That Was Quite a Year!

Politics (and Its Many Step-Children) Never Had a Dull Day This Year

The Year That Was

I was tenuous about writing this, since when you receive it we will still have five days left in the year and anything could happen. Still, it is almost a wrap for 2022.

Lots of other publications are doing The Year in Review this week. This one is more modest – we are just going to recall a very few but very important things from this year in politics. What a year this has been.

What a year 2023 is likely to be. We are unlikely to get bored anytime soon.

January 6

We have already talked about the remarkably important work done by the January 6 Congressional Committee. By the way, the New York Times just published one of the best things I have read all year, about the behind the scenes work of the committee. It is a riveting story of the highest level. Read it; you will be glad you did, I promise.

But in spite of that good news, we would do well to remind ourselves that domestic extremism and terrorism are here, now, and in depth, as demonstrated on January 6. The FBI has been warning us for some time. Now we can all see it ourselves. This we need to address like the threat it is. No mercy, no quarter to defeat this and force its advocates back under their rocks.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

 They went far better than almost anyone hoped (well, except for Republicans). The elections were peaceful, with heavy turnout just about everywhere. Some nut jobs got elected, but most of them went down to defeat. In no small part, that happened because more people than might have been expected were paying attention. They watched the January 6 Committee hearings. They heard President Biden’s call to defend democracy.

This is why democracy, for all its frustrating elements (messy, often short term focused, subject to abuse, etc.) is still the best way to govern. For all its faults, it has at its core the ability to self-correct. Autocracies and dictatorships do not. Just ask Putin.

And something that got lost in the headlines – a remarkably diverse freshman class is coming into Congress and other elected positions. Starting, ever so slowly, to look more like America. That is a good thing.

Trump’s Inevitable Decline

I noted when Trump finally left the White House that it was the beginning of the end for him. This appears to be the case; the pace will only increase. The disastrous effect he had for Republicans in the midterms, the long list of civil and criminal actions pending, the increasing speaking out by Republicans (still far too few), his non campaign for 2024, and his personal rantings all are leading to a miserable end game for him.

A well-deserved, ignoble end. Karma, baby. The damage he did will be with us for some time, but at least we are about to be done with him personally. I think….

The Early Rise of Potential New Republican Leaders

A lot of people are nervous that the current governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is the new favorite as Trump recedes. Understandable – this guy is as nasty and mean spirited as Trump but is smarter and more capable. Relax – I predict he will not last as a front runner.

I think that will be the case for three reasons. One, he has not yet had the kind of massive and deep probing that comes with lead status. When that happens, the bloom will be off the rose. This guy has much to account for in the coming days, much of it centered around abuse of power and misuse of government.

Two, his personality does not transmit well on a national scale. He has neither the humanity of a Biden or the showmanship of Trump. He will not do well under extended coverage. And three, he is reselling Trumpism under new wraps. The public at large made it clear in the midterms that they have had enough of all that.

This always happens at about this point in an election cycle. People get excited about the new hot candidate early on, only to see them run out of gas. I expect that by the end of 2023, if not before, DeSantis will be another Also Ran and someone else will look like the coming Sure Thing.

BIG Pieces of Legislation Became Law

 The Biden team and Democratic congressional leaders accomplished some major goals in big ticket legislation passed this year.

  • The Inflation Reduction Act is working, hitting on all cylinders (guess I will need a new metaphor to replace cylinders in the EV age). Inflation is getting under control better than any of its opponents dared project and the economy is in great shape.
  • The Chips & Science Act finally puts us on a long overdue path to reestablishing American dominance in computer chips and related fields. The importance of this is hard to overstate.
  • PACT Act for Vets ensures VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. The PACT Act adds to the list of health conditions that are presumed to be caused by exposure to these substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they deserve.
  • Protection of Marriage Act ensure people like Clarence Thomas cannot screw with other people’s lives because of who they choose to marry. It also ensures states recognize such marriages that are carried out in other states.
  • Budget approved for the entire fiscal year, something we rarely see this far out. That legislation did not have everything everyone wanted, but it had a ton of good things in it. Ironic that the two lead negotiators, one from each party, are retiring in January. Freed of political pressure, they did mostly the right thing. How about that! It happened in large measure because enough Republican senators thought it best not to allow their nut-case cousins in the House mess with such fundamental elements of governance. The House will still try to make mischief here, but we all got some breathing room.

A lot else happened to celebrate. Record enrollment under the Affordable Care Act means that less than 8% of the population is missing health insurance – the lowest level ever. NATO is stronger than ever. Putin is on the ropes (still, much risk and danger on this one).  Too little, but we got the first meaningful gun legislation in decades.

The Supreme Court is still running amok, but Justice Brown is having an impact and even this Court may – may – be starting to understand that what the country thinks of the Court is important enough to moderate at least a bit. The upcoming NC case about the power of state legislatures will tell us whether any balance is possible or not.

So, Overall?

All in all, better than we had any reason to expect when this year began. There are serious, serious challenges ahead, both domestically and internationally, some of them potentially catastrophic.

But some encouraging lines are getting clear on the horizon. We might save this democracy yet. Now if we can just save our planet.

A Closing Note

Many of us have enjoyed some very nice holidays, with such experiences continuing for a few days yet. We enjoyed meals out, did some touristy type things, got a movie or two, etc. And we generally did so with roads kept clear, fire and security services on call, utilities fully operational (or restored) and gracious service. The armed forces never relented on their watch. If we were hurt, medical teams came to the rescue, even if the dead of night on Christmas.

All that happens because a lot of people, most of whom we never see, worked through the holidays to the rest of us could relax, be safe and enjoy. I encourage us all to keep that in mind always, and never miss an opportunity to say “Thanks!” We owe much to others

Happy New Year everyone. Just about 680 days until Election Day 2024. Let’s get to work.

         Bill Clontz

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3 replies to That Was Quite a Year!

  1. Good recap Bill. Much needed outline of where we have been and a positive look at the potential future. The work does start now.

  2. Bill, as you know, it’s rather easy to lose sight of the forest when you live closely among the trees. I much appreciate your forest level summary of the Biden Bills passed. And this appreciation applies also to the many other issues you review. To your clear eyes I owe a great big THANKS! Best regards, ~ Tom

    • Now that is high praise from a valued colleague! Thanks, Tom. We all try to sort this stuff out, don’t we?

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