Ohio Legislature Worries It’s Not Cruel Enough

Leaders fret as other states take the lead in cruelty

click to enlarge Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. - Photo from the Ohio Channel.
Photo from the Ohio Channel.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima.

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) was certain this would be his moment in the sun. Due to the state’s new abortion law, a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to flee to Indiana for medical care – just as the Conservative Leadership Conference was about to convene.

Known as “the Oscars for Mean People,” Huffman considered himself a lock to take home a MAGA Award in the Exceptional Cruelty to a Child Aged 12-and-Under category. Better yet, he would finally be invited to the annual highlight of the conference, a night of hijinks sponsored by the Texas delegation, in which the brightest conservative stars head to the poor part of town to drop rocks from a bridge on passing motorists.

Yet he was in for a surprise.

Due to the proliferation of even meaner abortion laws elsewhere, judges ruled that Ohio had merely “lucked out” in being the first to drive a 10-year-old from the state. Huffman pleaded with jurists, noting that Ohio was also forcing women to carry babies destined to die at birth. To no avail.

“It was the lowest point of my life,” he now says, draped over the bar of an Olive Garden in suburban Columbus, where a few too many Pink Moscatos have left him worse for wear. “Here I was thinking that 10 year old was my ticket to the big leagues. But all I got was a $500 baggage fee for the extra suitcase filled with rocks.”

His is a common lament in Ohio. Though the legislature’s become a reliable fountain of malevolence in recent years, it still doesn’t get much respect in conversative circles. Critics say there’s a Johnny-come-lately quality to its cruelty. That it’s merely copying the maliciousness of other states, rather than pioneering new forms of its own.

“Ohio is plenty cruel. It’s just not creatively cruel,” says Ron Metcalf, director of the Pontius Pilate Institute at Liberty University. “It’s like they want to be dicks, but only the respectable kind that don’t get punched out by some mom at their daughter’s dance recital. So they just copy Mississippi’s homework.”

And their plight is about to get far more difficult.

Many consider this the golden age of conservatism, an era not seen since the Red Scare. Legislatures nationwide are passing laws once reserved for genocidal despots. This year’s MAGA Awards proved a master class in Republicans living their best lives.

Take Oklahoma, whose “per-capita malice now rivals Florida’s,” wrote the judges. It’s at the forefront of the fight against transgender athletes, forcing children as young as kindergartners to sign affidavits attesting to their birth gender if they want to compete in sports. The law’s been celebrated for finally bringing fairness to the gunny sack race during Field Day.

The state is also attacking the most pernicious problem facing education: the shaming of white people. The Tulsa school district recently had its accreditation lowered for offering implicit bias training to teachers. It was a violation of state law limiting discussion of race in public education, which is restricted to lectures on the War of Northern Aggression.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman John Bennett called for the execution of Dr. Anthony Fauci, winning huzzahs from the faithful.

Murder was a prominent theme at this year’s MAGAs. Florida legislative candidate Luis Miguel won the vaunted Rookie of the Year Award by taking it to serial killer levels. “Under my plan,” he roared on Twitter, “all Floridians will have permission to shoot FBI, IRS, ATF and all other feds on sight! Let freedom ring!”

That ethos carried over to North Carolina, where Rep. Larry Pittman wants to allow civilians to use deadly force against abortion doctors.

“It’s a pretty simple formula,” says Rev. Jean Chenoweth, director of Ohioans for New & Improved Jesus, an evangelical group seeking to ban the Bible in Sunday schools due to its themes of kindness. “You issue a call for arbitrary death, then mix it with a heavy dollop of attention-seeking. Bingo! You’re the keynote speaker at every survivalist retreat within 500 miles! Why Ohio isn’t doing more of this is beyond me.”

House Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) admits the Legislature has yet to bring its A-game. But it’s not exactly a level playing field, he asserts. While other states concentrate full time on committing barbarities against their citizens, Ohio is still trying to retain the old-school ethic of massive corporate giveaways.

“Take FirstEnergy,” says Cupp. “Name another legislature running a $1.3 billion bribery scheme. That takes a lot of work, a lot of people. It’s hard to crank up your general viciousness at the same time.”

Agreed, says Marcy Greenway, president of Freedom for Me, But Not You, the state’s leading anti-democracy group. While Ohio may not be making national headlines, it is making strides.

Greenway points to the Pretty Much Anyone Can Carry a Gun Law. It isn’t splashy, she concedes. “But it should make for a nice uptick in your murder-suicide and road rage killings.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Dave Yost is fighting for the right to discriminate against sexual orientation. The legislature is promoting death by trying to ban vaccine mandates. It’s also telling children how little it cares for them.

Consider the new law that allows counties to ban solar energy sites. Ten have done so thus far. “They’re ensuring the planet combusts in a ball of fire someday,” says Greenway. “It says to our children and grandchildren, ‘We’ll be dead long before that. What do we care?’”

This may not be glamorous work. But America is now 246 years old. It can’t be destroyed overnight, no matter how hard you try.

In the meantime, Ohio will play the role of the tortoise, while the rest of the conservative movement plays the hare. “The tortoise never gets invited to appear on Tucker,” Greenway acknowledges. “But when this is all over, he should at least get a $25 gift card to the Golden Corral.”

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