2019’s political winners and losers — on both sides of the aisle
New Year’s Eve is all about reflection. What do we want for ourselves in the next year? For our family and friends? For our country?
It’s also a time for political junkies to reflect on the events of the past year and declare some “winners and losers.”
At this time last year, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was on everyone’s winners list, having just overseen a “blue wave” that brought more than 40 new Democrats into office. The naysayers were already backing off and it was clear that the gavel would be back in her hands.
Let’s see how 2020 looks:
- Democratic House leadership: Pelosi and House Democratic leadership had a banner year in 2019. Fresh off delivering those big election victories, they focused on passing legislation to make the lives of everyday Americans better by lowering the price of prescription drugs, raising wages, addressing climate change and funding Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as holding the Trump administration to account. They outmaneuvered President Trump on everything from opening the government to blocking his border wall to impeaching him.
- President Trump: Despite his impeachment by the House, the president heads into an election year with some serious achievements to boast about on the campaign trail. The economy is doing well, with rising wages, low unemployment and impressive job growth. Americans are taking notice and feeling good about their finances. Trump ordered the operation that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He got the First Step Act passed, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is soon to come. Perhaps most importantly, he appointed conservative judges at record rates, though part of that credit goes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
- Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC): Democrats are faring well in elections in the Trump era and we have the DGA and DLCC to thank for major wins such as Govs. Andy Beshear in Kentucky and John Bel Edwards in Louisiana and majority control in the Virginia state legislature. From funding candidates to mobilizing voters to honing messaging strategies that work, these organizations made sure Democrats have big win-percentages, even in traditionally purple and red territories.
- Health care: Democrats are trusted to handle this pivotal issue by more than 10 points nationally and have used it to win critical races all over the country. Whether a candidate is focused on improving ObamaCare, lowering prescription drug prices, expanding access to Medicaid or protecting a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, when Democrats talk about health care, they’re winning. It’s a great formula heading into 2020.
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Gov. Jay Inslee: One would think that running for president and dropping out before the first ballots are cast would be a marker of a bad year, but not so for Harris and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Harris elevated her position within the party and on the national stage. She raised the profile of black women, Democrats’ core voting bloc, and brought significant attention to issues affecting minorities. She has positioned herself to be considered as vice president once the Democratic primaries are over. Inslee entered the race to talk about the existential threat of climate change and he got everyone else talking about it, too. His platform influenced the other candidates’ programs and played a role in making climate change a household topic.
- Election security: Trump’s impeachment is about a lot of things, including election security. The intelligence community and both houses of Congress concluded that the Russians hacked our 2016 election and we’ve done little to stop it from happening again. While Trump apparently welcomes interference, election officials across America are being trained to defend our elections from foreign threats. At the same time, election security legislation was a low priority for McConnell, even though 21 states’ election systems were targeted in 2016.
- The courts: With close to 200 conservative appointments completed in the first three years of the Trump presidency, the future of the American courts looks bleak to non-conservatives. What was created to serve as a fair arbiter of the law now risks evolving into an incubator for right-wing policy. Voting rights, gerrymandering, abortion and climate are just some of the issues that these judges will consider, and Americans could suffer as a result.
- Legislation graveyard: Throughout the year, McConnell ignored legislation that Democrats passed. Pelosi oversaw the passage of more than 400 bills — nearly 300 of them bipartisan — and McConnell seemed dedicated to letting them languish on his desk. The big losers from his ploy were the American people, especially the working poor who need better wages, health care access, relief from gun violence and climate change protection.
- International alliances: President Trump campaigned on an “America first” agenda and has followed through — but increasingly, America appears isolated from the international community and, all too often, the butt of their jokes. His foreign policy decisions in 2019 further alienated U.S. allies. Sure, NATO countries may be paying more for defense, but we have fewer friends than we should. Trump has done considerable damage to our standing.
- Minorities: Republicans blather on about low black unemployment as a catch-all for minority success in America, but the reality is much bleaker. African American and Native American women die of pregnancy-related causes at three times the rate of white women. At least 18 transgender women, many of them people of color, were murdered in 2019. Trump slashed funding to Planned Parenthood, an important institution for many low-income and minority women. House Democrats acted to block Trump’s ban on transgender military service. The administration’s prioritization of religious freedom threatens LGBTQ gains. And horrific anti-Semitic attacks increased in 2019, including one this past weekend when a knife-wielding man attacked Orthodox Jews on the seventh night of Hanukkah in a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y.
There are many important issues worth highlighting, but these are my most prominent winners and losers from 2019. Each side has plenty to smile and frown about, so I guess my personal New Year’s resolution to be more bipartisan is already panning out. Happy 2020!
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.
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