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The story of 2020 is that not much happened and everything happened.

It started as a presidential election year with much at stake and is ending with an existential threat to democracy apparently repelled.

Just when the Democratic Party primaries were heating up in mid-March, many of us got cooled down with what amounted to two months confined to quarters.

The Land of the Free became the Home of the Quarantined.

About the time many of us were running short of toilet paper, Joe Biden was running up the score in the primaries and emerging as the Democratic Party nominee to take on the Mad King, the COVID-19 denier-in-chief and carnival barker telling us a slug of Clorox would kill the virus.

Those of us with a modicum of common sense turned to medical doctors, scientists and public health leaders and followed their advice, often brought to us by trustworthy news reporters and commentators.

We started wearing masks way before Halloween this year and we began washing our hands way more often than before meals.

To many, social distancing was a new concept. Not to me. I first experienced it at junior high school dances.

Jobs disappeared overnight. Wealth disappeared overnight. Our dispositions disappeared overnight.

We avoided human contact and communicated by email, texts, phone and Zoom. Family members and friends were off limits unless we were masked and outdoors. Many of us dined out, outdoors only.

The presidential election was between two people, the kinds most of us knew in high school. The personable, caring, popular, smart, athletic guy that treated everybody with respect (Joe Biden) against the spoiled, entitled, arrogant, poor little rich boy who hired out his homework, treated us as servants, exploited women, and whose daddy's money kept him out of trouble (the Mad King).

The latter surrounded himself with mask-less sycophants at White House gatherings and eventually came down with COVID-19 as did many of his associates, even Secret Service agents.

While many Americans were dying from the coronavirus, the Mad King got country club-style medical treatment and recovered quickly.

The Mad King and his minions tried with little success to throw Biden off stride with harangues at the debates, false accusations about his son Hunter, and packs of lies delivered by social networks.

One thing the Mad King did right was to campaign non-stop making 4-5 stops a day for the last two weeks while Biden made limited appearances including a futile trip to Ohio.

The Mad King gained a little in the closing days, but it was too little and too late. Biden won 81 million votes to his foe's 74 million though it took four days for a winner to be declared.

Many Ohioans In The Grip Of Ignorance And Irrationality

A post-mortem question: Why was it so close that 65,000 changed votes in three states would have swung it to the Mad King?

The answer can be found in a recent column by Max Boot, an historian and reporter who writes a column for the Washington Post.

The headline said it all: "No vaccine can end America's pandemic of ignorance and irrationality."

Boot wrote: "The good news is that roughly two-thirds of the country inhabits the land of facts, where information comes from mainstream media. The bad news is that at least one-third live in a la-la-land of 'alternative faces' and 'fake news,' where the most trusted sources of information are Fox News and Facebook. ... (Irrationality) appears much more prevalent on the political right, where so many deny both climate change and the coming change of administration."

I would add that Ohio seems to have a higher percentage of irrational and poorly informed residents than the norm. That at least partially explains why the Mad King carried Ohio by 8 percent for the second Presidential election in a row and why political pundits now agree that Ohio is no longer a battleground state, but rather a Republican stronghold.

Further evidence of Ohio's descent into know-nothing-ism comes from the announcement that Gov. Mike DeWine recently authorized the spending of $24 million on a public relations campaign to educate the Ohio public about masks, social distancing and cleanliness.

Even after nearly 10 nine months of coronavirus hell, large numbers of irrational and ignorant Ohioans must be begged to follow the rules and sent masks in the mail to hammer home the point.

Did you get your masks? I got mine. I already had a drawer full.

My Changing 2022 Democratic Lineup Adds Mike Coleman

I left a big Democratic name off my list of 2022 statewide possibilities last month. That is none other than 4-term Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman. He once aspired to be governor. He has Barack Obama on speed-dial. He has made a lot of money as a private attorney in the 5 years since he left office and is no less vigorous. Coleman is dynamite on TV and he knows how to raise greenbacks.

Gov. DeWine deserves high marks for his handling of the pandemic, but the Republican right is itching to primary him with the Mad King egging them on. DeWine's problems include getting lots of campaign contributions from scandal-plagued First Energy, his inability to gain repeal of the discredited House Bill 6, his need to confront tough budget decisions including a possible tax hike, and him being stuck in the middle of the  ever-controversial redistricting process. DeWine may be more vulnerable than his current high approval rating indicates.

I now see Coleman for governor and Dr. Amy Acton for lieutenant governor as the best ticket. I am sliding Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval from the governor's race to the one for secretary of state. I am sticking with Steve Dettelbach for attorney general, Zach Klein for auditor and Connie Pillich for treasurer.

To quash dull-bucket Rob Portman's Senate re-election, I am going full counterintuitive. I am backing former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper. They both are white males and both are from Cincinnati. Pepper has lost twice statewide. Portman, who has won statewide twice, is a fund-raising maniac. Yet after 5 years as state chair, Pepper knows Ohio's nooks and crannies like the back of his hand. To know him is to like him. No Ohio politician has more intellectual horsepower than Pepper, nobody will work harder and nobody is as good on TV as he is.


 -- How sad. The New York Times print deadline is now later than the local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch. If a sporting event or news item does not occur by 4 p.m., it wilnot be in the next day's Dispatch. The Times's deadline is early evening.

-- Meanwhile, the Dispatch runs more and more content from its sister newspaper, USA Today. Everybody knows that USA Today often rewrites news that breaks in the New York Times,Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, then publishes it a day later. So when theDispatch runs an article from USA Today, the news is not the usual two days old. It is three days old.

-- Furthermore, the Dispatch is reducing the articles it carries from the Times and Post in favor of the older (and cheaper) USA Today ones. And the Dispatch's editorial section has shrunk to one page most days with little locally generated content, unless you count letters to the editor.

-- More evidence that the Dispatch is trying to kill the daily newspaper habit in Columbus: Copies of the Dec. 31 Dispatch AND the Jan. 1 Dispatch were delivered to my house the morning of Dec. 31.

-- My thanks to the Free Press's Bob Fitrakis, host of The Other Side of the News on WCRS-FM, which is part of the Free Press Network, for the opportunity to discuss media and politics on his Dec. 18 show. My thanks to Suzanne Patzer for arranging it. It was both stimulating and fun.

Happy New Year, dear readers, and here's to a better 2021!

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,  

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