Ohio’s strong-willed Republican governor, John R. Kasich, unleashed a new and unprecedented tactic in his ongoing campaign against the repeal of Senate Bill 5, which places severe restrictions on collective bargaining for public employees.
“You don’t want to know what will happen if SB5 is repealed,” Kasich told an audience of business owners at an event sponsored by the League of Wealthy Citizens on Thursday. “Because if this Issue 2 is defeated, so help me, I will hold my breath until I turn blue. I swear I will. Don’t think I don’t mean it.”
Voters will have the opportunity to decide the fate of SB5 by voting on Issue 2 in November. As worded by the Franklin County Board of Elections, a “no” vote on Issue 2 is a vote to repeal SB5.
Kasich’s remarks come at a time when widespread support for the repeal threatens to overturn legislation that the governor has emphatically championed since its inception. Since SB5 was introduced, he has employed a variety of strategies to ensure its passage and permanency, from stubborn aggression to a ninth-inning call for compromise. Kasich’s threat to hold his breath, while provoking generous media coverage, apparently has not fazed his opposition.
Representative Chester Redd (D) responded, “So it’s come to this. Well, we’ve been saying all along that our governor behaves like a spoiled child, and this merely emphasizes our point. I expect he’ll move on to kicking and screaming next, and if that doesn’t work, he might even refuse to eat his vegetables. Really, I think it’s time to introduce corporal punishment in the Statehouse. A few quick swats on that pompous behind, lovingly administered, might just do the trick.”
Although Kasich was not available for comment, spokesperson Ken Kissarse defended the governor in a statement issued late last night. “What the Democrats and other opponents of Issue 2 fail to understand is Governor Kasich’s true passion for doing what’s right for Ohio, no matter how unpopular it may be. A man who’s willing to put his personal health on the line by holding his breath, no matter how long it takes, is a man who cares deeply about our great state. Make no mistake about it. Governor Kasich is accustomed to getting what he wants, and he simply will not take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Retired nanny Wanda Jones, who helped raise Kasich during his formative years in Pittsburgh, was not surprised by the actions of her former charge. “This is nothing new to me. He used to pull that little number all the time when it looked like he might not get his way. And he really would turn blue! That rattled his poor parents every time. I don’t know how he never passed out. It scared his mom and dad so much, they didn’t dare do anything that might make him angry.”
Meanwhile, area business leaders expressed their concern. “We better tread lightly here,” advised Benjamin Buck, Interim Chairman of the Central Ohio Big Box Retailers Association. “I think the governor means business, and I don’t think anyone would want to burden their conscience with the responsibility of having provoked a potentially life-threatening incident of breath-holding. What’s more, these public sector layabouts are fattening themselves with your paycheck. But my primary concern is the health of our governor.”
While holding one’s breath is normally an infantile behavior that can instill panic in new parents, the phenomenon is generally considered harmless. According to the most recent edition of the popular parenting guide What to Do When You’ve Delivered, adults “need not be worried about the occasional tantrum. Your baby or toddler may hold her breath in a fit of anger or frustration, and she may carry on so long that her face may be very temporarily discolored with a tinge of blue, but sooner or later, the little tyrant is going to have to take a breath.”
Breath-holding in adults, however, is comparatively rare, as are other behaviors associated with childhood tantrums, including biting, pounding one’s fists repeatedly on the floor, making ugly faces, and defiant urination, none of which the governor has been known to employ. Nevertheless, some watchers of the local political scene think that Kasich’s threat could be costly.
“Temper tantrums are generally not effective as a means to effect public policy,” observed Alfred Gaines, a professor of political science at The Ohio State University. He has spent the last twenty years analyzing childish behavior in politicians. “One need only look back to 1960, when Khrushchev banged his shoe on his desk at the United Nations. It was seen as an ill-tempered act of desperation, and Kasich risks a similar reception if he does, indeed, hold his breath until he turns blue.”
Should Kasich follow through with his unconventional ultimatum upon the defeat of Issue 2, there is no provision in the Ohio Constitution to overrule a vote of the people due to gubernatorial breath holding, according to Gaines. “It would be a symbolic gesture, but it has no legal ramifications whatsoever.”
Representative Redd advises Ohioans to stand firm. “Now is not the time to give in to the governor’s demands. Citizens, vote according to your conscience, and when Issue 2 is defeated, pay no attention to the man turning blue in the capitol rotunda. My advisers assure me that he’ll go unconscious long before he can hurt himself. If you encourage him in any way, it’s just going to embolden him to do it again.”
As of press time, several citizens were gathered on the east steps of the Statehouse in a candlelight vigil to dissuade the governor from following through with his threat and to encourage SB5 opponents to reconsider their vote. One held a sign that read, “Vote for 2 or he’ll turn blue.” Another placard was emblazoned with just one word: “BREATHE!”
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The preceding post is intended as satire. While it is hard to imagine that anyone might believe otherwise, the statement attributed to Governor Kasich and the people identified as Chester Redd, Ken Kissarse, Wanda Jones, Benjamin Buck and Alfred Gaines are fictional. However, SB5, though it may appear incredible, is real.