Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on the old...anticipating the new (updated)

That's what we do at this time of year, isn't it? Reflect on the old and anticipate the new.

As many have already noted, when I reflect on 2011 I think the thing that will stand out the most is that it was a very bad year for dictators and terrorists. No one can doubt that the Sunday night when President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden will go down in the history books as a signature moment.

Beyond that, it was a turning point politically for the President. He will forever have the upper hand when Republicans try to bring up the old canard about weak Democrats on foreign policy.

It seems to me that the other story of the year is the progress made in the arena of equal rights for gays/lesbians. The big changes there were the certification of the end of DADT and the affirmation of gay marriage in New York. But lets not forget that 2011 was also the year when gay marriage was finally supported by the majority of Americans.

Finally, the big story in terms of politics was the extent to which Republicans were willing to hold the country hostage to their extremist demands. While a media narrative developed that the Democrats caved in those situations, I don't buy it. Without letting the Republicans hurt/kill the hostage (usually the economy), I'd suggest that instead, the Democrats outsmarted the Republicans over and over again. And by the end of the year, it was the later who caved.

In anticipation of 2012, there are a few things I'll be keeping my eye on.

Of course the Republican primary and eventual election in November will be the obvious big stories next year. My distrust of conventional wisdom has me a bit doubtful that the end result will be all about the economy. I'm sure it will play a big role. But I also suspect that unanticipated events will happen in the next 11 months (which is an eternity for our instant gratification culture) that are likely to have an impact. For example, who would have predicted things like OWS and the death of bin Laden 12 months ago? So hang on to your hats and work your tails off on this one!

As I've suggested before, I suspect that a big story in 2012 will be how the Republicans are going to deal with the looming cuts to the defense budget as a result of the debt ceiling deal and what will happen to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts - both are set to kick in on Jan. 1, 2013. It will be interesting to watch if they revert to their hostage-taking strategy of 2011 to get these done after it failed so completely on the payroll tax extension. While everyone else is speculating about a weakened Speaker Boehner, I'll be keeping my eye on Minority Leader McConnell. He's the strategist who's likely to set the stage in the upcoming Congressional battles.

The Supreme Court ruling on health care reform is likely to be one of the biggest stories of 2012. Its hard to know how to predict which way that one will go. While some conservative judges in the lower courts have surprised us this year with their affirmation, our current SCOTUS is terribly politicized and tends to lean rightward. Just keep in mind that if they rule against the individual mandate - the whole thing collapses. I don't see a median ruling as possible. So its all in or over. Either one will create tremendous backlash. If it goes down, all those who have benefited will loose and if its upheld, the right will scream bloody murder about activist courts.

Finally, whether its mentioned in the news media or not, we will continue our long struggle with racism in this country. I don't expect much news to happen next year when it comes to common sense immigration reform. That will likely have to wait for President Obama's re-election combined with more Democrats in Congress. But the Latino vote in 2012 will be heard and the battle between the nativists and rationalists within the Republican Party over this one will continue. I suspect it will look and sound very different once it comes time to pivot from the primaries to the general election. I don't, however, expect Latinos to be fooled.

Knowing that the only hope for Republicans in the 2012 election will mean limiting President Obama to less than 40% of the White vote, I do expect that all of our ears will be ringing from the dog whistles going off. You can be sure I'll be watching for and documenting all of that in the year ahead.

OK, that's enough of the serious stuff. Now its on to partee like its 199...(oops) 2012!

UPDATE: One other prediction for 2012: I suspect that we'll all need to get our groove on (so shoot me, I'm old) practicing that dance craze Obama started in 2008...brush your shoulders off.

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