Man holding sign in front of Statehouse

There’s been plenty to be grateful for in 2021, but like many things in our American democratic republic, the wheels of progress move slow and 2020 kept its claws dug into the year that followed it. Frankly, we should have known this was going to happen when six days into the new year, the world watched as an insurrection and near-constitutional crisis played out on live TV, all due to the results of the 2020 presidential election. Many of us will never forget where we were on that weirdly historic day. I was flipping back and forth from C-SPAN –– to watch Congress count the Electoral College votes –– to One America News Network, which was the only station airing a peculiar rally (in full!) that President Trump was holding on The Mall. I remember the cameras were only aimed at the stage so I couldn’t see how many people were in the crowd, but slowly the two networks’ coverage merged together and I could see that unlike his inauguration four years before, Trump finally did attract a crowd to D.C.

Yes, if January 6th wasn’t a giant red flag with TRUMP 2020 written all over it, then I don’t know what was. Since then, 2020 has continued to rear its ugly little head both nationally and locally whenever it could, from the continuing COVID crisis to the rampant corruption in Columbus. Meanwhile, the Ohio Republican Party’s inept U.S. Congressmen (with the exception of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who is retiring) and their supermajority in the Statehouse continue to do nothing to address the real problems. Instead, Republicans are obsessed with red meat issues for their rabid base, like abortion and critical race theory. They’ve also begun the process to actually rig elections –– just like they’ve baselessly accused the Democrats of doing in 2020 –– by drawing the most gerrymandered congressional and Statehouse maps in Ohio history, all while attempting to gut Ohioans’ access to safe and legal voting. But don’t worry! There’s also been plenty to be grateful for and I’ll try to get to that in a minute.

However, it’s also probably worth noting that in December 2020 –– nearly six months after the Department of Justice announced their investigation into the biggest corruption scandal in Ohio history regarding the drafting, passing and defending of HB 6 –– I went to testify in front of the House Energy Committee at the Ohio Statehouse against a bill that would only begin to look into repealing the $1.5 billion bailout to FirstEnergy’s outdated nuclear plants, a bill that many folks felt did not go far enough. Since then, the Ohio Republican supermajority has thankfully repealed those nuclear plant bailouts, but only because FirstEnergy’s lobbyists told legislators that the company no longer wanted them, due to the federal government’s investigation. Heck, even the indicted former Speaker of the House –– ol’ Larry Householder –– voted for the bill. Fortuantely, the House finally went further and voted to expel Householder from the legislature in June 2021, but then proceeded to not repeal any other parts of HB 6.

So one year later, the same multi-partisan alliance that got hundreds of “REPEAL HB6” yard signs out around Ohio throughout the fall of 2020 joined together in-person (for the first time!) in December 2021 to hand-deliver stockings full of coal to our legislators in the House and State Senate. Our hope was to encourage them to finally repeal the costly Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) coal plant bailouts that were put in place by HB 6 as well. After all, if the process to get HB 6 passed was so corrupt that the company (which funneled $61 million to various Ohio politicians and lobbyists) decided it no longer wanted the money AND the man who got HB 6 passed was expelled from the Statehouse, surely Ohio Republicans would understand that the rest of HB 6 should be on the chopping block as well, right? Apparently not. So now the biggest scandal of 2020 will remain alive after 2021. But don’t worry! There’s also been plenty to be grateful for and someday I’ll try to get to that.

I guess it just gets kinda hard to focus on the good things when so many bad things keep happening and not getting addressed. From a white nationalist insurrection to the biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history, several messes from 2020 still didn’t get fixed in 2021, so now the work continues in 2022. As always, all we can do is roll up our sleeves and keep on rolling on, because many of us want to create a better future for our country and Ohio. Somebody’s gotta do it, because the folks in charge sure ain’t.