In Beyond Chron’s predictions for 2009, Randy Shaw wrote: “for the first time, I approach a new year optimistic that the United States government will implement progressive change.” What a difference a year makes. Progressives are now disillusioned with a President who promised “change” – but spent months allowing health care reform to be watered down by extortionists in his own Party. Everyone is glad the year’s over – and some, like Paul Krugman, make a good argument that it’s really just been an awful decade.
It’s tempting to be cynical about the new year, but simply lamenting what’s happened to Obama only empowers right-wing Teabaggers who energized for the November mid-term elections. 2010 can be the year progressives hold the White House accountable, but only if activists channel their outrage to productive use. In that spirit, here are my predictions for the new year …
Congress Passes Immigration Reform
It seems counter-intuitive that any major reform will pass in an election year, especially when conservative Senate Democrats want to postpone climate change until 2011 and Dick Durbin says there “won’t be time” this year to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But immigration reform won’t suffer the same fate for a simple reason – Obama needs it to pass for electoral reasons. Without it, Latinos are not going to turn out in November.
Immigration reform isn’t an issue like health care, climate change or gay rights – where postponing the matter is politically tenable, and a watered down bill can be grudgingly accepted. And unlike the public option debate, constituencies clamoring for immigration reform are not going to let Democrats behind closed doors whittle it down to nothing.
This explains why the President is prepping for immigration reform, despite perceived political risks. Will the immigration issue inflame the racist Teabaggers when they turn out in droves to vote? Yes, but that group is already mobilized by the health care issue – and will vote anyway. It’s the progressive base Democrats need to start worrying about, and a solid immigration reform bill would go a long way to mobilizing voter turnout.
The Teabaggers virtually guarantee that no Republican will vote for an immigration bill, but Obama’s political survival to having a successful first term depends on it passing.
Democrats Lose Seats in the Midterms, But Keep their Majority
Democrats have taken a hit with lack of movement on health care – and it’s impossible to see how they’re not going to lose seats in Congress as a result. But with a 60-40 majority in the Senate and a similar margin in the House, it’s also hard to see how they could lose control altogether. If immigration reform passes, it could stem a lot of the bleeding.
Some Democratic Senators – like Chris Dodd – are simply too vulnerable to the current political climate and they will lose. Majority Leader Harry Reid will also have a tough fight, but his control of a formidable political machine in Nevada gives him a shot at surviving.
Blue Dog Democrats who represent districts that voted for John McCain are likely to take the biggest losses, to which I say “good riddance.” They have been an albatross around the neck of progressives, and have done nothing but mischief for the entire past year.
In January 2011, Democrats will have slimmer majorities in Congress – but ironically will be in a far better position to get something done. We might even then pass EFCA.
Marriage Equality Movement Focuses to Persuasion Mode
I don’t see the pace of progress on gay marriage we made in 2009 continue in 2010. Part of it is because we’re running out of states to make advances. Rhode Island is the next logical step, but not until 2011 when they get a new Governor (all candidates currently running to replace Carcieri supports marriage equality, so we’re just on borrowed time there.) And it’s become clear that there will not be a measure to repeal Prop 8 this November.
A heart-breaking loss in Maine proved we need to focus more on persuading swing voters, and changing hearts and minds can’t be done in a short election cycle. The marriage equality movement must expand its persuasion efforts this year to lay the groundwork for an eventual repeal of California’s Prop 8 and Maine’s Question 1.
As for the federal lawsuit, brilliant legal arguments only go so far — so it would be a mistake to allow this to bring hopes up.
California Budget Remains Dysfunctional – With No End in Sight
Here’s where I simply can’t be optimistic. California desperately needs to abolish the two-thirds requirement to pass a state budget, and even an amendment that does not include taxes would be incremental progress. But unless labor unions start putting real money in this effort, and the Democratic Party makes it the priority it must be, it’s going to get lost in the shuffle – and we won’t have what it takes to run a winning campaign.
Right now, I’m afraid that efforts around the June 2010 ballot are putting too much emphasis on defeating an open primary – and now labor is pitching a November measure to reform term limits. What do both have in common? They deal with abstract issues on how we elect our politicians. But scrapping the two-thirds budget rule has a far bigger impact in how we run – not who runs – the state.
I also predict Jerry Brown will be elected Governor, because California is a blue state and the only Republican who can win are movie stars. But it won’t be worth celebrating, because the “change” will be negligible.
Muni Raises Bus Fares – Again
Gavin Newsom nearly caused a Muni meltdown when the Mayor’s appointed MTA Commission passed an emergency budget this year. The only thing that averted total chaos was a backroom deal with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. Bus fares still went up – a Fast Pass with BART access is now $70 – but at least $8 million of the planned service enhancements are now going into effect.
Trouble is, part of the deal was that these service enhancements would be paid by expanding parking meter revenue. And now the Mayor’s quietly trying to kill this – which means the MTA will have yet another fiscal crisis this year. How are we going to pay to keep the buses running if we don’t have more parking meter revenue? Once again, we’re going to be told that another round of fare hikes are inevitable.