This is by no means an expansive review of the 2012 political year. Nor is it a top ten list, as every cable news station and talk radio show has created their lists and checked them twice. Instead, here are my thoughts on what was the political year.
Let me start by saying that political tricks and shenanigans are like most movies and television shows: there is very little original material or innovation. Pick any time in American History and you will find the same wheeling and dealing, the same attack pieces, the same gamesmanship, the same special interests, and the same political manipulations.
In 2012 we were worried that the Citizens United decision would cause such an influx of special interests’ money that and that government of the people, by the people, for the people would no longer exist. Irrespective of Citizens United, our government is unduly influenced by special interests and their lobbyists. Every industry spends billions of dollars influencing our lawmakers; you and I are amateurs in a rigged game.
The use of the false equivalency tool also seemed to increase in 2012. Suddenly Benghazi security lapses were on par with 9/11, Obama not having a beer with Mitch McConnell was the same as McConnell declaring his goal was to limit the president to one term, and of course there were the usual comparisons of government intervention into Socialism, Nazism, Communism, etc.
Sadly, fact checking became a new industry and worse yet, politicians seemed not to care if caught lying. What used to be ‘taken out of context’ or ‘I misspoke’ is now in essence: so what? Not only is there no shame in lying, the perpetrator often doubles down with a bigger and bolder lie.
Nate Silver shined light on the fools who claimed to be experts. Dick Morris claiming a Romney landslide on the eve of the election and Karl Rove’s tantrum on FoxNews calling Ohio for President Obama demonstrated that there is no place for partisan mouthpieces in the news business. Analysis needs to be based on facts and data, not what one hopes the outcome to become. We hate ‘homer’ sports announcers but tolerate them on the news.
Thanks in part to gerrymandering, but largely due to the continued polarization of America, 2012 elections saw over 90% of congressional incumbents getting re-elected, many of whom by margins >20% and some were unopposed. Washington dysfunction is only mimicking Main St,. dysfunction. Proof? How lively are political debates within your own family?
Perhaps the Republicans could have nominated a better candidate if they actually conducted debates that would have focused on issues instead of talking points and how many guns they own or how many kids they have. Further, the attacks on Romney’s days in Massachusetts or Bain rolled out by his GOP challengers were the foundation for the Obama campaign.
Another troubling aspect in political coverage is this need to declare winners and losers. Now I believe in true competition winners should be declared and that ‘participation trophies’ can be counterproductive. But when it comes to the political process, we want our representatives to work together not feel they are in a competition. Further, when the media declares winners and losers, often without knowing the facts, it sends a signal to lawmakers and other officials think twice about collaboration. And then when CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin challenges the President saying he got ‘rolled’ by Republicans in 2010 lame duck agreements, she not only sends the signal that it’s a competition, but that the mediocre reporter got the score wrong.
Next to winners and losers, the blame game is another increasingly bad trend. Every mistake needs to be blamed on someone; every miscalculation is someone’s fault, and each defeat must be pinned on someone. You know what, sometimes shit happens, the other side wins an election, and there is such a thing as shared responsibility.
I will remember the Ineffective 112th Congress that passed fewer bills than any other since such records were kept back in the late 1940’s. They did manage to name 20 post offices and give themselves a raise.
I leave you with the following for 2012: Etch-a-Sketch, Chick-Fil-A, Bushmaster, Sununu, Trump, Rafalca, 47%, Binders of Women, Sweater vest, Malarkey, Lyin’ Ryan, Witch Hunt, Debt Ceiling, Fiscal Cliff, and four more years.