The deeply divisive presidential campaign has commanded our attention for nearly two years.
I traveled extensively across our state during this time, talking with countless Ohioans. Some key themes emerge that reflect the mood of families and workers — areas that policymakers and community leaders should take into consideration as we move ahead.
Perhaps most troubling, hundreds of thousands of our citizens are profoundly alienated and believe that government doesn’t understand them and doesn’t care about them. They believe government doesn’t work, that it isn’t relevant to their lives, and that it can’t or won’t solve their problems. As two national candidates declared, they think the system is rigged for the insiders.
People want government to produce results and are fed up with its paralysis. They are extremely concerned for the physical and financial security of their families, and they don’t feel that government is doing enough to close the ever-widening gap in education and opportunity, creating our very own permanent underclass and leaving thousands of adults and children, especially, in the shadows.
I see the barriers to success for these children every day – kids who are growing up in dysfunctional, stressed, or fragmented families; in poverty; around drugs and crime. These at-risk kids live in every county in Ohio. And unless there is some intervention, most of them are never going to reach their full potential and our state is never going to truly thrive.
We must reverse this.
As leaders, one of the most important things we can do for these kids and for Ohio families is to use state government to foster a business climate that creates good and decent-paying jobs and stimulates our economy to grow, because jobs and the economy are the wherewithal of our lives. They make everything else possible.
Simply put, we protect Ohio’s families by protecting Ohio’s economy.
We must continue Gov. John Kasich’s fiscal discipline and expand the strong economic foundation that he has built. At the same time, we must do more as a state to prepare our kids with the skills and training they need for jobs now and into the future.
We need to keep taxes low and maintain a tax structure that is fair. And, we must work even harder to maintain a pro-business, pro-jobs, pro-growth environment. That is what will assure that each Ohio child has the opportunity to live the American dream.
Another area of profound public concern is the drug epidemic plaguing our state. It is a genuine emergency, with accidental drug overdoses killing at least eight Ohioans every single day. This poison is everywhere, ripping families apart and tearing at our communities. No one feels safe.
Though we’re fighting hard, with powerful tools, this problem is deep and pervasive, and no single effort or leader is going to free so many of our families from the tragedy of addiction. We need a holistic approach that includes greater involvement from our world class medical and hospital community. We need additional training for police officers on the front line. We need consistent, annual drug prevention education for children at all grade levels. And, we need to continue emphasizing treatment over punishment for victims of addiction.
But ultimately, the hardest question is this: What is it about our society today that allows people from all walks of life to drift into the abyss of alienation and addiction, and how do we solve this much deeper problem?
To me, opportunity and hope are partners. And where opportunity is missing, so is hope.
Too many of our citizens remain in the shadows, the system failing them. Though the task is large, I am an optimist! To those of us in elected leadership, both legislative and executive, we have an obligation to assure that Ohio is a place of opportunity.
Our state has a good foundation and is headed in the right direction. But, as Ohioans make urgently clear, there’s so much more to do.
Republican Mike DeWine is Ohio’s attorney general. This column was written in 2016.