Columbus, Ohio: Flying into Peru in the aftermath of a series of hella-days, it was hard for me not to wonder what was now ranging loose and at large in the world.
Without doubt, part of this is provoked by the every four year festival of folly that seems to typify an Inauguration and its excess. One tries to be a good sport, but there is no doubt that I was not the only one rooting for the snow. I may not know who you are, but I know you are out there!
I had left Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday morning before dawn with the snow flurry’s flying. Nearly an hour of deicing was necessary to get us off and running — and one doesn’t begrudge a minute of that work or envy the poor working stiff out there waving in the frigid breeze with a power washer! — And out of Columbus towards New Orleans again.
I had been back in Columbus for the first time since before the election, yet the election seemed everywhere in the swirl of discussions in any meeting I attended. I participated in a meeting convened by Dave Regan, President of SEIU’s Local 1199OH/WV/KY, the huge health care local about what it would take to put the pieces together for a progressive opportunity in the 2006 gubernatorial race. To the degree that Ohio has become the “new Florida” and continues to be ground zero in the grassroots fight for a progressive future, the governor’s race is a hot topic on a freezing day. Many were still suffering from post traumatic stress from the last battle even as they planned the next one. The one agreement that was central was that 2006 would be a race that could tilt the table depending on which way it fell.
Later at another meeting in the State Capitol convened by Minority Caucus Leader, Ohio Senator C.J. Prentiss, I joined Florida’s State Senator Tony Hill in telling the story of the great Florida Minimum Wage victory and whether or not this could be a similar opportunity in Ohio and what role ACORN, labor, and others could play. This meeting saw labor’s warhorses, dozens of seasoned politicians, and the usual array of staffers busily taking notes and asking the hard questions, because they wanted to be winners and wanted to feel that they could deliver big time to working and lower income families in Ohio, just as we had experienced in Florida. This meeting was fun. People hung on every word. There was hope.
But it was still cold and it was still snowing, and the inauguration brings another reality back with a fearsome force. We are facing four more years of George Bush and he has a purpose and a conviction that one has to respect and fear no matter how much one may disagree with the direction and the program. Whether he is talking about the USA or the world it is a scary thing and it brings a dread to the day.
The debate goes back and forth. Keeping hope alive, finding unity of forces and purposes, fighting to win another day — these are our touchstones. Ohio is a big, fat middle of the country reminder of how important — and hard — it is all going to be every day of the coming years.