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June 25, 2008

EDITORS NOTE: Anne Northup will lose badly and leave politics forever

I hesitate to devolve like this, but I feel, given the present circumstance, that I must. This is a column about gas prices and, perhaps more importantly, although I’m still unsure about that, the people who believe vaingloriously that they have the ability to dramatically affect them. People like Anne Northup and those who buy any of what she was selling in an oblique op-ed in The Courier-Journal a couple weeks ago. 

Northup’s campaign has introduced a one-dimensional “energy policy”: drill for oil on our own land so that we may achieve a temporary spike in supply and lower gas prices. She unveiled it two weeks ago during a press conference outside a gas station, a high-profile appearance in Southwestern Louisville, which she obviously thinks (probably rightly) she needs to win overwhelmingly to have a chance at unseating her new rival, Democrat John Yarmuth, in November. She appeared with Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins, R-25, and state Sen. Dan Seum, a pair of legislators who are, kindly, outside the mainstream of her party. 

Anne the Outsider. What a concept. 

She must think those South Enders are brain-dead. What an insult, to stand in front of a gas station owned by one of the wealthiest families in Louisville — one of your biggest campaign contributors — and act like you’re some populist baby Jesus who’s returned to save everyone from four bucks a gallon. Not only is this “policy” feather-light on intellect, but it is a dangerous, stupid and purely political approach to the energy question, which will require manifold real-life solutions, not the lip service Northup has paid to her party’s minority view of a balanced, multi-level federal energy agenda. 

But Northup is no idiot, and her scandalous behavior has always been shrouded in a cloak of apathy, mostly because she is not sexy as a candidate and neither are her causes. She is all business, a shrewd political animal who will never deny herself the pleasure of attacking an opponent. Like the leopard, she is an opportunistic hunter. Consider this striking example, from The C-J op-ed: 

“We know where the major reserves of clean, light and easy-to-refine crude oil are located. Even though a majority of people in this country believe we can harvest our oil in an environmentally safe manner, this Congress seems to be too frightened of an environmental lobby that has become increasingly irrational.” 

In two sentences, Northup makes it appear as if the Democratic Congress is engaged in some sort of conspiracy against the American people, palming the magic bullet to bring down gas prices while everyone is crawling around on the floor searching for it. She invokes some fanciful tie between environmentalism and the refining of oil, calls the Democrats a bunch of pussies and plays to her Republican base, loyal and ready to feed on the flesh of the treehuggers who insist on keeping our gas prices high. 

Not bad. 

Thing is, it’s aimed at people who don’t think much about politics and elections, and who seize on an issue without trying to understand it. Sadly, those people are particularly susceptible to this type of political bile right now because so many are obsessed with the idea that high gas prices are not the result of their crippling addiction to oil but some vague, motivated political campaign. I guess I’m saying they’re high. 

I don’t think the Democrats will do much to bring down gas prices, mostly because — like the Republicans — they can’t. We, the people, are the problem, and we’re being played. A gallon of gas here still costs less than anywhere else in the industrialized world. But we’ve never been a people interested in making such comparisons. It’s far too ugly. 

If you want a change, stop buying the same thing. Cut out the five-minute trips. Ride a bike. Take the bus. Walk. Buy your vegetables from a farmer’s market, rather than paying into the system that is shipping your stuff halfway across the world at four bucks a gallon. 

And why not go ahead and drill our own reserves? It is the zenith of American arrogance and empiricism to expect the rest of the world to provide our oil fix, and in fact to go to war for it. It’s like coal and Kentucky: America gets a relatively cheap flow of electricity because coal companies are allowed to rape places like Kentucky and West Virginia to mainline the cheap bituminous. 

That’s no energy policy, and neither is some undercooked populist message about lowering gas prices. Wake up. 


Contact the writer at 

sgeorge@leoweekly.com