Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays 2009!

Thank you for your continued reading! We've sure had a great year.

We’ll be taking a break here at WAYLA until January 4th, to spend the holidays with family and friends.

We hope you have a happy holiday season, and we’ll see you again in the New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009: A Year in Review

Summary: 2009 was a transition year in politics. Now we wait to see how it will affect 2010.

2009 was truly an interesting year to observe as the nation transitioned out of the Bush Era and into the Obama years.

The year was marked by three issues: the economy, healthcare reform, and the war in Afghanistan. Occasionally we came across other issues including the torture debate, gay marriage, and climate change.

And as the year dragged on with little improvement on any of the big issues Americans are concerned about, President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress slipped considerably in the polls.

But for campaign people, there were other big developments that largely went unnoticed to the typical American. The ever-growing presence of New Media kept strategists and operatives glued to their computers as they watched for how these advancements could help their work. One New Media tool in particular was Twitter and its importance (or at least perceived importance) in politics.

And then there were the elections…

Campaigns in 2009

While there were only a handful of races in 2009, they were followed vigorously by political-junkies for the importance they might have in the midterm elections next year and the American political landscape for the Obama Era.

First up were the elections in New York City, where last year’s decision to extend term limits significantly shook up a lot of political dreams. Incumbents held on to 38 of 51 City Council seats and Mayor Michael Bloomberg managed to squeak by an unexpectedly tough re-election to earn a third term.

Then there were the Democratic defeats in New Jersey and Virginia. The electorates in these states were not happy with the budgets passed in the wake of the recession, and voted in some of the first GOP governors in those states in a long time.

That same day, voters approved a referendum in Maine that re-banned gay marriage after the State Legislature and governor approved the unconventional arrangement earlier this year. This upset indicated that the electorate appeared to be on the side of the LGBT community, but still privately opposed same-sex marriage.

There was some light at the end of the tunnel for liberals. A bizarre upset in upstate New York - as well as a somewhat expected victory in California - delivered additional Democrats to the House of Representatives. This indicated that while Democrats were facing a lot of pressure at the state level, Americans were still a little more confident in the Democratic Party than the far-right Republicans on the federal level.

Of course, politics is still a bad spectator sport, and it’s impossible to make any definite predictions based on what we saw this year going into 2010.

Looking Ahead to 2010

The other political trend this year was that of pundits, political-junkies, and political professionals trying to get a sense of what to expect for 2010. The implications of several national debates - particularly on healthcare - are sure to have an impact on the midterm elections, but what that impact will be is still unknown.

We did see the rising Tea Party phenomenon, which taught us that Reaganism has not died out and conservative activists are as fired up as ever. It also showed us how important astroturfing will be in coming years.

But while the conservative base is ready for a fight, the liberal base of the Democratic Party is not happy. Democrats now control the White House and both houses of Congress with large margins, but still can’t seem to get important work done. Nowhere has this been clearer than with the healthcare debate. This may be the biggest trouble facing Democrats in 2010 - a liberal base that stays home on Election Day.

Ultimately, however, the healthcare debate was the issue of 2009 and it may not be next year. A healthcare bill of some sort is likely to pass by February, and when it happens it may get more public support than it has now. The economy and job growth in particular will be a huge issue going into next year’s elections. If the economy improves by September, Democrats may be able to hold on to enough seats in Congress and the State Legislatures to maintain political dominance over the next decade. If the stimulus and jobs bills fail, however, it could mean a Republican resurge.

All of the trends mentioned today will have some impact on 2010, and political professionals would do well to take all these implications into account as they map out their plans and strategies for the upcoming year.