Though the November 6 elections resulted in little difference in the status quo, with Democrats continuing to control the Senate and Presidency, while Republicans still control the House, the year was a highly eventful one whose events will have implications in 2013. With that in mind, here is a list of the top ten news stories of 2012.
- The first presidential debate: This may be an odd choice considering the fact that it did not ultimately change the outcome of the election, but it’s rare that a single, 90 minute event has such a strong impact on a race or election, and once it happened it dominated the political discussion for the next two weeks. Moreover, the reason for its noteworthiness is a lesson Republicans should learn from. It was a brilliantly strategic move by the Romney campaign which forced a weakening and alteration of the Democrat narrative which seemed impossible to overcome until Hurricane Sandy.
- GOP primary: The GOP primary was a bitter and hostile affair which did significant damage to Republican chances in the 2012 election, not only on the presidential but also on the state and local levels. A Republican presidential primary field for 2016 has already started to emerge, and though there will be some conflict, it is important for the next primary to be a less negative and divisive affair.
- Benghazi: On the eleventh anniversary of Al Qaida’s attacks on the World Trade Center, the US embassy in Cairo and consulate in Benghazi were attacked by terrorist forces. Initially the Cairo attack garnered more controversy because of its tweets during the assault, but when it became apparent that four people, including the American ambassador, had died in Benghazi, Libya quickly became the country of focus. Security deficiencies, failure to provide backup and the administration’s cover-up after the attack all made it one of the biggest controversies of the Obama administration to date, and discussion of the event will continue well into 2013.
- Aurora and Sandy Hook: 2012 saw two horrific mass shootings, one in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and the other in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In addition to being devastating, they have prompted a discussion about preventing future massacres which will continue into the new year on the state and national levels, and in both the public and private spheres.
- Redistricting Results: In 2011, Colorado’s post-census reapportionment was completed amidst extreme controversy. The 2012 elections were the first to be conducted with the new boundaries and while they did likely contribute to the GOP losing the State Senate, some Republicans, particularly in Boulder County, saw the opportunity to turn their districts competitive. Little change has happened yet, but attempts on both sides will likely continue, perhaps more and more successfully.
- SOPA/PIPA: These two bipartisan bills, intended to crack down on internet piracy, were heavily criticized and prompted widespread protests, including a coordinated service blackout by an estimated 7,000 websites including Wikipedia and Reddit. These protests were based, among other things, on the possibility of the bills leading to internet censorship. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet had been a co-sponsor of the bill, but in the midst of the controversy withdrew his support.
- Fast and Furious Deaths increase: The gun running scandal which led the Obama administration to give Mexican drug cartels thousands of automatic machine guns which were subsequently used to kill two American border patrol agents is now known to have caused the deaths of between 300 and 500 Mexican citizens, including 18 teenagers and a beauty queen.
- Obamacare Supreme Court Ruling: Bush appointee Supreme Court Justice John Roberts provided the surprise deciding vote upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare in June 2012, ruling that as a tax, the program was permissible. There have been hints in recent weeks that the constitutionality of the program may be revisited by the Supreme Court, however, and there has been much opposition to the idea that religious companies and organizations may be forced to fund abortions against their beliefs.
- The Election: On the state, local and national levels, the 2012 election was certainly one of the big stories of the year. Though little truly changed, there was a sense of significance to the election, which occurred at a time when the country was extremely divided and tense.
- Fiscal Cliff: In many ways more a fabricated issue of political posturing, the fiscal cliff debate lacks the weight and substance of most of the other stories on this list, but it will be one of the two which continues to dominate political discussion into 2013. It will also have an economic impact, but the outcome of the debate was largely decided before it began.
2012 was an eventful year, and 2013 will likely be even more so. Each of these stories will continue to be discussed in the next year, and will continue to impact American politics through the next elections.