The Top Ten in Politics for 2008
Posted by Scott Williams on 12.30.2008
Head Shots, Ground Bursts, and Fuel-Air Explosions
As our current President heads for the door, and we prepare to inaugurate in the new, it would seem a fitting time to look back on the year we called 2008. Now, as we all know, everyone loves lists. And of course, I'm no exception. In fact, I love providing folks with lists, almost as much as I love bashing the lists provided by others. But 2008 is a rare exception in American Politics. So much happened in the past year, that its quite a challenge just to remember everything that actually did go down; much less decide what events had the most impact, vice those to a lesser degree. But just because its a challenge, doesn't mean we're not going to give it a shot anyway.
So here we go. The Top Ten political impactors for 2008; those events that changed the course of politics downstream to such a degree, that nothing was subsequently quite the same.
10: North Carolina and the Godless Opponent
Try as they might, in many cases in 2008, the Republicans just couldn't make the wedge issues they'd come to rely on to divide the public, and win elections, stick. Case in point; the North Carolina Senatorial election. On October 29th, Senator Elizabeth Dole ran an ad that more or less (probably more than less) accused her opponent Kay Hagan of being "Godless".
Now, in defense of Dole, she was behind in the polls at the time, the hour was late, and it was looking more and more like retirement was in her near future anyway. So, why not go for the jugular? Unfortunately for Dole, the scheme backfired on her horribly. Turns out the electorate was tired of this kind of politics. And even worse, Hagan wound up to be a God-Fearing Christian after all. She was a Sunday School teacher in her church. And had even taken a Christian mission or two, to glorify God's word. Whoops!!! Folks in North Carolina got pissed. And threw Dole out on her divisive little fanny. Oh well. Don't take it personally Elizabeth. Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you. Maybe it would have helped if you'd found a positive message to throw out there. Instead of taking bad advice from, well, God only knows who.
9: Iowa Shocker
Hillary Clinton was the anointed one. By the time the Iowa Caucus rolled around, it was simply a given she was going to be the Democratic Nominee. And here was the first real test of that faith. Time to get busy. But then something shocking happened. A relative unknown named Barack Obama won in Iowa. Hillary wound up taking third place, behind second place John Edwards. OMG!!! You would have thought the world was coming to an end. Hillary supporters freaked. But to her credit, Hillary took it all in stride and moved on. But Obama? Iowa had handed him an unlikely victory; as well as much needed national attention. And, polls suggested he might even give Hillary a run for her money in New Hampshire. He was on his way. And it all started for him in Iowa.
8: The Crying Game
There is nothing like a woman crying to really hit ya where you live. And things did get just a smidgen wet in New Hampshire.
At the time of her contrition, Hillary was behind in the New Hampshire polls by as much as 8 points to Barack Obama. Could it be possible she would get knocked out of the race? Even before it had really begun? Nope. Clinton showing her human side, really connected with many of the voters in New Hampshire. And she wound up winning the state by 3 points. Moral of the story? Sometimes you just got to put yourself out there. Nobody likes voting for conniving, narcissistic, kill-them-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out politicians (unless of course, you're Dick Cheney; WTF Wyoming?).
7: Ten Wins in a Row
Coming out of Super Tuesday on February 5th, Hillary Clinton led Obama by roughly 100 delegates (super delegates included). The order of the world seemed to have been restored. Hillary wasn't blowing Obama away. But, had taken the advantage; taken most of the big states; and seemed to have retaken her front runner status. The next few weeks would change all that forever. Starting on February 9th, Obama went on to win 10 contests in a row. Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, Wisconsin, and the US Virgin Islands. By the time the dust had settled, Obama was the one ahead by roughly 100 delegates (at least in the pledged delegate count), and had all the momentum he needed to make sure the March 4th contests in Texas and Ohio were at least close. Basically, Clinton never recovered from that ten win streak. Hillary DID make gains in the March 4th states. But those gains were erased by Obama on March 8th and March 11th in Wyoming and Mississippi. Clinton was done at that point. And everybody in the know, knew it.
6: Kill Bill
Or probably more to the point, Bill killed Hillary. On January 26th, as Barack Obama was about to win in South Carolina, Bill Clinton reminded the nation that Jesse Jackson had won in South Carolina in 1984 and 1988.
