- Never Ending Election Mode – Earlier this year I wrote a piece in this space about the ‘R’ issues – reapportionment, redistricting, recalls, referendums and recounts. The results of elections and issue fights in state legislative chambers have now reached a point where the election is never over. If you don’t like the outcome, call for a recount. If you don’t like the votes a legislator casts, (never mind that is what they are elected to do – write and vote on legislation), recall them (MI for example, more on WI later). If you don’t like how a redistricting commission chair is doing their job, try to impeach them (AZ). Unfortunately, this unhealthy trend is only likely to worsen.
- Reapportionment & Redistricting – Maybe the easiest event of the year to pick since this will have a clear impact on what district lines looks like at numerous levels (congress, state legislatures, school boards and even the proverbial dog catcher) for the next decade. States like TX and FL were the big winners in gaining congressional seats (four and two respectively) while the Northeast and Midwest continue to lose seats.
- Election Calendar in Flux – As a result of the item above (and lawsuits, voting rights issues or slow action), you can expect several states to alter their election calendars. In some places, this will only mean the candidate filing period will change; in others, it will result in the dates of the primary election being moved. IL, OH and MS have already experienced this, but they won’t be the only states.
- Citizen Redistricting Commissions – With CA and AZ jumping on the Citizen Redistricting Commission bandwagon to redraw district boundary lines, look for more serious efforts in a number of states to take away the power from state legislatures and put them in the hands of “average” citizens – who are not elected and thus not held accountable for their end product.
- WI Recall Elections – The recall elections of nine state senators (six against Republicans and three against Democrats) in Wisconsin gained a tremendous amount of news coverage. The impact of this story is not limited to WI and that is why this event is on this list. The impact was felt all across the country and you can bet that the knowledge level of state legislatures on how to conduct a recall election just jumped dramatically and this is now a new tool to use in the political arena. While the WI recall elections were driven largely by labor unions going after Republicans, recall election efforts going forward could come from any interest group going after those who oppose their issue agenda.
- OH Ballot Issues – 27%. That is the percentage difference between those who essentially voted against the Republican governor on Issue #2 and also voted against the Democrat president on Issue #3. The swing/independent vote is growing in influence and size and the 2011 statewide referendum election in OH illustrated this by showing us how upset voters are, how fickle their support of elected officials can be and that party identification does not decide elections.
- GOP Locking Up The South – By winning control of the MS House and VA Senate (technically a 20-20 tie with the Republican LG casting the tiebreaking vote), Republicans have a solid hold of every Southern state legislature and governor’s office outside of Little Rock, AR and the Governor’s mansion in Raleigh, NC.
- Hispanics – The fastest growing population is finally being recognized for what it is – a growing political force that will be the deciding factor in countless elections in a rapidly growing number of states and districts at all levels. Those who continue to ignore this group or try to keep their thumb on top of Hispanics do so with their own political demise at hand.
- 9% Not The 1% – While the so-called 1% was getting a little attention from some tent-dwellers in public parks, the percentage that we ALL should be concerned about is 9%. This percentage represents the job approval Congress received during 2011. No matter who is in control, we deserve to have a well-respected and well-functioning Congress and not one that resembles a boxing/MMA event that always seems to end a controversial draw. The continued breakdown and gridlock of Capitol Hill (and many state legislatures) needs to end to move our country’s economy forward again.
- Social Media Advances – The ability to skip communicating to Americans through expensive, none targeted TV advertisements has a more than worthy challenger in internet /mobile/social media communication vehicles. Those relics who try to hold on to only old-style communications are either being left behind or eating their words that social media is just a temporary trend.
- GOP Roller Coaster Ride – He’s in. She’s out. He’s still thinking about it. She’s in. He was out, but is now rethinking, and on and on. The GOP nominee will in part be determined by who decided not to run, who could sustain all the challenges of new candidates and the non-stop talk of who is not in the field or may soon jump in. The impact of this roller coaster ride to get to a GOP nominee to challenge the incumbent Democrat president has been (and will continue to be) a thrill ride unlike any other nomination battle.
Instead of doing the typical “top 10” year in review list that highlights the biggest news making stories of the past year, I decided to do a list of the most impactful events of the past year. By impactful, I mean events that occurred in 2011, but will continue to shape the current 2011-2012 election cycle, future election cycles or political/legislative/election events going forward. Some events/stories that I will list were big news stories, some were not but all will be impactful for this election and even beyond the end of 2012.
There is a time for politics and a time for governing. The time for politics is over the time for governing is upon us.