State Sen. Matt Dolan
State Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) was looking to shine. But he couldn’t turn to his party’s conspiracy theory generator for attention-seeking tips. There’s a certain decorum expected when you represent Chagrin Falls. You can’t go all Josh Mandel
and expect to be showered with love.
So Dolan turned to a tried-and-true standby: tax cuts. He wanted $1 billion worth, to be exact. Such heroics would make for a wonderful introduction on the speaking circuit. “And now, the man fighting to save your hard-earned money, Mr. Fabulous himself, Matt Dolan!” With the help of Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), he went about finding ways to pay for them.
Dolan assumed his tony constituents wouldn’t care if he hacked funding for Medicaid and the Department of Jobs and Family Services. These were programs for the poor and struggling, which only made them dependent on Big Government.
Messrs. Dolan and Huffman also turned their sights to a rural broadband initiative. Gov. Mike DeWine had allotted $250 million to bring decent internet to lands without. Believe it or not, there are still places in Ohio where kids sit in idling cars outside libraries to use the Wi-Fi for homework in winter, where stores struggle to run credit cards. Though the vaunted free market is said to rise to meet any need, it hasn’t shown much interest in bringing internet to the countryside. The people are few and the distances far. This is not a recipe for a plump year-end bonus.
Just for fun, Dolan’s bill would also ban towns from launching their own service. In many of these places, Big Telecom does provide a rough facsimile of the internet. It’s just really, really shitty. Like AOL dial-up shitty. Like I Have a Monopoly and Will Not Invest in Your Pathetic Little Town kind of shitty. Dolan is an experienced silver spooner. The tribulations of the little people are not his concern.
What he failed to notice is that rural Ohio now composes the heart of the GOP faithful. The aforementioned conspiracy theories and acts of general weirdness have booted them from their strongholds in the suburbs. The outbacks are all they have left. Dolan was unleashing friendly fire.
After all, you don’t thrive in the year 2021 without the internet. Farmers use it for satellite imagery to gauge moisture on their fields. Small business needs it to run websites, handle orders, tracks shipments. Try stemming the exodus of your young when loading TikTok is a test of wills.
Dolan’s attack also arrived at a particularly inopportune time. If one good thing has emerged from the pandemic, it’s that employers learned people can still work without the benefit of a cubicle. Employees are no longer tethered to homes within commuting range. They can move to places with cheaper housing, a slower pace of life, quainter values. For the first time in a long time, rural Ohio has a chance to lure new residents.
But to work remotely, they need passable internet, if only for the dreaded Zoom meeting. The Gods of Insufferable Work Conditions must be compensated.
Dolan could have picked a better henchman for his assault. In defending the plot, Huffman essentially argued that rural Ohio is too stupid to use the internet. “Simply providing broadband services does not mean that people who may be able to access that will or can access that,” he said. “They still have to have a piece of equipment of some kind — a computer, iPad, whatever it may be — they have to know how to use it. They have to know what happens when it doesn’t work. And for people like me, I don’t know what happens when the thing doesn’t work, I have to ask somebody, and I assume a lot of other Ohioans are just like that.”
Yes, this is the Ohio Senate president talking.
Fortunately, the remainder of the GOP revolted. When all was said and done, they budgeted $250 million for rural broadband, just as DeWine wanted. Had Dolan restricted his assault to the urban, the poor, or those of a non-pink hue, triumph would likely be his. But he’d opened fire on his own. Even amid the weirdness engulfing the Republican Party, some things are still off limits.
The next time Dolan needs attention, he should restrict himself to conspiracies. Perhaps something involving Anthony Fauci and a secret Uruguayan lab. The Fauci thing always works.