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Is A/C to Blame for D.C.'s Mess?

February 6, 2012
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One of the things we in the industry are especially happy about is air conditioning. It keeps us cool in the summer, allowing us to be more comfortable at home and more productive as work if we have indoor jobs. It is invaluable in hospitals and nursing homes and extremely important in stores and restaurants. The list goes on and on.

And, frankly, we in the industry like the fact that air conditioning equipment has to be serviced regularly and eventually replaced. It provides us with jobs.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the December 2011 bulletin of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) with this giant headline on the cover: “How Air Conditioning, Cable News, and Thomas Jefferson Created the Mess in Washington.”

My first thought was that air conditioning was certainly in interesting company when it came to making a mess.

I could not quite figure out how Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the founding fathers of our country, could be accused of the current problems in Washington, seeing how, in my opinion, most of the current problems result from drifting away from the principles of the Declaration and Constitution.

I had a pretty good idea how cable news got lumped into the mix. First of all, cable news allows politicians more places and more time to babble and, unfortunately, provides them with a larger audience that listens to their babble. (Before I get off this particular soapbox, I would like to add that I have a degree in journalism and spent a number of years working on a daily newspaper before the days of cable news. I know enough about newsgathering and writing fair and balanced stories to know that cable news is hardly fair and balanced, despite what at least one cable source claims.)

How Does A/C Affect Politics?

But what does this have to do with air conditioning? Well, the article in question is specifically titled “What’s Wrong With Washington?” According to the subhead, its premise is: “Should we blame the bombastic cable news hosts, air conditioning, or maybe Thomas Jefferson? Americans are frustrated with what they see as dysfunction in Washington.”

The author claims that one of the problems is a polarization of the population. “This is where the air conditioning comes in,” the author says. “As its use spread, many retirees headed south, and the political makeup of the region became more conservative, making the South more homogeneously Republican and tilting parts of the urban Midwest and Northeast more Democratic.”

I’m not a political scientist so I won’t bother to do an in-depth sorting through all that, other than to say that I’ve traveled through the South considerably during my years at The NEWS and have discovered people of all political bents. In addition, I don’t know what measurements are used for “more Republican” or “more Democratic.”

The main issue seems to be the author’s implication — even if tongue-in-cheek — that politics in Washington would have been better had not people moved to the South. Yes, air conditioning paved the way for growth in Southern California, Arizona, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere, but that growth has contributed to the greatness of our country. That encompasses the economic engines of the big cities of the South; and the access to the natural beauty of places like the coasts of California and Florida, the Red Clay country of Georgia, and might I mention, that place in Arizona called the Grand Canyon.

And to be purely HVAC focused, I think about all the jobs created for those who manufacture, sell, install, and service air conditioning equipment.

So I hardly think you can blame air conditioning for the dysfunctional state of Washington, D.C. I lived in that area while going to high school and college and remember heat and humidity in the summer that rivals anything Georgia or Florida could produce. If life is dysfunctional in Washington with air conditioning, imagine how much worse it would be without air conditioning.

Thomas Jefferson dealt with it by heading to Monticello in the hills of Virginia.

But politicians babbling for cable news today without air conditioning would be doing so with great beads of sweat. Not a pretty sight.

Publication date: 02/06/2012

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