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January 01, 2007

Year-End Musings

This time of year tends to bring out the sense of assessing where we are.  All those lists of things, like the top 10 news stories of the year or the most over-hyped and under-reported stories.  All of us, but especially those of us who are drawn to read and write on the political blogs, try to make sense of the world.  We take the data from the year and try to weave it into a tapestry of understanding that gives us some sense of what to expect for this next year, this next period of time.   

So, here's my list of important stories/issues from this last year.  The predictions will come later. 

The rise of the Internet and people-powered politics

Time Magazine got this one right.  In their introduction to the Time "Person of the Year" story they said, "You control the media now and the world will never be the same."  They were talking about many different uses for the Internet, but I'm going to focus on its impact on politics, natch.  Six hundred thousand people read DailyKos, the most-read political blog in the country, on average every day.  That's more people than read the New York Times daily.  And DailyKos, along with the incredible YearlyKos convention were just the beginning.  There are robust specialty blogs and more general blogs, national and regional or local.  There are wikipedias that provide information on most issues and public figures.   And YouTube.   

In April, Stephen Colbert performed at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner and took both Bush and the media apart, essentially putting them on notice that the free ride was over.  That was the beginning of the fateful synergy between YouTube and the progressive blogs that spread overtly political video-clips across the country.  How can we say enough about the impact of getting to see Keith Olbermann's special comments or Jon Stewart's comedy or Colbert's satire?  Then we got that video-clip of George Allen calling S.R. Sidarth "macaca", the videos of Conrad Burns sleeping during public hearings or talking about his little Guatemalan house painter, Howie Klein's fabulous "Had Enough" ads, Michael J. Fox talking about stem-cell research, and many more.  All these things working together to educate us, motivate us and get us to take action. 

We Notice How Corrupt and Hypocritical the Republicans Are

Norman Ornstein, an insightful observer of American politics for a generation (and a fellow at the conservation American Enterprise Institute) summed it up best when he said,  "I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes".   From Abramoff to Foley, with a lot of Republican Congresscritters in between, the history of this time will be clear.  The Republican culture of corruption ran deep and wide, a probably offshoot of their incredible arrogance in thinking they could get away with anything.  Here and here are a couple more sources of information on the stink if you haven't seen enough over the year.

The War in Iraq Spirals Out of Control

What to say?  The sadness involved in reading about the war is enough to sink any of us.  Bad decisions, combined with stupidity, yet more corruption and a seeming lack of understanding about the implications of our actions are so astounding as to defy summation.  Yet, the need for really understanding what we have wrought in the Middle East means we have to try to digest and analyze it so we don't miss the learnings and bungle into another one in another generation.  Or next week, for that matter.

Democrats Hitting on all Cylinders

All of the above pointed toward a Democratic win in Novmeber but Democrats have not always been in a position to take advantage of Republican failures, no matter how egregious.  This year we were, thankfully.

As we get the details of the extraordinary wins by Democrats this November, it's clear we needed every group we got to provide the edge that got us a nice lead in the House and allowed us to squeak by in the Senate.  Nationally, youth went for Democrats at 60%, Latinos nearly 70%, Blacks a whopping 89%, Asians 79%, Jews 89%, labor 74% and women 55 %.  We even got an additional 3% of the white Evangelical vote.  We needed all of them.

Progressive organizations - Labor, environmental groups, and Emily's List, for example - were all more determined, more organized and more effective in getting their voters out.  Dean's 50-state strategy was a winner.  Local Democratic LD and County organizations hit their districts hard and then went out to help less robust Democratic LDs across the state.  There's a lot more to do.  Odds are we could have taken Reichert and McMorris' seats had we been even more organized but we can't expect miracles. 

Global Warming Gets a Hearing

Spurred by the amazing Al Gore, awareness of global warming hit some kind of tipping point.  His book, An Inconvenient Truth, made the New York Times bestseller list; the movie was the third highest grossing documentary in history. 

The news has not been good but at least it has been noticed - finally.  Just in the last few weeks, we've heard that brown bears in northern Spain are no longer hibernating, that the mighty Amazon tropical forest is likely to be a savanna by the end of the century; that the polar bear population is declining rapidly and may be subject to extinction in a few decades; that an inhabited island off the coast of India has disappeared under the rising seas, and that huge, 3000 year-old glaciers are breaking off at the North Pole and tumbling into the sea.

The San Jose Mercury wrote a hard-hitting editorial.  The lead sentence was "Global warming is the greatest environmental threat that humanity has ever faced."  It went on from there.  The U.S. Supreme Court has finally agreed to hear arguments on how the Bush administration deals with the threat of global warming. 

What did I miss?  Add your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 1, 2007 at 10:35 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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