From the revelations of National Security Agency spying to the government shutdown, the first year of President Barack Obama’s second term brought endless political quarreling and scandal and illustrated the massive disconnect between Washington and Main Street. In 2014, the Administration could be forced to reap what it has sewn.
The Administration pushed fervently for new gun control laws, only to be met with harsh populist resistance. The result was the Senate’s rejection of what would have been one of the most sweeping gun control packages passed in more than two decades. Some vulnerable Democratic lawmakers backed down, others have answered — or will have to answer — to voters.
For part of 2013, the Administration’s lies with regard to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and news that the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted conservative groups garnered many headlines after the Obama Administration successfully stymied conversations about the issues until the President was safely re-seated in the White House. There are still many unanswered questions about the controversy — though The New York Times sought to soften the edge of the Benghazi story this week with a piece which contradicts its previous reports.
Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks heightened public concern from both conservatives and progressives about government intrusions into Americans’ privacy. Opponents of the agency’s actions have called on the President and Congress to increase oversight and transparency of the spy programs. But with each new headline, news about the NSA seems to get continuously worse.
When Congress failed to reach an agreement to fund government operations as Republicans sought spending cuts or a delay to Obamacare, the Federal government was shut down on Oct. 1. What followed was a pathetic attempt by government to make it appear as though the brief shutdown affected every American in a major way. Officials attempted to accomplish this by barricading national parks and monuments, shutting down some roads, temporarily taking some Federal website offline and keeping elderly veterans from visiting war memorials at the Nation’s capital. Some critics estimate that the government actually spent more money making a point for the duration of the shutdown than it would have had it not taken any of the aforementioned actions.
Republicans were unsuccessful in delaying Obamacare. But when the Federal healthcare website (miraculously unaffected by the shutdown) was booted up, Obamacare delayed itself. Riddled with errors and unable to accommodate more than a few users at a time, the website turned out to be a multimillion-dollar illustration of government incompetence.
More bad news came for the Administration as kinks were worked out of the Obamacare site. Millions of Americas lost their health insurance due to new standards and found that the President’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise was a lie. Furthermore, plans offered through the Affordable Care Act turned out to be unaffordable for many people.
This year has the potential to be one of political retribution, but only if the sins of 2013 are not easily forgotten by American voters.
Looking ahead to the midterm elections set to take place in the fall, Republicans have a pretty decent chance of regaining control of the Senate. The GOP needs only six seats; and seven of the most vulnerable seats belong to Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Expect not only a battle between Democrats and the GOP, but also a continuation of the battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Establishment Republicans have become increasingly vocal in their disdain for libertarian-leaning members of the party who would rather halt the wheels of government than wheel and deal with Democrats.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently announced that it plans to throw money behind establishment Republicans who are facing Tea Party primary challengers. Some early showdowns to keep an eye on include the March 4 primary fight between John Cornyn and Representative Steve Stockman in Texas as well as the Kentucky fight between Mitch McConnell and Tea Party-backed Matt Bevin.
Even though it seems like the last Presidential election is just behind us, 2014 will also be the year that Americans hear more serious chatter about possible 2016 Presidential contenders. A CNN poll recently suggested that there may be some voter excitement for a Hillary Clinton/Chris Christie showdown. But there is still plenty of conservative hope for a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz GOP ticket in 2014. The political moves that potential candidates make in the coming year will largely determine their Presidential viability.
Overall, 2014 should be a pretty exciting political year with the potential for major conservative shake-ups akin to the Tea Party explosion in 2010. But that depends on whether Americans continue to seek answers for the various scandals and failures that came out of Washington in 2013.