Prepare to pop your champagne corks and warm up your vocal cords to belt out the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne. New Year’s Eve is upon us. For some, it’s a time to look forward to a new chapter. For others, a chance to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year.
For liberals, let’s just toast that 2010 is over at last.
Yes, we can point to reasons for liberals to cheer. Young insurgents David Carlucci and Gustavo Rivera will be joining the New York State Senate. In a down-to-the-wire sprint in DC, we saw success on a nuclear treaty and the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." This was a year of historic legislation, from healthcare reform to financial regulation. And Jon Stewart not only rallied to restore sanity, but more effectively rallied to shame conservatives into passing the Zadroga Bill for 9/11 responders.
Liberals can cheer those achievements. Now, if you’re looking for the feel-good end-of-year piece, stop reading here.
For all the successes, 2010 has been an overall rough year for those on the left side of American politics. If we’re going to get off the mat and go into 2011 fresh, let’s just spend one cathartic “Top 10” list spewing out the remains of 2010. Here are 10 lowlights from the past year – all reasons I’ll be toasting that it’s finally done. (PLEASE - add your own in the comments thread. This isn't the "top 10" — these are just "my 10" — I know there are many more.)
1. The Rise of the Tea Party. Beginning with Scott Brown’s January victory in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, this year has been marked by the compelling, irresistible and reckless growth of The Tea Party. In some places — Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania — The Tea Party Express plowed ahead. Elsewhere — Delaware, Nevada, Alaska — it’s been a Tea Party Trainwreck. In all cases, we couldn’t stop watching…literally. The wall-to-wall media coverage has left a bad taste for tea in my mouth and made me happy I’m a coffee drinker.
2. The Antics of the Great Compromiser. President Obama did get an incredible amount of legislation passed. Healthcare reform without a public option that doesn’t take effect for years. Financial regulations that didn’t get to the core issues of banks being too big to fail. A non-stimulus tax compromise that extended Bush’s signature economic achievement. Some praise this moderate approach or see it as a political reality. To liberals, it’s just a reminder that while a progressive agenda may be sent to the White House, it does not start in the White House.
3. The Shellacking. For one, here's to hoping folks stop using the word “shellacking" in 2011. Regardless of word choice, the Dems were beaten badly in November. And while more Blue Dogs lost out than anyone, a few liberal champs went down. Russ Feingold. Alan Grayson. John Hall. Patrick Murphy. But at least they went down fighting.
4. Glenn Beck’s Crusade. Claiming it was a complete coincidence, Beck held a rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech at the same location. Meanwhile, a Beck fanatic was caught on his way to commit an act of domestic terrorism at the offices of the Tides Foundation.
5. The Supreme Court Does It Again. The Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates for even more money in politics. This problem isn’t going away in the new year, but it’s definitely a stain on the past one.
6. The Spill. Speaking of stains, remember that catastrophic, preventable, man-made ecological disaster? Don’t call it an accident — BP took a calculated gamble and lost, gushing oil into the Gulf. But you wouldn’t really remember that because we were told the oil dissipated, and the coverage dissipated just as quickly. No new push for energy independence came out of it. No new focus on corporate oversight. No politician was held accountable. Drill, baby, drill.
7. The “Ground Zero” “Mosque” “Controversy.” Speaking of stories that dissipated… There was national outrage about building a community center at a site that isn’t Ground Zero. The facts were faked, the outrage outsized, and even the controversy was a con — as soon as conservatives turned their attention to new targets, the anger at what was called an assault on America disappeared as well. That is, until the right-wing needs a bogeyman again.
8. The Right-Wing Bill of Wrongs. Conservative candidates challenged the validity of separation of church and state, the constitutionality of Social Security, and the legitimacy of a minimum wage. Meanwhile, they want to undo the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to children born in America. And, no joke, Idaho Republicans want to do away with direct election of Senators. These attacks against our Constitution are attacks against the American way of life. We talk about “domestic threats," and need to look no further.
9. Arizona. Legislation that turned neighbors against neighbors, that fed fear and distrust, that turned its back on our proud history as a country. I didn’t want to vacation there anyway.
10. Sarah Palin Overexposure. From a channel whose name used to have the word “learning” in it, Sarah Palin got her own reality show. Meanwhile, she cheered her daughter from the sidelines at Dancing With The Stars. It was a year that reminded you that you don’t need a television.
The year 2010 brought us all of that. Thank you, 2010, for ending. Here’s to you.
And here’s to 2011: a year in which the Tea Party will combust as it takes on the challenge of governing and the GOP will implode on the way to a bloody Presidential primary. Let’s hope for an increase in employment, a decrease in foreclosures, progress on energy independence — and, at the very least, more from Jon Stewart in the months ahead.
Happy New Year to all.
Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."