Gas, Alas!

If you haven’t been to the filling station lately, I’ve got some bad news for you:  gas prices are spiking, again.

At our local Duke gas station, the price for a gallon of regular is creeping ever closer to the dreaded $4.00 mark.  And even if you go to Giant Eagle and get your advantage card discount, $60.00 fill-ups have become distressingly commonplace.

Increasing gas prices are a powerful downer, because there’s no realistic way to avoid them — unless, like the Bus-Riding Conservative, you live close to a bus line and are willing to conform your schedule to the timetable for the no. 4 bus, or the predictability of your work schedule allows you to car pool.  For most of us suburbanites, those aren’t realistic options.  Driving our car in to work and back every day is a necessary part of the daily routine, and the price of gas hits us directly in the pocketbook.  If, like me, you need to gas up about once a week, the difference between $2.50 a gallon gas and $4.00 a gallon gas quickly becomes more than chump change.  Add to that the increases in prices of groceries and other commodities that are delivered by gas-guzzling trucks, and the impact becomes even worse.

As far as the politics go — and in a presidential election year, everything has to be viewed through a political lens, doesn’t it? — President Obama’s allies will argue that greedy, gouging oil companies are to blame, and Republicans will contend that if President Obama had allowed more aggressive oil exploration and domestic production, the increased supply would have materially lowered the price by now.  And those who live in large urban areas and don’t use cars, anyway, probably aren’t go to feel much of a pinch.

But those of us in the heartland, where many of the “battleground” states are found, are feeling the pain.  It’s aggravating to go to the pump, see those numbers whiz by in a blur, and realize another $60 has flown out of your wallet.  My guess is that angry, frustrated voters aren’t a good thing for the incumbent.

Independents’ Day Is Coming

Every year in mid-September a bunch of independent, local organizations come to Gay Street, right in front of our buildings, for a festive day of food, fun, and music.  The street and adjoining alleys are blocked off and filled with tents, food trucks, and multiple music stages.  They call it Independents’ Day on Gay.

I first stumbled upon this great event when I was working on a Saturday and heard some commotion outside my window, and since then I’ve looked forward to it every year.  It’s the kind of community-festival, get-to-know-your-local-organizations, neat-thing-to-do-on-a-sunny-Saturday-afternoon thing that makes Columbus a great place — and also helps to cement Gay Street’s strong rep as the coolest street in downtown Columbus.

This year’s Independents’ Day is Saturday, September 15.  36 musical acts performing live, many with great names (such as The Alpine Ghost, Forest & the Evergreens, and Skashank Redemption, among many others)!  Food trucks galore!  Stand-up comedians!  Crafters and artists!  Local organizations that help to make our city a better place to live!  Street dancing!  Perhaps even a mime or two!

Mark your calendars.

The GOP’s Diversity Conundrum

Many commentators made fun of the Republican Party at its convention last week, lampooning the fact that the diversity of the speakers really doesn’t match the diversity of party membership.  The parade of African-Americans, Latinos, and women, they argued, was like a Potemkin Village designed to mask a party that lacks meaningful diversity.

GOP congressional candidate Mia Love

The diversity issue is an obvious challenge for the GOP.  It’s hard to imagine any party having long-term success if it must begin each election by writing off large, growing segments of the American populace because those segments think the party has no interest in them and nothing to offer them.  The only way for Republicans to overcome that perception, I think, is to show that there are diverse members of the party who have been successful.  It’s a lot easier to convince people to check out your tent if they can peek inside and see a few friendly faces.

And it’s not as if the convention speakers weren’t accomplished in their own right.  The Republicans don’t have to reach down to the county level to find successful Latinos, African-Americans, and women; the diverse speakers at last week’s convention included sitting governors and Senators, a former Secretary of State, and current candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives.  They were an impressive bunch — and if, like me, you were unaware of people like Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval, the governor of Nevada, Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, or Mia Love, a congressional candidate from Utah, it was a bit of a revelation.

The stories these folks told about their families, and the opportunities that they were able to enjoy in America through hard work and sacrifice, were compelling — and might actually cause wavering diverse voters to pause and question whether the Republican Party is worth a look. The themes of sacrifice, and hard work, and America as the land of opportunity run deep in families that have immigrated to this country during the last few generations.  I’m guessing that Latinos and other recent immigrants who watched any of the convention learned to their surprise that they had a lot in common with the speakers behind the podium.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez

I don’t think Democrats are in danger of losing their stranglehold on African-American and, to a lesser extent, Latino voters this year, but if I were a Democrat I’d be wondering how my party lost a member like Susana Martinez.  Martinez had the tough assignment of following Condoleezza Rice and preceding Paul Ryan on Wednesday night, and she rose to the occasion and gave a terrific, memorable speech.  She began her political life as a Democrat, like her parents before her, and one day she and her husband were invited to lunch by two Republicans whom she suspected would raise the issue of joining the GOP.  The Martinezes went to the lunch out of politeness and talked with the two Republicans about issues like welfare and the size of government.  After the lunch ended, an astonished Martinez turned to her husband and said:  “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans!”

The GOP is hoping that, if it continues to produce and then feature office-holders and candidates of the quality of Susana Martinez and the other people who stood before the Republican convention, it won’t be long before many more diverse Americans realize, with a start, that they also should be Republicans.  Based on what I saw last week, that strategy just might work.