The contrast between being in touch with our better angels and being in the grip of the devil is never more pronounced than during the holidays. In that "spirit" for my year-ending column, I offer up several news items followed by an angelic response and a devilish reaction.

Item: The last four Columbus Dispatch editors held a roundtable discussion.

Angel:  What great civic-minded leaders. Medals for all of them.

Devil: One saint, two political hacks, and one lame-duck liquidator.

Item: The legislature passed a convoluted sports betting plan for Ohio that won't start for a year.

Angel: Print up lots of bet slips for Ohioans (mostly men) who follow sports more as a gambling opportunity than for the joy of watching athletic competition. It means more money for schools, too.

Devil: Ohio's plan is a sham, a greasy compromise that likely extracted big donations for Republican legislators to use to retain their seats. Not to mention that slimy provision that lets private schools get their hands on more tax money.

Item: The Dispatch's Darrel Rowland revealed just how bad a shape Ohio Democrats are in by reporting that four years ago statewide candidates already had come forward for all offices compared to today where not a single credible Democrat has announced for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer with the Feb. 2, 2022, filing date looming.

Angel: What's the rush? Six weeks is more than enough time to find credible candidates. Who wants to wreck their career by becoming a sacrificial lamb anyway?

Devil: Even I don't like to kick a toothless political party when it is down. 

Item: Ohio Republicans are fighting like cats and dogs among themselves and can't hold a civil state party meeting without toxic disputes over finances and endorsements.

Angel: Not to worry. The GOP has such dominance over the Buckeye State that it easily can overcome its controversies. Look under: ECOT.

Devil: Is that not evidence that the Republicans are, in fact, doing the work of the devil. To hell with women's rights. To hell with gun regulation. To hell with Democrats.

Item: David Pepper's book "Laboratories of Autocracy,"  in which he details the growing danger to our democracy, is selling like hotcakes.

Angel: Bless David Pepper for doing more for the Democratic Party in one year than most of us do in a lifetime. He has taken the GOP redistricting wrecking crew to task day after day. And he is not state party chair any more. Who is it these days?

Devil: Pepper is shouting from the bridge of a sinking ship. He thinks he is going ride his book and testimony to get elected to statewide office. Not a chance in ... hell.

Item: Politics expert extraordinaire Larry Sabato writes that the Ohio Congressional Redistricting measure passed by the Ohio Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine will have the following outcome if it goes into effect: 9 safe Republican seats, 1 likely Republican, 3 leans Republican and 2 safe Democratic seats.

Angel: It is nothing other than democracy at work with high-minded Republican white men following the dictates of the constitution amendment. I'll see them in church.

Devil: Well, I am always in the details. I have many brilliant lawyers working for me that know how to pettifog, manipulate figures and impute intent. I guess you could say that I am turning up the heat on the Democrats.

Item: The Great Ohio Gerrymander of 2021 has reached the Ohio Supreme Court. Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor appears to be the swing vote on the court that now consists of three Democrats (largely through David Pepper's efforts as state chair) and four Republicans. There are three possible outcomes. One, the court votes for the status quo and the GOP-biased state legislative and Congressional districts stay intact. Two, the court rules them unconstitutional and oversees the creation of fair boundaries (what the voters intended when they passed the constitutional amendments last decade). Three, the court orders some mitigation that narrows the GOP advantage, ends veto-proof Republican majorities in the Ohio House and Senate, and sends 5 or 6 Democrats to Congress.

Angel: Cut the impure motives allegation. The pious Republican leaders want only the best for their fellow citizens and, of course, best means keeping the Republicans in power.

Devil: There is a special Republican hell for Chief Justice O'Connor  if she leaves her flock and sides with the Democrats and, ahem, the vast majority of Ohio citizens. She will not get a big-paying job with a white-shoe GOP law firm after her age-forced retirement and she will not get invited to any good GOP gatherings if she spoils the Grand Old Party's party. Chaos is what Old Luther is about. Nothing like a bitter legal fight to swell my membership.

