The conclusion of a calendar year before the inception of a fresh one is both a literal and metaphorical time of hope: a chance to wipe the slate clean and welcome new ideas, goals and attitudes. While any period of transition lacks clean orderliness, the end of December is perhaps the one time in twelve months where an opportunity is presented to stop, think and even change the most important mind of all – your own.
It was just two months ago, in the midst of October’s bogus and pointless government shutdown, that I was pretty much resolved to throw in the political towel. Despite a surprisingly strong spine shown by President Obama and Congressional Democrats in refusing to help lunatic Republicans save face, it seemed as though we had beamed an unmistakable message across the globe: “The United States has jumped the shark. A minority of conservative radicals is in charge, holding the rest of us hostage. And mainstream ‘liberals,’ perpetually preoccupied with the next election cycle have forsaken economic and social stewardship. We will continue to lurch from one manufactured fiscal crisis to another. We have stopped caring about the middle and lower classes. We will continue to ignore the growing incidence of mass gun violence, dismantle the social safety net. Give us another decade to complete our transformation to banana republic.”
But just when all seemed utterly and completely lost, a series of fortunate and promising events occurred. The GOP was pummeled in the public court of good opinion over the two-week shutdown, effectively neutralizing the party’s oft-stated talking point that its actions reflected the will of the people. They completely capitulated, the government reopened and there was good reason to believe that Boehner and the bunch would be loathe to attempt any similar monkey business in the near future.
Next we received the holiday gift of a bipartisan budget agreement. And though it was at best an imperfect plan which does nothing to aid the struggling, invest in the future (infrastructure, education) or bolster job creation, the final resolution was a glorified nod to the retreat of deficit panic as our defining government ideology. The cherry on top was the subsequent inter-Republican bickering, punctuated by Speaker Boehner’s repeated admonishment of right wing advocacy groups like the Heritage Foundation. The grumpiness appeared to be little less than the opening shot of the Republican civil war that for years appeared as necessary as it was unlikely.
And now, finally, at the conclusion of 2013, the conversation is turning. Yes, the change is beginning to take root in “liberal” media outlets such as The New York Times, but it’s happening. Time was you couldn’t get anyone but Nobel Prize-winning economic Paul Krugman to steer off the GOP sound bite course. And bless his heart, the stalwart solider of good sense is back at it this week with a column entitled, Fiscal Fever Breaks. But I wasn’t about to get excited until a major story made the front page.
The headline is neutral enough: Democrats Turn to Minimum Wage as 2014 Strategy. But the statistics referenced within the piece are the real story: “Sixty-four percent of independents and even 57 percent of Republicans said they supported increasing the minimum wage, according to a CBS News poll last month. Some 70 percent of self-described ‘moderates’ said they supported an increase.”
The movement away from “serious” economic butchering that only serves to enrich the wealthy and kick the troubled when they’re down, no longer holds the same appeal – for the White House, for papers of record and, most importantly of all, for the people. A large cross-section of ALL of the people. 2014 might just be the year of resurgent democracy, of empathy and of a modicum of policy sanity. Yes, we can.