A lot can happen in six years.
When I last posted on this blog, I announce that Nikki Haley had been elected Governor of South Carolina.
That was November of 2010. Think about what was going on at that time:
- Democrats still controlled the Senate, but had just lost the House to the rising T.E.A. Party insurgency.
- The Affordable Care Act had been passed, but would not go into effect until 2013 (2014, as it turned out, due to the executive fiat of the Department of Health and Human Services).
- The Great Recession was, from a technically economic standpoint, over, but the much-vaunted Obama recovery was still frustratingly anemic at best, and virtually invisible to many Americans.
- President Barack Obama hadn't completely divided the country along race, class, and gender lines, and his disastrous foreign policy hadn't completely crippled American power and prestige abroad.
What a difference six years make. Here are some highlights:
- Nikki Haley not only began her first gubernatorial term in 2011; she handily won reelection in 2014 in a landslide victory against her 2010 opponent, Vincent Sheheen. The relatively unknown upstart from Bamberg made good on her promise to grow the State economically. She guided the state through the horrible Charleston Nine massacre in 2015; adroitly handled the resultant push to remove the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds; and entered VP buzz for the carnival-like 2015-2016 presidential election season.
- The Democrats lost control of the Senate after an unexpected Republican surge in the 2014 midterm elections, which cemented the gains of 2010 and showed Americans' growing dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act in particular and the Obama administration's equivocating in general. This victory came despite an unpopular government shut-down (led by the brilliant Senator Ted Cruz of Texas) in 2013 and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's drubbing in the 2012 presidential election.
- Racial wounds that had mostly scabbed over were ripped open once again--this time with the president dumping plenty of salt on them. Alleged police misconduct in Ferguson, Missouri and beyond brought out protestors in droves... despite the fact that many of these unfortunate events were not racially motivated (although some, such as the death of Eric Garner in New York City, highlighted the perils of excessive force and regulations). Baltimore caught fire, Ferguson was ablaze, and the big losers were small black business owners who saw their stores looted amid cries for racial and social justice.
- The American college campus, always a training school for Leftist ideologues, became a breeding ground for illiberal Progressives, those who loudly (and sometimes violently) suppressed freedom of speech if such speech was deemed unacceptable or "hateful" (the latter often taking a rather protean definition). Dovetailing with the rise in identity politics (see the previous bullet point), campus multiculturalism took on a dangerously Balkanized flavor, one that denounced the First Amendment and, in the process, heterosexual white men in favor of a vague commitment to skin-deep "diversity" (unless you're transgender, in which case you can be whatever you feel like at any given moment).
- Out of all this craziness came the largest, most talented field of Republican presidential hopefuls in the nation's history. With seventeen (!) candidates, Republicans were treated to a wealth of talent--but also a great deal of muckraking, mudslinging, and intense political maneuvering. From this crowded field emerged an unlikely victor: business mogul Donald J. Trump. In one of the biggest twists in American political history, a non-ideological, brash, gutsy-but-not-very-detail-oriented, and always-controversial reality television star won the nomination of an increasingly conservative Republican Party. Put another way, a thrice-married, formerly-pro-Clinton, formerly-pro-choice New Yorker beat out a born-again, pro-life Texan.
Needless to say, it's been pretty crazy.
With everything that's happened, I realized that it's time to get back into this world of political commentary. The unique character of the 2016 presidential election alone has me salivating (be on the lookout for my brief overview of the 2015-2016 presidential nomination process). There are so many questions: what will become of the Republican Party? Can Trump win the election (for what it's worth, I think he can)? Will Hillary manage to hold off socialist Bernie Sanders? How will Trump and Clinton go after each other? Should conservatives support Trump, or back a third-party candidate (for reasons I'll explain in a future post, I'll say "yes, with some caveats" to the first part and "no" to the second)? What would a viable third-party candidacy look like--if such a thing is possible?
There's a lot to talk about.
So, strap in and brace yourself--it's going to be one heck of a ride.
All the best,
The Portly Politico