VOICES: Amid political turmoil, finding optimism for Dayton and Ohio

As always, I have hopes at the beginning of a new year – better health, diet, exercise; more outreach to family, friends, people in need; an increase in peace and love within all of us that will manifest itself at home and reach as far as Ukraine.

And like many who read this newspaper and pay attention to current events, I also hope that our democracy can work through the great divide that exists between the two major political parties, between those who label themselves as conservatives or liberals. Mike Turner, former mayor of Dayton, and twenty-year U.S. House member representing the 10th District, has always struck me as a reasonable politician willing to fight for the welfare of local citizens.

After the recent fiasco of 15 votes and a lot of serious threats, suspect bargains, and radical hot air to select a House Speaker, Turner can be a voice of moderation and progress in an elected body that takes on the big issues of our time.

“Americans should not have to wonder if their government is actively looking to subvert them or their political views,” Turner said. “We live in a nation where respect for differing beliefs and a vibrant political discourse play an important role in shaping our government.” If he lives and works by these words as a member of the committee on oversight and government reform, maybe he can make a positive difference.

We also have a new senator – J.D. Vance. After winning a bitter Republican primary and defeating Democrat Tim Ryan in a contentious November election, Vance has the privilege of representing all of the people of Ohio in the U.S. Senate. It is time for him to enter into dialogue with Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who has always fought for the working class, to find common ground on economic stability and growth, responsible government spending, immigration policies that work, justice and voting rights for all, and the end of global warming. We can thank Rob Portman for personal integrity and a willingness to reach across the aisle to Democrats to enact legislation. Perhaps J.D. and Sherrod will do the same.

Vance impressed me with his family memoir Hillbilly Elegy and various interviews (including one about converting to Roman Catholicism) before he ever ran for office. He grew up in a Middletown working class family with Appalachian roots and addiction problems, but followed the advice of key educators and a feisty grandmother to serve in the U.S. Marines and then attend and graduate from Ohio State and Yale Law School. May Vance and Brown ignore the radical elements of their respective parties and support the values and visions lived by a strong majority of Ohioans.

Sherrod Brown: “Anyone who’s tried to pay a heating bill, fill a prescription, or simply buy groceries knows all too well that the current minimum wage does not cut the mustard.” J.D. Vance: “People have lost their faith that if they work hard, if they try to get ahead, if they play by the rules, then that will ultimately result in positive outcomes.” Doesn´t this sound like common territory? We can only hope the two will engage in some productive private and public conversations for the common good of all Ohioans, especially those struggling to get ahead.

Jim Brooks is a retired high school English teacher who writes, coaches tennis, and tutors immigrants.