Who Truly Shapes Ohio’s Future?
How Ohio is quickly becoming the Florida of the Midwest
Written by Michael Eadie
While Ohio may have a reputation for being inexpensive, its relative affordability is not enough to keep young, educated Ohioans interested in sticking around. The economic powerhouse that is the Great Lakes can only hold so much water, and while Lake Erie doesn't seem to be drying up anytime soon, the brainpower of Ohio’s workforce and cultural foundations certainly could be. That cultural foundation of Ohio is what is at stake, one that the youth would like to shape into something that reflects their experiences and possible futures. Its foundation is being sent straight back to the 1950s, mirroring the archaic changes which are the brainchild of the one and only Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. Ohio's legislature does of course resemble Florida’s, being a Republican supermajority in both its House and Senate, with the governors completing the trifectas. Republicans in both states tout economic freedom stemming from their policies for both college-educated and non-college-educated young adults. While Florida has grown in population over the past decade, Ohio has failed to do the same. These two states tout economic freedom, but this freedom favors those who have already won, rather than those just now entering the game.
Ohio's youth faces a once-purple state that is shifting red at the same pace that population growth has dwindled, and just as fast as right-wing legislation passes. On the surface, a Republican trifecta with a two-chamber supermajority does not remotely represent the political will and interests of the state at large, let alone those under the age of 30. The focus of younger millennials and older Gen Z individuals tends to lean towards cultural and social issues like LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights and gun safety laws. The cherry on top is that this age group is more educated than any other in history, and tends to care deeply for representation and educational freedom. All this while the state of Florida has made moves to shelter the minds of students by banning what the government calls “unsavory” books and passing “Don’t Say Gay'' bills. Ohio has yet to delve into as extreme of policies as these, though similar ones have been floated and proposed. What Ohio has passed however, are incredibly relaxed gun laws that include removing background checks and licensing for concealed carry, as well as one of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws, known as the “Heartbeat Bill.”
We now live in an Ohio that would rather force an 11-year-old to die in childbirth or suffer the consequences of motherhood before middle school. This is not the Ohio that this 11-year-old would choose, and it is not the Ohio that a 15-year-old girl would choose when being forced to submit menstrual cycle data to the state for inspection. It is not the Ohio that a gifted Black high schooler would choose when they are refused the opportunity to take a course that teaches their history. It is not the Ohio that a transgender child would choose when they're turned down from receiving integral medical care, and not the Ohio a working Black woman would choose when faced with wages that pale in comparison to the rest of the nation. It is an Ohio that ignores its students' calls for real gun safety legislation, and instead makes carrying a concealed pistol infinitely easier while unlicensed, with no background checks. It is an Ohio that could care less for its homeless teenagers, but instead protects lives that don’t yet exist. Do those homeless teens exist? Do their homeless mothers exist? Does our government care? Would our government choose to listen to the voices of the people in the proportions they exist in? They have proven they will redistrict however they please, regardless of binding law.
Where is Ohio's future? On its current trajectory, eerily similar to where Florida is now — and where Florida looks to be headed in its own ignorant future. Both states ignore the voices of millions of their youth in favor of aging, retired populations with zero real stake in the state's future, and little care beyond their inner circle on what happens to ill-affected young Ohioans. Only time will tell if Florida will define Ohio’s future, or if its own youth will take charge to shape it.