Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite 10 Political Stories of 2009

It's the end of the year, time to look back at the year in politics. I have no scientific criteria for choosing these stories, but my general criteria are the historic significance of the event, the political impact, the national impact and the cultural impact.

Here are my top 10:
10. Arlen Specter switches parties
In a complete about-face, longtime Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switched from the GOP to the Democrats. His official reasoning was fairly tortured...he was okay being a Republican for the last 8 years but all of sudden this spring they became to rightist? This story was at least 6 years in the making as the right has been attempting to ouster Specter, who was (and I think still is?) both fiscally and socially moderate. And the Democrats were more than happy to have vote number 60, although Specter wasn't given all of his seniority for his time as a Republican. Specter's departure from the GOP essentially left the Maine duo of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe as the last true Senate GOP moderates.

9. The Blago Affair
Chicago corruption is nothing new, but Blago took it to a whole new level. His refusal to leave office, his flaunting his nose at party leaders by appointing Roland Burris to the Senate (who, incidentally, was needed to cast the 60th vote for Health Care cloture), his omnipresence in the media. It just doesn't get any better than this if you follow politics.

8. Sarah Palin quits as Alaska Governor and Hits the Blogosphere and Book Circuit
A bizzarre departure for the Alaska Governor...why did she quit again? She didn't like Freedom of Information requests? At any rate, the Ex-Governor quickly rekindled her GOP star, attacking health care "death panels", selling books like crazy and generally infuriating the left and revving up the tea baggers.

7. The Tea-Party Movement
Whether you think it is a Fox News conspiracy or an organic uprising of populists, the tea-party movement and the crashing of town halls this summer had an undeniable impact on the trajectory of both the health care debate and the political tone in America.

6. GOP wins in New Jersey and Virginia
Our only significant political contests saw Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie sweep into office amidst both national concenrs that Democrats were overreaching and local races that saw them square off against weak opponents. The GOP shows it still has life in it headed into 2010.

5. Fort Hood Shootings
Those awful events reminded us both of the heroics of our soldiers and the fragility, as well as the continued tensions between the Islamic religion and our culture.

4. Attempted bombing on a Northwest Flight
Lest we forget that there are still people in the world that want nothing more than to kill Americans, we were reminded this December after a failed bombing attempt on a Detroit bound Northwest flight from Amsterdam. We are also reminded again that all of the airport security added since 2001 has been costly window-dressing and that we can NEVER be absolutely safe in a free society.

3. The Government Takes Over GM
The biggest car maker in the United States becomes majority owned by the government after one of the largest and quickest bankruptcies in US history.

2. Senate passes Health Care reform on a party line vote
The most significant piece of social welfare legislation since LBJ's great society moves a step closer to reality. Call it socialism or call it human rights, but it's hard to argue its significance.

1. Barack Obama sworn in as President
Less than 8 years after September 11th, a man with the middle name Hussein was sworn into office. Less than 50 years after the end of segregation an African-American is sworn in as President, buoyed by victories in 3 southern states. I said it on election night and I'll say it again...only in this country would this even have been a possibility.

Lots of honorable mentions:
Joe Wilson's "You Lie!"
The Stimulus Bill Passing
Edward Kennedy's Death
New York's 23rd
Goldman Sach's bonuses
and many, many more.

Happy New Year! Lots of races to cover headed into 2010. We are closing in on the Massachusetts special election, the Illinois Senate primary and much, much more. 470 races of national significance next year! I look forward to spending the next 365 days talking with you about it.

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