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The Top 10 Political Stories of 2018 - Sunday Political Brunch December 30, 2018

Sunday, December 30, 2018

 

Mark Curtis

Spending the final week of 2018 in the sun and the sand of Florida is my way to end a year. The Sunshine State has been my “second home” since 1984, when I moved here for graduate school, and to work many years in radio and television. It remains one of the top-three most critical states in the nation when it comes to political ebbs and flows. With that in mind, here is my “Top Ten” list of political stories of 2018.

1) “Cabinet Upheaval” – The big story towards the end of 2018 was the resignation – then dismissal – of Defense Secretary General James Mattis. At the same time, the White House Chief of Staff’s position was vacant, as was the Secretary of the Interior, and Attorney General (though acting secretaries were serving). U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley departed as well. In all, seven of Trump’s original Cabinet of 16 have departed, and of the eight positions deemed Cabinet-level, four have also changed hands. Of the 12 presidents in my lifetime, there has never been such turmoil and turnover, not even in the upheaval of the Nixon administration during Watergate.

2) “November Split Decision” – The November election was a mixed bag, ending with divided government. Republicans still hold the White House and control of the Senate, but Democrats made huge gains sweeping into the majority in the House. There are two paths here: cooperation and compromise on issues and legislation; or gridlock and dysfunction. I predict you’ll see a bit of both, although 2018 hardly ended that way! Hey, there’s even a Trump coin you can buy!

3) “Market and Economic Ups and Downs” – It’s been a year of highs and lows and roller-coaster-like ups and downs in the markets. Spurred on by the Trump tax cuts (really born from the GOP Congress long before he came around, but nonetheless significant); the full-employment picture; and, with annualized economic growth at 4-percent for much of the year, the economy and markets were really cooking. Much of that didn’t last. The plunging markets and rising interest rates at the end of the year are raising big concerns for 2019, and even Trump’s political future. Keep an eye on this as the top trending story of 2019.

4) “More Women in Congress” – The number of women serving in Congress will increase from its previous historic level. As of 2018 there were 87 women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 23 in the U.S. Senate. In the new Congress, that will be sworn in on January 3, 2019, there will be 127 women in total, a net gain of 17. A record of 102 women will serve in the House, and a record 25 will be in the Senate. The majority of seats are Democrats, but the Republicans hold a significant number. When both parties are in play, that equals leverage.

5) “Supreme Beings” – Whether you supported Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or not - and there were plenty of both - his ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court is significant. No matter how the Trump Presidency shakes out, he has already made two high court appointments and may have a third. Don’t forget, all sorts of District and Appeals Court judges have also been appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate. No matter how good or bad or significant a president might be, their most lasting, enduring imprint is on how their philosophy shapes the courts.

6) “As Florida Goes, So Goes the Nation!” – That old saying used to apply to Maine, and still certainly applies to Ohio, but more and more it applies to the Sunshine State. When Donald Trump won Florida in 2016 early in the evening, a lot of people (and pundits like me) said, “Oh my God, he may really have a chance to win the whole thing!” In the last 15 presidential elections, Florida picked the winner 13 times. Only Kennedy in 1960, and Clinton in 1992 won the White House without Florida. The ascent of Gov. Rick Scott (R) Florida to the U.S. Senate in 2018, and the rise of Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) Florida, to the governor’s mansion could be an indicator of how critical Florida will be in 2020.

7) “The Deaths of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush” – The Bush family, now in its fourth generation of American politics, has had a profound impact on this nation. Despite the glowing funeral coverage for both, it is important to remember there were moments of great controversy and conflict regarding this family’s politics and policies. But, at the end of the day (a phrase way overused in politics to the point of cliché), you’d be hard -pressed to find two more kind and gentle people to live in the White House. Their enduring legacy? Perhaps something as simple and genuine as stressing the importance of family, and service above self.

8) “The Thawing of the North Korean Chill” – Yes, it is still a work in progress, but the fact that Trump is the first president in a long, long time to meet with a communist North Korean leader speaks volumes. Hopefully, it will lead to a nuclear deal, and reduce or eliminate the threat from the North, and better protect our allies in South Korea. It’s not Nixon going to China and Russia, but it’s right up there for its boldness. We’ll see if it bears fruit in 2019.

9) “Investigate-gate!” – Just a hunch, but I think we will see multiple investigations of President Trump in the House this year, now that Democrats have taken over. Some may have merit; others may not. But Washington, D.C. is a “get even” town, where both sides keep score. Despite all the new faces, there are plenty of Democrats still bruising for a fight over President Clinton’s impeachment from 20 years ago. Yes, to many, it’s unseemly, but that’s how they play ball on Capitol Hill.

10) “West Virginia Teachers Strike” – Sure, it was a local event, but it quickly turned into a national movement. In late February, thousands of teachers walked off the job in West Virginia’s 55 counties, and headed straight for the capitol to protest. They spent nine days shouting in the halls between the House and the Senate – about a 200+ yard stretch on marble floor – and the sound was deafening. They won a 5-percent pay raise for all state employees and a promise to fix their health insurance. Soon after, teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, and elsewhere were either walking out on strike, or threatening to do so. It was a powerful movement that promises to carry into 2019, and it started here in the Mountain State.

What are your political predictions for 2019? Just click the comment button on this article or the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five surrounding states.

 

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