On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Friday, December 30, 2005

On The Road To 2008: 2006 - A Look Ahead

Yesterday I took a look back at 2005 and the many stories that I blogged about during the year. Today I want to take a stab at predicting what stories will be keeping us engaged in 2006. Remember, I'm no soothsayer, I just play one on this blog.

The story most likely to be massively covered will be the mid-term elections and the various Democratic candidates that will be running with a hope of unseating incumbent Republicans. Locally that means Washington's 8th District, a seat currently occupied by freshman congressman Dave Reichert. Two opponents have emerged in the persons of Darcy Burner and Randy Gordon, and certainly the Democratic Primary battle will be just as interesting as the one for Reichert's seat. Dave Reichert is already on MoveOn.org's target list, and has suffered from his voting record that has strongly mimicked such congressmen as Tom Delay - hardly in tune with a constituency that supported Patty Murray and John Kerry in the 2004 election. His most recent vote in favor of ANWR drilling will definitely come back to haunt him.

There will also be the Senate battle between Democrat Maria Cantwell and challenger Mike McGavick. Cantwell has a promising lead in early polling, and has scored huge points in her work to safeguard ANWR from drilling. McGavick will likely have a lot of money at his disposal and a lot of Republican assistance to try and topple Washington's junior Senator.

A number of other predictable stories will be those that are ongoing and have yet to reach their denouement. These include the aforementioned Tom Delay's impending day(s) in court ("Say Cheese!!"), Alito's confirmation hearings, and further debate on the Patriot Act, recently delayed until late January. These are, of course, only predictable to be stories. There's no telling how they'll play out.

We know that the war in Iraq will continue to be one of the biggest stories. If the military fatalities occur at the same rate that they have this past year, we'll be writing about the 3000 deaths mark next December. There will be renewed pressure for the Bush administration to reduce the number of troops in Iraq significantly simply to appease Republican's concerned they may lose their seats over the issue. There will be a loud debate as to the prudence of such a move, but Americans will be loath to prolong the campaign - even more than they are now. Meanwhile, indications already seem to point to the situation in Iraq possibly heading toward a civil war. The Kurds are already preparing for what they believe is an inevitable clash. The Sunni's are definitely unhappy about the outcome of the recent elections and it is unclear that they can be appeased through further democratic means. 2006 may be the worst year yet in Bush's naïve foray into remaking the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein's trial will possibly come to an end. While any other outcome than a death penalty is unlikely, and would be received by many Iraqis as an outrage, the court room theatrics will be a much reported sideshow to the real drama going on in the country. It is unlikely that the insurgent/terrorist attacks on civilians and occupying troops will diminish. There is little evidence that would lead one to make such a prediction. How these rebels engage in a possible civil war might determine the strength of a Sunni uprising, and could portend significant bloodshed. Iraq is very much likely to become a bigger Mess-o-potamia.

Coming back to local politics, and I expect I'll be writing a lot about Tim Eyman's next anti-tax initiative, due to be formally submitted in January. The big question will be how voters, who have already rejected one attempt to undercut the $8.5 billion transportation bill (in Initiative 912), will take to another attempt to do so. Eyman has already shown he's willing to lose these battles because the system allows him to keep coming back with other anti-tax initiatives. The fight will be on - again!

The yearly legislation battle to provide gay Washingtonians with anti-discrimination protection will also be renewed. This year there is real optimism that the votes will be there for the matter to become law. Local bloggers will be blogging about it for sure.

Back at the national level, it will be interesting to see how the hurricane season plays out in 2006. 2004 saw the quadruple hurricane onslaught of Florida. 2005 had the devastating Gulf Coast one-two punch of Katrina and Rita. 2006 could be more of the same or worse. Could New Orleans survive a second such flooding event? At some point the debate about whether to move the city might become moot if the city keeps getting flooded by 100 year events occurring within a matter of a few years. Given this will be an election year, natural disasters of this sort could become a wildcard issue with effects none can predict.

Scattered in between all these mostly predictable events will be the equally predictable non-events. Will we be spared a media sensationalized trial, murder case or missing person story? Doubtful. Will we be spared some religious rightwing make-believe "war on something", be it values, patriotism, or Christmas once again? Doubtful. Unfortunately we'll have to live through such moments too.

Most of these events I have no control over. One that I do regards my own blogging and the PNW Topic Hotlist. I am quite certain that I will be making changes that help the Hotlist evolve and grow. I good problem would be if it grows so much I have to find more bandwidth to support it. That's quite possible. Meanwhile, I expect to stay engaged with this blog on as regular a basis as I have over the past year. It has been a lot of work, resulting in over 120,000 words, or enough for a 480 page manuscript, but it has been well worth the effort.

While much of what will happen can be foreseen, and perhaps even whole blog entries could be pre-written, the wonder of it all is just exactly how everything turns out. There is always a surprise wrinkle, a major out of the blue event that shakes up everything. Will that be the death of a prominent leader, or a terrorist attack? Will it be a swiftboat type event or a political earthquake? Will Mother Nature throw us a curve ball, will we get hit by a meteorite, or all get the bird flu? You just never can tell what the new year will hold.

So let's welcome the new year with anticipation of the known and the unknown. Ultimately, I hope it will be a peaceful and prosperous one for all, regardless of what I think might happen.

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