on being asked by Bob Woodward whether he consulted George H. W, before making the decision to invade Iraq “There’s a higher father I appeal to”.


George H. W. Bush said on Presidential Leadership in 1989, “I’ve learned that leadership isn’t just making decisions and giving orders.  It’s hearing all points of view before making the decision.  That’s the way leadership works in a free society, by keeping open-door minds.  For that matter, it’s important everywhere in American life-tolerance for the other person’s point of view-understanding that as Americans the values we share are more important than any differences we have”.


George W. Bush said on Presidential Leadership in 2006 “I’m going to do what I think is right, and if people don’t like me for it, that’s just the way it is” (Gold 2008). 


Dislike of Bush has been a formative political experience for the youngest generation of voters, those eighteen to thirty.  This generation is the most Democratic generation ever, more Democratic than the voting generations of the New Deal and the 1960s.  The Democratic take over of both House and Senate in the 2006 elections should not obscure the profound transformations going on in the states, where ten state legislative chambers switched to the Democrats and the Democratic advantage over Republicans in state legislatures went from fifteen seats (3,650 versus 3,635) to 662 seats (3,985 versus 3,323), with gains in every region.  Democrats control both chambers in twenty-four states, compared with sixteen for Republicans.  Democrats also gained six governorships, giving them a majority of twenty-eight.  These political conditions set up the Democrats to dominate the redistricting that will follow the 2010 census (Blumenthal 2008).  Instead of rooting for the underdog it seems to be in the best interest of the public to elect more Democrats to pass a progressive agenda and undo the damage done by the neo-conservative Republican party of the Bush administration. 


The greatest obstacle to sound economic policy is not entrenched special interests or rampant lobbying but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs and personal biases held by ordinary voters. People who vote under the influence of false beliefs ultimately end up with government that delivers lousy results.  Since 1996 the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy (SAEE) has tested for systematic lay-expert belief differences.  Economists are less concerned about the economic damage of excessive taxation than the general public.  The public is frequently chided for simultaneously opposing tax increases, spending cuts and budget deficits. Economists are more interventionist in foreign relations but less inclined to use military force.  Economics only looks conservative when compared with other social sciences, like sociology, where leftism reigns supreme.  Compared to the general public, the typical economist is left of center.  Education makes people think like economists (Caplan 2007).  Steve Driehaus believes that education is the key to our future. It is the key to creating jobs and building a prosperous middle class. During the last 10 years, the cost of higher education in Ohio has tripled making it harder for our citizens to afford. Congressman Chabot voted to cut Pell Grants and voted against cutting interest rates on student loans. In Congress, Steve Driehaus will fight to restore Pell Grant funding, work to lower interest rates on student loans, and fight for investment in education from pre-school to higher education to worker re-training so our citizens are prepared for the competitiveness of a global economy. 


How then does an economically viable candidate with insufficient control of the media to use it to educate the public win an election when the majority of voters are not highly educated?  The logic is simple.  Time is money, and acquiring information requires time.  Individual’s balance the benefit of learning against its cost.  In markets, if individuals know too little, they pay the price in missed opportunities; if they know too much, they pay the price in wasted time.  The prudent path is to provide enough information for the voter to make a tolerably good decision (Caplan 2007).  The worst kind of campaign you can have is one that holds too firmly to his or her ideals.  Left unchecked, the same moral inspiration that may initially win a candidate a groundswell of support will lose him or her the election.  Causes are all well and good, but what good can you do them if you can’t get elected?  Getting elected takes a subtler sort of ethics than rallying around a cause (Raymond & Spiegelman 2008).  Although political scientists classify about one-third of the public as “know-nothings”, it is hard to find people whose political knowledge is literally non-existent.  In a democracy majorities suffice to reach a decision.  People of all income levels become more pro-market as their political, not necessarily economic, knowledge increases. To appeal to the majority it is a good idea to rely more on private choice and the free market (Caplan 2007).  Quantitative methods is about using the polls to find or create the issues that appeal to a majority of voters (Raymond & Spiegelman 2008). 


Suppose human beings value both their material prosperity and their worldview.  In any rational choice analysis, prices are the guiding star.  It is however a mistake to focus exclusively on the price tags. The full price of ideological loyalty is the material wealth you forego in order to believe.  Under a democracy the probability that one vote, however misguided, changes policy, rapidly decreases as the number of voters increases. Ordinary cynics, and most economists, compare voters to consumers who shrewdly “vote their pocketbooks”.  Empirically, there is little connection between voting and material interests.  Contrary to popular stereotypes of the rich Republican and the poor Democrat, income and party identity are only loosely related.  The desire for truth can clash with other motives.  Material self-interest is the leading suspect.  Social pressure for conformity is another force that conflicts with truth-seeking.  Espousing unpopular views often transforms the candidate into an unpopular person.  Democracy is forum for solving social problems.  Democracy aggregates preferences.  Members of a group want things done.  Democracy combines their wants and stirs to get a group decision.  In the real world, unanimity is an unmistakable sign of dictatorship, not democracy.  An empirically relevant model of democracy must allow for disagreement.  Political platforms, particularly during an election year, must be tailored to appeal to the economic literacy of the median voter and cannot be expected to uphold the pre-requisites of academic research, nor should they undermine them (Caplan 2007). 


Senate races don’t have to scramble in the dirt for every nickel and tiny bit of press.  Senate candidates usually come with a vast supply of money, and they always come with an endless amount of press.  Since there are only one hundred senators at any one time your candidate will get press every time he or she steps out of a car.  Not just papers but on TV (Raymond & Spiegelman 2008).  Congressional races are more difficult.  Money must be actively solicited from donors and the press must be petitioned regularly.  The Driehaus campaign must capitalize upon the good work of the minority whip and his standing with the Democratic party to engage him to speak at newsworthy events so that the voters will learn about him and his platform.  As his poll discovered, when voters were informed of his biography Driehaus consistently won.  Winning the election should therefore be a simple matter of educating the electorate about Driehaus’ credentials.  Whereas the free press cannot be relied upon to publicize a single political candidate, campaign contributions will be needed to sustain the staff and purchases advertisements.  At the conclusion of the discussion on ideas for change it was proudly announced, “the Governor is here” referring to former Governor John J. Gilligan.  Michael Ramundo took center stage and encouraged everyone to donate the $1 million still estimated to be needed by the Congressional campaign.  Representative Driehaus chimed, in “$2,300 max”.  Thank you for your Contributions.


Works Cited


1. Blumenthal, Sidney. The Strange Death of Republican America: Chronicles of a Collapsing Party. Sterling Publishing Co. New York, New York. 2008

2. Caplan, Bryan. The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jersey. 2007

3. Driehaus for Congress. Driehaus Placed on DCCC’s Red and Blue Program. March 12, 2008

4. Gingrich, Newt. My Plea to Republicans: Its Time for Real Change to Avoid Real Disaster. Winning the Future: Real Change Requires Real Change. Vol. 3, No. 19.  May 6, 2008

5. Giroux, Greg. Democrat Driehause Targets Republican Chabot in Ohio House Race. CQ.  May 3, 2007

6. Gold, Victor. Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP. Sourcebooks Inc. Naperville, Illinois. 2007
Raymond, Allen; Spiegelman, Ian.  How to Win/Rig and Election: Confessional of a Republican Operative. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York. 2008