I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing JD Winteregg, the Executive Director of the Ohio Accountability Project (OAP). They are a group of concerned citizens who came together to discuss the important issues, but also how they are being represented in Washington DC – their local representative is Speaker Boehner and they are not happy with the job he’s doing in Congress or at local level. They set up this project with the aim of meeting with all local, community, youth and minority groups, discussing what issues are important to them, educating them on how those particular issues are addressed in Washington, and hopefully bringing everyone together and find people who will best represent the will of the people and bring accountability to Washington.
JD: What is the most important issue for the people of Ohio, and was this group formed on one issue or a group of issues?
JDW: It is everything. We currently don’t feel our representatives in Washington are connected to us. They don’t seem to be making an attempt to communicate with us about what’s important to us. For us as a group, we want to firstly break down that barrier, inform the people within the district of the issues and how our representatives are addressing them, and also stop people in Washington telling us how to live our lives, because those directives should come from the people, NOT Washington.
JD: So, Speaker Boehner is your local representative; what is the feeling towards him and what is the biggest criticism you hear of him?
JDW: He does not connect to the average day American. He initially won election to the House 20+ years ago, as a local boy who used to run a bar, but now what we see is a chumminess with the President who a lot of us have trouble trusting. He operates inside the establishment circles and does not have an interest in hearing what we have to say. I live around the corner from his office and I rarely hear about him being here. How can someone represent a people if he is never around them, know what they feel, or are going through? The biggest criticism some have is after winning re-election, the first vote he placed was to raise taxes in yet another capitulation to the Left.
JD: Obamacare – The Speaker has held over 30 procedural votes to defund Obamacare but they have been DOA when arriving at the Senate; however Speaker Boehner voted to fund Obamacare in the Continuing Resolutions. Do you feel the Speaker wants Obamacare, is he just playing politics or does he just not know the rules of Congress?
JDW: I think he knows the rules of Congress, but it’s clear he is playing politics. I believe these who voted to stop Obamacare did so purely so they can go back to their constituents and say “well we voted to repeal Obama care 30+ times, what more can we do?” I think if Republicans really wanted it repealed they would not only defund it through the continuing resolutions but also work to find alternative means rather than just holding an up and down vote in the House which will not even be discussed in the Senate. I feel that there a lot of people within the district who don’t realize that there’s a difference between a vote to repeal and a vote to fund. We need to work to get people to realize the difference and put that in the perspective of what’s going on with Obamacare.
JD: There was a recent report in Ohio, that Obamacare Premiums will go up by 88%. Is that a well-known fact in Ohio, and what are you seeing on ground when it comes to Obamacare?
JDW: Yes this is extremely important to Ohio. Our Governor tried to pass a Medicaid expansion and accept money from the federal exchange. In Ohio we now call it Kasichcare because despite an initial promise that he wouldn’t accept federal funds, he turned on us, and attempted to put this in his budget and it was taken out of the budget by the House Finance Committee. Many are aware of this potential disaster, especially those involved in the Liberty and Tea Party groups – we know this battle is far from over and we are going to fight till the end and hopefully deter the efforts of Kasich to get expand Medicaid in Ohio that will hurt so many American families.
JD: There are so many reasons to be against Obamacare; is there one reason that really sticks out to you, to be against it?
JDW: There are, but it all boils down to the infringement on liberty and we don’t feel it’s constitutional. The Constitution speaks of the general welfare of people, not the specific welfare. As a group, we need to ensure that we educate the constituents in OH-8 about the Constitution and what powers the government is allowed. Obamacare seems to be just another case of Washington attempting to control the people.
JD: Over the last several weeks, Washington has been engulfed in scandals. Everything from Fast and Furious, Benghazi, AP, and the IRS. Does one stick out to you or do they all have one common theme running through them?
JDW: They have several common themes. Firstly, is the dishonesty of Washington and how badly it functions? Secondly, how hard it can be to not only get answers from Washington but to hold its people accountable? For example, look at Benghazi which happened last September. We are still trying to get answers 9 months later. Also Washington is very reactionary, and they are very rarely are pro-active in ensuring bad things don’t happen. We need Washington to be more diligent in oversight of Washington and less diligent in the oversight of the average American. This is not just a John Boehner problem; this is a problem with almost every representative in Washington. However because Boehner is the Speaker of the House, he needs to accept a larger portion of the blame and responsibility – Accountability was one of the items he championed when he initially entered the House, and he has seemed to steer away from that.
JD: One of the excuses Speaker Boehner has used is “we are only one half of one third”? Do people in Ohio accept that, do they feel he would fight if conditions were better or is he viewed as a lost cause?
JDW: It has to be viewed as an excuse. Some people try to defend him by saying what a tough job he has negotiating with people like Reid and Obama; however he always seems to be on the back foot. In today’s world every job is tough, that’s why it’s called work! Are you really telling me that his job is tougher than some small business owner who is struggling and now has to pay more because of Obamacare and other additional taxes? Is his job tougher than the local steel worker? Than the local teachers? Than servers in restaurants? No, but there is one major difference, they are not being paid $250,000 a year for their tough job. Another major problem is communication. Speaker Boehner rarely comes to my area in Ohio to ask us what we think or communicate what is happening in Washington in the hope of gaining our support. It has gotten to the point where representatives seem to think once they are elected into office, they should be left alone. It is our country too and it is OUR RIGHT to have a say in how it is run. We are no longer prepared to stand idly by and watch as our country continues down the wrong direction.
