It being the holiday season and all, the time feels right for a bit of unbridled optimism. 2015 has just begun, which means it hasn't had an opportunity to disappoint, and is therefore a ripe receptacle for some of my (mostly) irrational political hopes. With the full realization that some (or most, or all) of these will not come to pass and that I'm likely just setting myself up for sadness and mockery, here's a short list of things I hope will happen in the next year.
That Bernie Sanders Will Run for President
I like Bernie Sanders. Vermont’s independent senator comes off as affable and engaging, and he has a pleasingly down-to-earth frumpiness that contrasts with the perma-tanned, hair-gelled, forever-TV-ready facades of many of his colleagues. He’s been laying the groundwork for a 2016 presidential campaign, though up to this point he’s been deliberately cagey about whether he’d run as an Independent or a Democrat – or if he’ll actually do it.
I hope he does. I think the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza got it right when he wrote that Sanders is “the Democratic Party’s Ron Paul: his chance of winning would be infinitesimal, but his presence in the race and his passion about a few key issues would expose vulnerabilities in the front-runner’s record and policies.” In Sanders’ case, that means a relentless focus on kitchen-table economic issues and income inequality, and it looks like he’s finally ready to step up and get in the other candidates’ faces about their records on economic issues and ties to Wall Street. “The Clinton Administration worked arm in arm with Alan Greenspan – who is, on economic matters, obviously, an extreme right-wing libertarian – on deregulating Wall Street, and that was a total disaster,” Sanders told Lizza.
And that’s a good thing! Hillary Clinton is heavily favored to waltz away with the nomination, and more than a few Democrats are hoping for a quiet, uneventful primary that will allow the nominee to rest easy while the Republicans duke it out amongst themselves. But coronations are dull affairs. Arguments are interesting and help to sharpen policy positions while exposing and ironing out contradictions. Sanders would be a refreshing counter-establishment antidote to the slate of would-be Democratic nominees who stand against him.
So run, Bernie, run.
That Obamacare Won’t Be Gutted
Earlier this month, the National Center for Health Statistics released a big batch of data on the status of health insurance coverage in the country. Per NCHS, the uninsured rate in the country has plummeted over the past year, marking the largest drop since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid during the Johnson administration.
The Affordable Care Act, for all the controversy surrounding it, is working, and the surge of people signing up for coverage during the second open enrollment period will likely push the uninsured rate down even further heading into 2015. Costs are being contained, more insurers are participating in the exchanges, employer coverage is remaining steady – these are all good things. There is, obviously, some bad that comes with the good (no legislation is perfect, and not everyone can be a winner), but on balance the ACA is getting it done.
Hovering over all of this is a big, black-robed cloud of uncertainty. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in King v. Burwell sometime next summer, which will decide the fate of the federal tax credits that make insurance affordable in the majority of states. A ruling against the ACA would blow the insurance market to pieces and place the physical and financial well-being of millions of Americans in the hands of Republicans in Congress, who can barely tie their shoes on most matters but are united in their hatred for the ACA.
The fact that the court agreed to take up this contentious and absurd case is a fairly good sign that there are at least four votes to invalidate those subsidies, which means the law’s fate is once again in the hands of a “swing vote” justice, likely Chief Justice John Roberts. The court already functions as an unelected, unaccountable and highly politicized super-legislature through which all controversial legislation must pass, which is upsetting enough. To blow a giant hole in the law would, in the words of the decidedly non-liberal Wall Street Journal editorial board, inflict “an immediate refugee crisis” among health insurance customers.
That’s the sort of chaos on regular Americans that responsible agents of government are supposed to avert.
That Benghazi Will Fade Away
Benghazi has become the sort of scandal in which the hunt for scandalous information (and the assumption, against all evidence, that such information exists) is the only thing keeping it alive. Conservatives are prone to asserting their high-minded purpose behind the relentless investigations: to get to the TRUTH of what REALLY happened to honor the memory of the men who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2012. But the reality is very different.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, chair of the special House committee on Benghazi, has now held two hearings on the attacks and their aftermath. Both have been dry, informative affairs that focused on diplomatic security and the State Department’s performance in implementing post-Benghazi reforms. These are important matters that are worthy of congressional oversight – but the conservatives who howled for the creation of Gowdy’s committee are either bored or frustrated with what they’ve seen. That’s because they’re not getting what they really want out of the committee’s investigation: iron-clad proof of an Obama administration cover-up.
They want political scandal and entertainment. They want dramatic eyewitness contradictions of official accounts that can then be thrown in the White House press secretary’s face. They want the smoking-gun document that proves beyond all doubt that the administration did in fact do all the terrible things they’ve already convinced themselves it did.
Maybe it’s possible that those things exist, but I can’t help but think that if they did, one of the many other official investigations would have turned them up. I don’t have much confidence that it will happen, but my hope is that Gowdy’s committee will complete its work quietly, efficiently and quickly, so that the political flogging of the Benghazi tragedy will finally subside.
That Donald Trump Will Be Ignored
We’re on the cusp of the next presidential election cycle, which means gilded coprolite Donald Trump will do his level damnedest to get people to report that he’s super serious about running for the White House. It’s actually already begun, and it’s only going to get worse once the new season of Trump’s awful television program begins in January. I realize this is very likely going to fall on deaf ears, given that reporters happily play the “Is Trump Going to Run?” game because it drives traffic, but here goes…
Stop. You don’t have to do this. He’s not going to run. He’s never going to run. He revels in the attention and is using you to feed his already bloated, disgusting, combed-over ego. Yes, you’re using him as well – but think about what that says about you! It means you’re no better than this frizz-topped pinch-faced birther clown. You don’t want that. No one wants that. Just ignore him. He won’t go away, but you’ll have done your small part to make politics just a little less insufferable.