Sunday Political Brunch: The Top Political Stories of the Year - December 31, 2017
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor
I had to go overseas to think about this. To clear my head, and view the United States from afar! It’s been a wild year on the political roller coaster. So, let’s “brunch” on the top political stories of the year, in no particular order.
“Trump Trumps Trump” – Love him, or loathe him – and there are plenty of both – but clearly the top political story of the year was Donald J. Trump taking the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States. It’s still surreal. I only know of a few political operatives in either party who truly believed Trump would win. But he defied conventional wisdom; he defied political odds; and, heck he just about defied gravity, but he won. The year has been combative and controversial, with you constantly wondering what he will do, or say next. As a journalist its fascinating, because if nothing else, he generates copy. I’ve never seen anything quite like this in my forty years in the news business.
“Land of the Tweets” – There were a lot of us in the media, as well as in the political party class, and in the political punditry field, that hoped that President Trump would act more “Presidential” and quit the daily, “Trump Tweetfest.” It hasn’t stopped, and I don’t think it will stop. This is a “new normal” for Presidential communications, and as much as people hate it, I bet it becomes an essential part of the new media landscape as the “fireside chat.” I don’t like it, but I can’t fight it.
“Scandal” – The top news story this year, and indeed Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, were the silence breakers. The people who came forward to report sexual abuse, misconduct, assault, harassment, or other forms of abuse. It seems like every day someone from the worlds of politics, entertainment, news media, music, culinary arts, industry, business, high-tech, and beyond are being named and shamed for sexual misconduct in the workplace. It’s remarkable and profound, and will probably change workplaces everywhere, for the better. In politics, it ended the careers of Senator Al Franken, (D) Minnesota; Representative John Conyers, (D) Michigan; Senate nominee Judge Roy Moore (R) Alabama; Representative Joe Barton, (R) Texas; Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) Texas, and more. Even a female Congressional candidate, Andrea Ramsey, Democrat of Kansas, had to withdraw over sexual harassment allegations. Where does it stop?
“Women’s March on Washington (and Elsewhere)” – Speaking of which, one of the people accused of, (and in some cases admitting sexual misbehavior), was candidate, and now President Donald Trump. The release of the “Access Hollywood” tapes a month before the election in 2016 was seen by many pundits (including me) as the end of the Trump campaign. It wasn’t; he won anyway. The outrage prompted a huge women’s march on Washington, DC, as well as in many cities across the nation. The backlash is still being felt. The ouster of Senator Al Franken (D) Minnesota, and his replacement by Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, (D) Minnesota, means the U.S. Senate will have 22 women Senators, the highest number in history. Coincidence? I think not.
“When the Rules Don’t Rule” – The battle for philosophical control of the U.S. Supreme Court has been going on for ages, and always will. A President may last only eight years, but a Supreme Court Justice can serve for decades. So, too, can other federal judges. For years, the Senate rules mandated you really needed 60 votes to approve a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. The rule was you needed 60 votes to invoke cloture, to cut off debate, and call the vote. But Senate Democrats who were in the majority for part of the Obama Administration, made it a simple majority for District Court and Appellate Court Judges. That infuriated Republicans, so much so, that when Justice Antonin Scalia died, they refused to hold hearings on President Obama’s pick to replace him. Donald Trump won the White House; Senate Republicans changed the rules; and, Neil Gorsuch was easily elevated to the US. Supreme Court. A classic Washington power-play.
“Conscience Over Party” – Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Republicans have vowed and voted several times to repeal it in both the House and the Senate, only to have President Obama veto the death of his legacy legislation. In 2017, you had the “perfect storm” with the GOP in charge at the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. You’d think Obamacare repeal would be a snap. But maverick Senator John McCain, (R) Arizona torpedoed the repeal with his famous “thumbs down” no vote. McCain, who lost the 2008 Presidential campaign to Barack Obama, still thought repeal (as constructed) was a bad idea. Of course, McCain is no Trump fan either, so was it tit-for-tat?” Paybacks can he hell on Capitol Hill.
What are your top political stories of 2017? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political author analyst and reporter. He is currently Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar TV stations serving West Virginia.