JD: So if you were Speaker Boehner for a day, what would your top priority be?
JDW: The most important priority and we see this in every group we speak to – is JOBS and the Economy. We need to keep the economy in the spotlight and address every problem that is not only holding back business expansion but also preventing young people from getting a job and starting off new business. There’s a stifling of innovation today because of the restrictive nature of the economy. We have to recognize that there are policies currently in DC that harm business and squeeze the average American. Gas prices are out of control which then contributes to price increases on everyday products like milk, bread and cheese. Products and supply prices seem to be increasing constantly along with taxes, but wages remain stagnant because business owners aren’t willing to invest in wage increases or new hires due to the volatility of Washington.
JD: But what can Washington do to fix this?
JDW: Get out of the way and let the free market work. We need to elect representatives who not only believe in this great economic system but who are also interested in assisting a transfer of power out of Washington and back to the individual states and more importantly to the people. As a group, we need to educate people on the dynamics of the free market, so they understand how it works compared to an economy that’s regulated by the government.
JD: So what is the ultimate aim of your group?
JDW: First and foremost, it’s to educate the people in OH-8 right now about the issues our legislators are currently addressing. In addition, we aim to speak with the people, listen to their concerns and ideas, and educate them on how they can get involved, on how they can lead, and help these new leaders get into Washington as the representatives we need.
JD: To do this, getting people out to vote is going to be very important. How are you doing this?
JDW: We are putting a special emphasis on voters who are not your typical primary voters. We want to educate this particular group about the advantages of participation in the primary process. We feel typical primary voters are already engaged and will have an opinion formed on the Speaker, so we are trying to target non- voters and engage them on the issues arising and hopefully they will feel more informed and become more proactive in the primary voting. Unfortunately we have a large number of registered voters who do not vote in our district. I feel this will become one of our strengths because it will help unite different voices through the education we provide them. We need to show people on both sides how they can participate and really push for change in Washington.
JD: The site I work with is aimed at the under 30’s market and trying to get them engaged and interested in politics? Have you any thoughts on how to do this?
JDW: Absolutely. It drives me crazy when the RNC and other groups come out and tell us how we are going to target the youth vote and how we need to tailor a message to them. However as a teacher I can tell you that all they hear is “we need to find another way to tell you what you should do” and that is the last thing any young person is interested in. So how do we engage the youth? We listen to them, let them tell us what concerns they have, and we can then frame our answers to their concerns and we can build up a relationship with them. However, you will never build that relationship if you continue down the path acting and thinking like you know what their concerns are and imposing your thoughts on them – because that is just condescending and another form of you telling them you know better. Then when we address their concerns, we really need to build them up not only as a person but also as a LEADER and give them responsibilities, so we are all working towards a common goal.
JD: We now live in a world where young people are routinely mocked and are billed as only having interest in shows like Saturday Night Live, want to drink, have sex and have access to pot. Do you think that is a fair reflection?
JDW: Absolutely not. Young people have something in common with every Conservative; they just want to be left alone and don’t want to be told what to do. They want access to freedoms they are granted to them by the Constitution. They may view things differently and may not have the same interest in items like budgets and different acts, but deep down we do share a common cause. Everything in today’s world has political influence such as gas prices and we need to frame our argument in those terms. We need to educate them on how politics works, and we need them to educate us with new approaches to these political issues.
JD: So what do you believe is the biggest difference between how a politician operates today and how you feel they should be operating and how will that help in returning America to its former glory?
JDW: One of the biggest problems we have is the creation of ideas. Washington has such a high rate of returning elected officials to office and they always seem to read from the same play book and use the same ideas except that they re-packaged and re-spin in different ways. However, I believe the ideas need to come from politicians meeting with the people they represent, discussing their issues and ways of fixing them and then returning to Washington and putting forth such ideas for discussion. I believe if we actually return to a true from of representative government, Washington will not only improve the way it operates but also ideas coming from the people will help turn this magnificent country around.
JD: Do you believe America’s Best Days are still ahead of her and if so what needs to happen to ensure they are?
JDW: I believe they can be. I am young and I know the America I live in today is not the same as the one I grew up learning about. I got involved with this group because I still believe America can be great. However this will require a lot of education, a lot of effort, a lot of listening, and the correct representatives in Washington and I also know that if the people don’t fight for it to be that way, we’ll never see the America I was raised to love. We must fight. I may be only one person, but I know and believe I can make a difference because there is still that part of America alive that allows one person to bring about great change.
JD: Last question, how can someone get involved?
JDW: If you are based in Ohio, you can go to our website, www.ohioaccountabilityproject.org, or like us on Facebook, and send us a message; we would love to hear from you. However if you are in another state you can still help us with our representation in OH-8 by sharing the website, share the Facebook page, and donate to our cause. In addition, please get involved in your local Liberty or Tea Party groups and help elect officials who will represent you.