Item: Aftab Pureval was elected mayor of Cincinnati. The biracial 39-year-old is the first Ohio Democrat since Gov. Dick Celeste to possess the charisma to inspire and win the votes of Democrats, Independents and a few Republicans. He signs correspondence: "Clear eyes, full hearts." If only he would run for governor in 2022.

Angel: Give Aftab a chance to demonstrate his executive abilities in the Queen City and get known around Ohio before sending him against the GOP brigades.

Devil: Run, Aftab, run. You have been on the ballot four of the last five years. Run again in 2022 and the public will quickly find out you are an opportunist and send you packing. You are way too beatific. The devil only wants the worst for you.

Item: Outgoing Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is quickly becoming the sole hope for Ohio Democrats to win the governorship in 2022. He came out swinging against the Public Utilities Commission members who let the likes of First Energy and indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder run wild. If elected, he said he would fire the PUCOs.

Angel: Cranley's methodical ways are not flashy, but Ohioans need honesty and competence in the Statehouse, not gimmicks.

Devil: Has anybody told Cranley that 90 percent of Ohioans have never heard of him. Has anybody told Cranley that Ohioans rarely elect someone governor who has not run statewide before. Has anybody told Cranley that most people in Ohio think Cincinnati is in another state. Don't tell him. The devil likes to see high-minded candidates lose.

December's Campaign 2022 Democratic Scorecard

Tim Ryan is my pick for U.S. Senate for the eighth consecutive month, but he needs to publicly agree to debates with his challenger Morgan Harper and the Ohio Democratic Party needs to coordinate them. Failure to respect Harper would cost Ryan the minority and female votes he needs to win the general election.               

Cranley is starting to break out as the Democrats' best candidate for governor. It is too close for the Feb. 2 filing deadline for any new entries. I am sticking with Columbus Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown for lieutenant governor, too. We need her Dad, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, fully involved in the race.

I'm going retro for other statewide offices. I want the three Democrats, who ran good races in 2018, to try again. That means Cleveland attorney Steve Dettelbach for attorney general, former State Rep. Kathleen Clyde for secretary of state and former U.S. Rep Zack Space for state auditor. Hard-working outgoing Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is fading as a candidate for governor, but deserves the nod for state treasurer.

That's four men and three women, but no minority. I hope that a minority will run for Ohio Supreme Court Justice to add balance to the ticket.


-- Crime-ridden OSU remains a dangerous place to send your daughter. If the crime problem is not remedied, OSU will suffer a major enrollment drop in fall 2022.

-- OSU wants to offer a debt-free bachelor's degree. The only way it can do that is to cut the athletic department in half.

-- Dr. Amy Acton coulda, woulda, shoulda run for statewide office. Someday she will regret not seizing the moment. If she is holding off out of loyalty to Gov. Mike DeWine, she must be reminded that he threw her under the public opinion bus.

-- You can read my recent review and commentary on David Pepper's book in the Columbus Free Press. Book Review: Laboratories of Autocracy By David Pepper | ColumbusFreePress.com

-- You also can read last week's article on how how the Dispatch has lost a third of its readers in four years and is being overtaken by the Columbus TV stations as a local news source. COLUMBUS FREE PRESS EXCLUSIVE Columbus Dispatch Suffers 31% Free-Fall In Circulation/Readership From 2017-2021. Is The End Of The Daily Print Paper Near? Local TV May Have Bigger News Audience | ColumbusFreePress.com

--The Dispatch's sister newspaper, the Lansing State Journal in Michigan, is losing readers just as fast, according to an article in the Lansing City Pulse. It was written by my former student Kyle Kaminski. He quoted me among others. Circulation plummets to all-time low at Lansing State Journal | City Pulse (lansingcitypulse.com)

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman, ColumbusMediaInsider@gmail.com)  

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