The implication being of course, that Black candidates in Democratic Primaries just tend to do well in South Carolina. No matter what. I mean, what can ya do? Booooommmmmm!!!! The fallout from that comment is still radiating. After that, African Americans starting voting as a block for Obama in numbers seen, well, never. A solid block of votes that followed Obama right up to the Democratic Nomination. And Hillary? Well, she struggled to find new constituencies all along the way. Sometimes successfully. Sometimes not so much. Thanks Bill.
5: Resistance Is Futile
Try as he might (and man did he ever try) McCain was never able to clearly distance himself from one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history; George W. Bush. Of course, Obama had a hand in that.
The drumbeats of McSame and Bush III reverberated off the walls, on and off, all summer and into the fall. And when the economic crisis hit in September and October, it became obvious to most Americans (warranted or not) the Republicans were responsible. Bush was a Republican. And so was McCain. Ergo sameo. As a result, the specter of Bush dogged McCain to the bitter end.
4: Powell Power
On October 19th, early on that Sunday morning on Meet the Press, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.
And Bam!!! In one fell swoop, Obama had all the "street cred" from the standpoint of military and foreign policy he would ever need. Almost every American knows and respects Powell. He's one of our most popular figures. He's highly admired as both a military and civilian leader. And some even believe the man actually transcends politics. A truly larger than life icon. And let's face it. Before the Powell endorsement, many had their doubts about Obama's ability to be Commander-in-Chief (some still do); as well as his ability to be an effective leader on the world stage. But if Powell said Obama was good enough, then that was good enough for most people sitting on the fence over those same issues. We'll never know if the Powell endorsement ultimately translated into more votes for Obama. But one thing is for sure. A lot of people sure think it did.
3: Who IS Sarah Palin?
Who indeed. That was the question all of America was asking itself for weeks after John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Turns out, the answer was more brutally shocking than even the most cynical of us could really believe. Matt Damon said it best:
The hockey mom from Alaska. One heartbeat away from the Presidency. From the Couric interviews, to 150,000 dollar shopping sprees, to SNL beat downs, a clear picture of exactly who Sarah Palin was, began to emerge. Less than intelligent. Back woods. Folksy. Provincial. Local. Potentially fanatical in her religious beliefs. The woman whose foreign policy cred rested on the assumption she could see Russia from her house (or something like that). I understand why McCain did it. Roll the dice. Energize the Republican base. Appeal to women and disaffected former Hillary PUMA voters. But it all fell apart, piece by horrible piece, over the weeks leading up to the general election. Until finally, by October 23rd, 47% of Americans viewed Sarah Palin in a negative light. Only 38 percent viewed her in a positive one. What a stinking DISASTER for the McCain Campaign. It was always viewed as a risk; going with someone like Palin. But who knew just how Toxic she was really going to be? Nurse? Can I get a little VETTING over here, please???
2: Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole
On September 15th, McCain made his now infamous statements about just how strong and sound the economy of the United States was.
To make a long story short, a few days later, the Bush administration was sounding the alarm bells of Great Depression II, and demanding a 700 billion dollar bailout package from Congress. And to make matters even worse, sensing he was in trouble, McCain suspended his campaign on September 24th, and rushed off to Washington to "lead the fight" in saving the nation. Which, it became obvious over the course of the following days, that was something he was not going to be able to do. All of this, of course, played right into Obama's characterizations of McCain as erratic, and lacking the temperament to lead in a crisis. The debates hammered home those very points. And three weeks later, Obama was elected President.
1: Drum Roll Please
And the #1 impactor in politics for 2008 IS............Barack Hussein Obama is elected 44th President of the United States. You just KNEW this had to be #1.
The first racially mixed President in United States History. How did this happen? How did an African-American named Barack Hussein Obama, post-9/11, with two Middle Eastern wars raging, and the economy in the toilet, get elected President of the United States? I'm going for the easy answer on this one. Bush! That's right. Bush had become SO unpopular, that Americans were willing to do just about ANYTHING to get as far away from his style and legacy as they possibly could. Not taking anything away from Obama. Even Republicans lamented that he was the strongest Democratic Candidate to emerge in a generation. And I believe that is true as well. But Bush sealed the deal for Obama. And all it took were two wars, Katrina, and an economy in ruins to get it done. Was it worth it?