Berning Down The House

Last month a family member made a contribution to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.  It was one of the donations that allowed Sanders to raise an astonishing $40 million, plus, in February.

cdn-r88r-w855h425The $40 million number is particularly remarkable because it no doubt came from tens of thousands of contributions from individual people, and it came at a time when the pundits would have us believe that Sanders is finished and Hillary Clinton is the inevitable Democratic Party nominee.  But my family member didn’t care what the pundits were saying.  The idea was to send a tangible expression of strong support for Sanders, because he is talking about issues of importance to many and because he is willing to tilt at the prevailing political windmills.  The donation, it was hoped, would show that there are a lot of people out there who like what Bernie Sanders is doing and how he is doing it, and hope that he continues the fight.

I’m not a fan of Bernie Sanders’ positions on the issues, but I’m glad a member of the extended Webner clan stepped up to participate in the political process and didn’t get dissuaded by the pundits’ predictions of a lost cause.  I’m tired of the pundits and the political elites trying to prematurely shovel dirt on candidates because of a few results from a few states that aren’t exactly representative of the country as a whole.  We aren’t sheep!  We need more people who are willing to state their views and, from time to time, put their money where their mouth is.  The Democratic and Republican campaigns aren’t over — yet.  The people still will get to have their say.

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Off Tracks

IMG_0612The train tracks come into Columbus from the south.  At night we regularly hear the whistles moan as the trains approach the downtown area.  As the cars rattle past German Village, they roll underneath the Whittier Street overpass.

The overpass has a tightly meshed fence that keeps the passersby away from the tracks and makes it impossible to get an unobstructed picture of the trains as they rumble by.  It’s an apt physical sign of Columbus’ circumstances when it comes to trains.  We are serviced by freight trains galore, but we’re blocked from boarding any passenger trains.  If you live in Columbus and want to take a train trip, you need to drive about a hundred miles south or a hundred miles north — because neither Amtrak nor any other passenger rail line stops in Ohio’s capital city.

midwest-rail-map-2015-revsIf you look at a passenger rail service map, you can see Columbus’ isolation.  It’s there smack dab in the middle of Ohio, far away from any of the operating rail stations.  Even with efforts underway to increase passenger rail service in other cities, when it comes to trains Columbus is nowhere.

It didn’t use to be that way.  If you talk to old-timers, they’ll tell you about Union Station, which used to anchor the northern edge of downtown Columbus, and how you could catch an interurban train to other cities in Ohio, take a long cross-country trip, or even book a ride on a special car that took Ohio State football fans up to Ann Arbor for the games against That Team Up North.  But now Union Station is demolished, its classical entrance arch has been reconstructed in a park in the Arena District, and the train trips from Columbus are a distant memory.  At some point, when the superhighways and the airports had taken away many of those former passengers, train travel became uneconomical, and somebody decided that Columbus really didn’t need passenger trains anymore.

Now we just hear the trains, and it’s a lonesome, sad sound.