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

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Predictions And The Road Ahead

A year ago I looked into the crystal ball and tried to predict how 2006 might turn out.

Let's see how I did.

While it wasn't hard to predict that the 2006 mid-term elections would be one of the biggest stories, and the Democratic wins in November shifted the balance of power in D.C., locally the WA-08 race lacked the Democratic Primary contest I foresaw because Darcy Burner ended up running uncontested once Randy Gordon dropped out soon after the year began. Despite Reichert's dubious voting record, he managed to fool enough people, while Burner remained an unknown quantity to enough people, for the ex-Sheriff to win re-election.

I also didn't quite get the Mike McGavick challenge prediction right. While McGavick did have the money to mount a serious challenge, and did put some of his own money into the race, financial assistance from the national Republican party was ratchetted back after it became clear his chances of winning were slim at best. Maria Cantwell, in hindsight, was never truly at risk of losing her seat, and the race was effectively over after McGavick's bone-headed botched drunk driving mea-culpa in late August. Memo to future candidates: if you're going to come clean on a past mis-deed, get your facts straight first, because you know everyone else will verify them after you do.

There never was a court case regarding Tom Delay, as I thought there might be, but he eventually was so tarnished by the Abramoff scandal he resigned from Congress. Turned out he was just one of many Republicans that left office in disgrace, including Ohio Republican Bob Ney.

As predicted, and already noted, we hit the 3,000 level in U.S. fatalities in Iraq in late December. At this rate, by the time the 2008 elections roll by we will likely be past 4,500. There is no indication that much will improve in Iraq while Bush is in office, as all past pressures to reduce the American troop presence in the war torn country have been rebuked by his stubbornness that somehow, if we keep wishing it enough, "America will win". 2006 certainly produced a loud debate on the matter. Late in the year media outlets finally started describing the situation in Iraq as a civil war as the sectarian violence escalated. The 822 dead service men and women in 2006 was less than 2005's 846 total, but that was hardly a significant reduction, and with every day that passes, Americans lose more faith that any kind of "victory" can be salvaged. Even Colin Powell has declared that "we are losing". Locally, the question of the war's legality is under the spotlight thanks to the courageous decision by Lt. Ehren Watada to refuse orders last summer to deploy to Iraq. Watada faces a court martial and multi-year prison sentence for his stance that has been denounced by many, yet heralded as brave by those who support him. This was a story I thought should have received more attention, and perhaps it may still do so when the trial commences.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein's trial did come to an end, and he was swiftly hanged shortly before the end of the year. The manner of his execution will remain a point of contention for his supporters, and even for those that had no love for him. How it effects Iraq's instability remains to be seen. Indications are that January could be a very bloody month.

In Washington Tim Eyman suffered a double defeat. Neither his bigoted referendum to overturn the anti-discrimination law protecting gays passed in Olympia early in the year, nor his renewed initiative effort to sty mie the transportation funding package made it on to the ballot as he failed to collect enough signatures in both cases. The anti-discrimination law in question passed after enough lawmakers finally came to understand that the people of Washington overwhelmingly supported it. The fact that Eyman's Referendum 65 even failed to get on the ballot only served to demonstrate the strength of will in favor of the law, and the weakness of the voices against it. Eyman's credibility was also greatly tarnished by the manner in which he played the media for personal gain. Hopefully he has been permanently tainted by his failures in 2006, but I'll be surprised if he and his financial backers won't be at it again in 2007.

2006's hurricane season turned out to be a relatively benign one. New Orleans still has a long way to go to recover from Katrina and Rita, and the poorer neighborhoods remain a blight that may never recover. We didn't quite have as devastating a natural event here in Washington, but the November rain total set an all time record for Seattle, and December's wind storm caused more than a dozen deaths and left hundreds of thousands without power in cold weather for many days.

2006 was a pretty good year for this blog. I somehow found time to write 379 posts, a 52% increase over 2006, and over 137,000 words. Traffic was up almost 90% by the end of the year, and 235% in the busy months of October and November as the elections helped bring in more readers. Certainly one point of emphasis was covering local elections. While I focused heavily on my congressional district race, covering debates and candidate forums in a manner that offered an account of them not available anywhere else, I also covered the 48th district legislative races of Rodney Tom, who became a Democrat early last year, Deb Eddy and Ross Hunter. The local candidate's transportation forum in October was another local event I seemed to have been the only one to cover, which helped drive up traffic.

My growing involvement in covering local politics was probably the most significant change to my blogging this year. It coincided with my own personal involvement for the first time as a volunteer for a political campaign, as I helped knock on doors on several occasions for the Darcy Burner campaign. Wingnuts still haven't gotten over how close Darcy made the race with the popular ex-Sheriff, as it took several days for the final outcome to become clear after election day. Had they seen the passion and size of the local volunteer force that came out for her candidacy, most of whom had never done such a thing before, they would know how much that was due to Darcy Burner's skill, despite this being her first campaign. Whether she runs again or not in 2008, she helped mobilize people and financial donors who will be chomping at the bit again in a little over a year from now to take out Reichert once and for all.

Certainly, this blogger will be keeping tabs on the incumbent, including his voting record in the upcoming 110th Congress. I hope you stick around for the ride.

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