Columbus Dispatch building

If anyone—that is, the relatively few Columbus residents who pay attention—had any doubts, the election results and the self-celebration of the re-elected seal the anti-democratic, anti-publics deal.

Consider these facts:

The “mayor” in name only—who accepts his unearned, increased salary for not doing his job, not knowing the city, and accepting no responsibility for anything—ridiculously proclaims:

“The Columbus Century” and “the sun is always rising in Columbus.”

As a historian, I should be stunned. But I know better than that. Despite his private developers and private interest group funded campaign war-chest of more than $1.5 million dollars (likely closer to $2 million) and City Hall staff working for his  campaign including appearances in ads, Ginther ignorantly borrows on political economic rhetoric of the late 19th and early 20th century of “the American—and many other--‘centuries.’” This echoes the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in the 1890s. It is not the metropolitan rhetoric of the 21st century.

Why can’t Andy and the City of Columbus hire a qualified advertising agency or PR firm? They spend more than enough!

Of course, neither Andy nor anyone else in City employment—or anyone, anywhere—has any idea what they mean by “The Columbus Century.” To begin: is this good, bad, or indifferent? No one knows. To quote a popular phrase of the late 20th century: “come on, man!”

As a scholar and writer for more than 50 years, I must also ask: if “the sun is always rising in Columbus,” does that mean that it has never—and perhaps will never—actually rise? From what elevation and angle is it “rising?” It matters.

Andy, can you tell me? Have you checked with meteorologists, climatologists, astronomers, even astrologers? Looked for the sun’s reflection in the Scioto Creek or the environmentally destructive, never to be built Rapid-5? Or the drained pond on the OSU campus?

Revealingly, neither Andy and his “team” nor the local media can explain Andy’s purchased re-election based on a campaign of lies and distortions, and refusal to appear publicly with his legitimate community-based Democratic challenger, Joe Motil.

Andy sputters, reported in the no-longer daily, USA Today distantly-owned advertising rag, the non-news Columbus Dispatch: that his “pro-growth policies that have pushed the Columbus economy and skyline forward” account for his victory, and that they will continue. (Nov. 9, 2023)

As I ask repeatedly in these pages: what policies other than giveaways in multiple forms with no programs and no measures of accountability to private interests? Whose “economy and skyline” move “forward.” Nothing concrete, or any other material of substance.  Certainly not in the physical skyline. There is no evidence. Other that is, than a thin unimpressive not rising “skyline,” an empty downtown, an unsafe city, and broken streets and sidewalks.

All that is visible. That is, if anyone from “mayor” to re-elected with scant opposition “city councilors” all continuing to be elected at large. Is the Dispatch teasing us when it publishes: “New ‘residential district’ Columbus council map returns familiar results” (Nov. 9, 2023)?

First, these are not “residential districts.” Second, how could it be otherwise? In technical terms, this is  a “fix” and a “fraud” perpetrated on the peoples of the City. Period.

With no evidence—who in Columbus cares about facts?—the Dispatch avers “Ginther’s anti-crime campaign helps secure third term.” By “anti-crime campaign,” the reporter can only mean empty slogans and uncontrolled distortion of a few of Joe Motil’s statements ripped completely out of context.

There is no concrete “anti-crime” anything. Ginther reduced CPD, has no coordinated and accountable programs. He has photo ops and truly offensive rhetoric. Columbus is a demonstrably unsafe city from lack of communication to poorly trained safety officers, broken physical environment, gross rising inequalities touching every aspect of the facts of real human lives, let along gun and interpersonal violence.

Language matters. But one would never know that in City Hall, City Comms, or any local media.

Moreover, can no one in the media do simple arithmetic? We know that no one in City Hall can. Andy, council, and especially the Michaels--Stevens and Brown--take great pains to demonstrate that.

Ginther won re-election by a 2 to 1 margin. Ginther outspent Motil by an almost certain ratio of 100 to 1. (Far more than 50 to 1, as Dispatch reported—an enormous difference in itself). That is a terrible return on the dollar of those private interests who invested in Andy’s re-election. That speaks to the public and private investment to return strategies of the Columbus Way.

Andy’s campaign won by breaking all the rules of ethics, honesty, and truth in advertising. None of the TV media will acknowledge this because they were paid well to air dishonest ads. Andy spammed our mailboxes and telephone lines with uncontrolled dishonest mailings and intrusive, barely intelligible calls despite repeated requests to stop.

But in the end, the proof that distastefully tops the poisonous pudding of corrupt, anti-publics, anti-democratic Columbus: significantly lower turnout for the mayor’s (and city council’s largely uncontested) elections than, dramatically, for Issue One on abortion and women’s rights.

Although math instructor Bill Lyons is still compiling final data from the several counties  whose parts fall within the city, it is clear that Issue One attracted at least 12-15, and possibly as many as 20%, more voters than the mayoralty contest. (My thanks to Bill Lyons)

That is a damning indictment of the anti- (much more than un-) democratic) Columbus Way.

Will it ever change? Not if past is prologue….


Harvey J. Graff is Professor Emeritus of English and History, inaugural Ohio Eminent Scholar in Literacy Studies, and Academy Professor, Ohio State University. Author of many books, most recently he published Searching for Literacy: The Social and Intellectual Origins of Literacy Studies (2022). My Life with Literacy: The Continuing Education of a Historian. The Intersections of the Personal, the Political, the Academic, and Place is forthcoming. “Reconstructing the new ‘uni-versity’ from the ashes of the ‘multi- and mega-versity’” is in progress.