It’s been quite the year in politics with some advances for certain causes and a litany of failures in the other. Boo hiss to the Republicans and to the state of Florida — feel free to fall through a trap door — then join me in wishing for a much more fruitful 2014.
1. The Would-Be Political Stars of the Future
When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL, pictured) was announced by the GOP to deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union address, it was a clear indication that the junior senator from Florida was well on his way and a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Unfortunately for him, he tanked and all most people remember from the speech is that random gulp of water he took in the middle of his speech.
Then there’s disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who declared his candidacy for the New York mayoral race and seemed to have a legitimate shot at succeeding
King Mayor Bloomberg until it was apparent that Weiner’s sexting habits were far more extensive than we knew. I imagine this is a trend that will follow a whole generation of future political candidates. So remember, kids: “Sending nudes” has consequences.
2. Bill de Blasio Wins the New York Mayoral Race
New York has a liberal reputation, but if you judged the city by the candidates to which it elects to govern, it’s a reputation unwarranted (especially in the last two decades). Then came Bill de Blasio, a 52-year-old White guy who suddenly became the city’s new face of progressive politics. Sure, that has a lot to do with his stances on taxation, education, and his strong advocacy against the stop-and-frisk, but so much of it also had to do with his family. His bisexual Black wife and their two children — the three of which much of the nation fell head over heels for.
And yeah, there was Dante‘s Afro, which definitely helped seal the deal for the de Blasio campaign. FYI: Former President Bill Clinton will be swearing in the new mayor on January 1.
3. Wendy Davis Stands Up For Texas Women
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) became a national political figure this year after staging an 11-hour filibuster to help thwart Gov. Rick Perry‘s attempts at pushing major anti-abortion legislature in the state. The filibuster was only temporarily successful, but Davis helped create a major challenge and has gone on to become a candidate for governor of Texas in 2014.
And if you want to compare Davis’ filibuster to Ted Cruz’s (via ABC News):
The filibuster rules in the Texas legislature are much harsher than the ones in the U.S. Senate. Davis wasn’t permitted to lean against the podium or rest in any way. And the strict rules also prohibited her from speaking about anything other than the bill at hand.
4. Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA
In a major victory for the marriage equality movement, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. While the court did not legalize gay marriage nationwide, it was still a major victory. States like Utah have followed suit on striking down gay marriage bans while others such as Indiana are now facing legal challenges.
5. Women In Combat Battle Lifted
In January, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted military’s official ban on women in combat. The decision overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule that restricted women “from artillery, armor, infantry, and other such combat roles.” Women have found themselves in combat in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, but this measure nonetheless “will open up hundreds of thousands of additional front-line jobs to them.”
A military official explained to the New York Times the change would be implemented “as quickly as possible,” though the Pentagon is allowing three years (until January 2016) for final decisions from the services.
6. Syria and Iran
President Obama along with Russia brokered a deal with the civil war ravaged Syria to do away with chemical weapons — preventing what could have been America’s next war. The President deemed it “a potentially huge victory for the international community.” That said, Syria will not meet the year-end deadline for removing most of its chemical weapons. Moreover, there has yet to be done in the way of providing the humanitarian efforts Syrians need.
Still, it was a coup for the administration, as was the historic compromise with Iran over its production of nuclear weapons — a deal Secretary of State John Kerry played a key role in striking.
7. Harry Reid Goes Nuclear
Fed up with Republicans in the Senate constantly blocking most nominations by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Senate Democrats used a rare parliamentary move to alter the federal judicial nomination and executive-office appointment nomination process. Instead of a 60-vote super-majority to advance to the actual confirmation vote, Reid and the Democrats changed the rules so that these nominees and appointments could advance with a straight up or down vote.
8. Government Shutdown
An absorbed junior senator from Texas managed to wrangle control of a select band of misfit congressional Republicans away from the Speaker of the House in order to get them to jointly voice their disapproval of the Affordable Care Act at the expense of a functioning government. Congressional Republicans have largely played the role of obstructionists since seizing control of the House of Representatives in 2010, pushing President Obama to concede on several measures in the name of “compromise.” However, this time Obama didn’t buckle to their request of dismantling his key piece of legislature just to get the government working for two more months. Congressional Democrats stood behind him and the GOP lost the battle on both the Hill and in the eyes of the public.
9. Voting Rights Act Struck Down
In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the opinion, which struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 4 is a provision of the landmark civil rights legislation that “designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.” Not long after the vote, a mass of GOP-controlled states across the country introduced voter ID laws. There has since been debate on how to fight voter suppression efforts with what’s left of the VRA — including amending Section 2 and working with Section 5.
10. George Zimmerman Verdict
The pain of George Zimmerman being found not guilty in the death of the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin is two-fold. One, it reminds you of how little importance Black life is to many Americans and that our humanity is not revered as that of a White person’s — which leaves us to be shot and killed without reason, and for the killer, without repercussions. It’s happened time and time again. One case in particular that hasn’t gotten enough attention is the death of Renisha McBride.
The other aspect that makes the verdict so problematic is that Zimmerman is allowed to roam the country free and terrorize other people (like those he dates) after killing an unarmed child. Marissa Alexander is only now getting a break from jail (released on Christmas Night) after firing what she described as a warning shot at her abusive husband. The justice system was always known to be imperfect, but 2013 proved just how uneven it remains.