On The Cusp Of A Change

The old, tired year 2010 is getting ready to exit stage right, and the bright, shiny year 2011 is getting ready to crawl onto the national stage.  Today we will get the last of the stories looking back at what has happened over the last 12 months.  Tomorrow the focus will be on what might happen over the next 12 months.

On the national scene, there is a lot of uncertainty, which should make 2011 very interesting indeed.  President Obama had a tough 2010, with falling public approval ratings, a bad economy, and mounting public concern about spending and debt, and the Democratic Party took a shellacking in the 2010 election as a result.  But the President nevertheless managed to accomplish some of his initiatives in the lame duck session of Congress, leading some people to talk about a comeback.  In 2011, will we in fact see a comeback by the President and a resurgence of some of the passionate support he received in the 2008 election?

In Congress, the big story will be the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the increased Republican minority in the Senate.  In the past two years, House Republicans have been unified in opposing many of the President’s initiatives, but maintaining unity when you are running the show can be more difficult.  How will the new Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans address spending and debt issues, and will they be able to affect the implementation of the “health care reform” legislation and some of the regulatory initiatives that are of such concern to members of the “tea party”?  In the Senate, where the rules and practices require consensus, how will Harry Reid and his slimmer majority deal with Republicans?  Will the two Houses of Congress, controlled by two different parties, be able to reach agreement on their competing versions of basic legislation like spending bills?  And will President Obama then wield his veto pen?

Pundits may be predicting what will happen, but the reality is that no one knows.  That is what will make 2011 such an interesting year.

Thoughts On 2010

A few thoughts about this new year that we are breaking in. (And starting it off with a Rose Bowl win and relaxation in the Bahamas is a good beginning.)

First, I am going to call it “twenty ten,” and not “two thousand ten.”  I realize that this is an abrupt change from 2009, which I did not call “twenty nine” for obvious reasons.  Still, I lived most of my life in the 1900s, and no one called 1980, for example, “one thousand, nine hundred eighty.”  So, I’m going with “twenty ten.”

Second, I don’t consider this a new decade.  In my book, decades run from —1 to –10, or –20, or –30.  Technically, this must be true, because way back when there was no year zero.  In my experience, too, the decades we think of often don’t really end until some event that doesn’t coincide precisely with the end of a calendar year.  In America, “the ’60s” really didn’t peter out until after December 31, 1969, and “the ’70s” didn’t end until about the time President Carter left office in January 1981.

Geopolitically, I think 2010 will be a very interesting year.  The efforts of the U-Trou bomber and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan will probably make terrorism a more significant focus.  The recent protests and attempted clampdowns in Iran bear watching, there no doubt will be weirdness from rogue states like North Korea, and we will have to see whether the global economy pulls out of recession.  Domestically, this year we will be voting for all members of the House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate, and a slew of governors.  In Ohio, we will be electing a new Senator to replace retiring Senator George Voinovich and also voting for Governor, and the contests in the Buckeye State already have attracted some national attention.  The election will happen against the backdrop of a weak, struggling economy that has affected different states differently, lots of partisan rancor, and a President whose approval ratings have dropped significantly as the grueling health care reform battle has proceeded.

I don’t think there is much point in making predictions about what will happen; years usually look different as they draw to a close than people expected when the year began.  About the only thing that is certain is that there will be lots to talk, and blog, about — and through it all UJ, commendably, will find a silver lining and things to be positive about.