Jared Kamrass of Cincinnati, OH

Jared Kamrass of Cincinnati, OH Takes a Look at the Michigan Ohio Rivalry

Growing up, it was generally accepted that Michigan was in decline and that the state would always be inferior to my home of Ohio. Detroit was bankrupt, the auto companies needed a government bailout, and the state was rife with political corruption. On top of that, save a few decent years from the Pistons and Red Wings, sports in Michigan were floundering. The Lions were a perpetual laughingstock, University of Michigan football was bogged down by two horrendous football coaching hires while Michigan State was mired in mediocrity. Michigan was an easy target, even for places that seemed to have been dealt just as bad a hand in other states.

Meanwhile in Ohio, Jared Kamrass notes that Columbus and Cincinnati marked their place as two of the few Midwest cities to be on the upswing after the Great Recession, job growth was strong, and even the woeful sports franchises in Cincinnati and Cleveland experience success in ways that had been rare in decades prior. Cincinnati and Columbus received expansion professional sports franchises (NHL’s Blue Jackets and MLS’ FC Cincinnati) while Ohio State and University of Cincinnati experienced new heights of athletic success that was coupled with historic academic and research achievements.

As a Democrat in Ohio, Jared Kamrass reveled in our status as the premiere swing state in the nation. Sure, Michigan was more reliably Democratic, but the nation turned its eyes every four years to ‘Ohio, Ohio, Ohio’.

But as the Trump years and societal change from the COVID pandemic began to reshape our collective reality, something unexpected happened: Michigan lapped Ohio in nearly every measurable way. And November 2022 put this into stark relief in the span of only a couple weeks.

After Michigan voters enacted non-partisan gerrymandering reform, legalized adult-use cannabis, and enshrining abortion rights, they quickly became a model to the Midwest of how a functioning state-level democracy should look. At the same time, Ohio’s leaders ignited a constitutional crisis by ignoring the state Supreme Court not once or twice, but seven times, all in the pursuit of maximizing their own power through egregious gerrymandering. They ignored the will of their own voters by pushing a billion-dollar bailout of coal plants (later to result in several corruption indictments, including against the Speaker of the House), rolled back the state’s environmental standards, passed egregious abortion bans, and restricted access to voting.

It should come as no surprise that Michigan elected state level leaders resembling the will of voters while Ohio continues to restrict 45% of its voters to super-minority status while continuing to strip away the remaining pillars of functional democracy. Nowhere are the stark differences in the states’ trajectories more visually clear than in the Governors who won re-election in each in 2022. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine is milquetoast, plodding, and barely a caretaker as he lets the extreme flank of his party in the legislature run roughshod over him on issues such as guns and education. North of the border, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a young and exciting leader who has clearly articulated a vision for the future of her state.

Jared Kamrass of Cincinnati, Ohio notes that the whole country saw the reversal of fortune on the Saturday following Thanksgiving as 20 million Americans tuned into watch the University of Michigan’s 3rd ranked football program demolish Ohio State’s 2nd ranked squad on their home field. After dominating the first 20 years of the century, Ohio State seems to have fallen behind Michigan’s program when it counts, removing the last pillar of Ohio’s perceived dominance against ‘The State Up North’. Michigan even hired a university president who helped shape success at the University of Cincinnati while OSU is amid a campus-wide leadership crisis.

For all once-proud Ohioans, the solutions aren’t simple, and certainly will require differing approaches. But Michigan clearly showed that the path forward needs to include returning power to voters and shedding the ‘failed state’ distinction that comes with a non-functioning Democracy. Ohio has long been a microcosm of the nation, yet our politics and policies resemble that of states like Mississippi. Access to abortion, cannabis, voting rights, fair districts, and functioning social services are all core to Michigan’s success, and have only come with voters being empowered to use their voice.

At the ballot box and on the football field, Michiganders have found their voice, their identity. Meanwhile, Ohio has strayed from its. Michigan has embraced popularism and empowerment, with a streak of midwestern toughness. Meanwhile, in the Statehouse and the Horseshoe, Ohio has become something it’s not: one sided, weak, and unbalanced.

By Jared Kamrass

Jared Kamrass