What do you think were the most significant political news stories in 2014?
Paul Bremmer – Wash D.C., St. Bonaventure University 2012 Graduate, Bio – The year 2014 was jam-packed with significant news stories. This was the year the first Obamacare open enrollment period ended, Russia annexed Crimea, and Chris Christie’s presidential hopes took a major hit due to scandal. However, there are four stories that stand out to me as the most significant.
First was the revelation back in June that tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American minors were showing up at our southern border. Instead of turning them away, the Obama administration took them in, scheduled court hearings for them, and released more than 37,000 of them to sponsors or guardians in the U.S.
Many of the illegal alien minors entered U.S. public schools this fall, and many people believe the minors may have been responsible for the outbreak of enterovirus that has infected so many American children this year.
President Obama created another huge immigration news story by implementing an executive amnesty that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants currently in the country.
The second major news story this year was the rise of ISIS. Most of us were horrified when we saw the video of ISIS members beheading American journalist James Foley, but, tragically, there were more beheading videos to come. The fact ISIS has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria is a worrisome development.
The third major news story was the appearance of Ebola virus in the United States, thanks to Thomas Eric Duncan. It became a political issue, because of the Obama administration’s response. They refused to ban travel to the U.S. from Ebola-stricken countries, and then bizarrely sent the U.S. military to Africa to help fight Ebola.
The fourth major story was the big Republican victory in the midterm elections. It could be that voters disapproved of the Obama administration’s handling of the three issues mentioned above. It could be they were frustrated with Obamacare, the economy, or one of the president’s scandals.
At any rate, voters gave the GOP control of the Senate and increased the party’s majority in the House. It was a likely sign Americans are fed up with the direction President Obama and the Democrats are taking the country.
Arianna Mendez – FL, Florida International University 2014 Masters Degree, Bio –
THE RISE OF ISIS
The rise of ISIS as a threat to Middle East regional stability and the long-term potential of ISIS becoming an international terrorist threat was a significant political development in 2014. In response to the beheadings of American and British journalists, the United States and its international partners conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria and began to train and equip resistant forces on the ground.
The stated objective of the United States is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS leadership and combat capabilities. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, among others, criticized the Obama Administration’s “light footprint” approach in dealing with the terrorist group. The rise of ISIS as a regional political actor will destabilize an already tumultuous democratic Iraq and complicate the ongoing civil war in Syria.
RUSSIA INVADES CRIMEA
The Crimean Crisis illustrates the failure of the Russian reset and has led many to question the United States transatlantic relations and NATO security guarantees. The international community failed to take significant diplomatic or military action against Russia to prevent the annexation of Crimea and instead opted to institute limited financial sanctions.
The annexation of a neighboring country by force is unprecedented in the 21th century. The last time this happened was when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Russia’s disregard for national sovereignty and international law must not be left unchecked, and the United States must work to reaffirm ties with our European and NATO allies or a recalcitrant Russia will be a problem for decades.
REPUBLICAN MID-TERM WAVE
November 4 will be a day that will live in infamy for Democrats. It appears the GOP will have picked up 9 Senate seats and will have control of 244 seats to Democrats’ 186. In addition, Republicans made huge gains in state legislatures and governor races across the country. It was a spectacular mid-term election for Republicans.
To put it in perspective, for the first time in a decade Republicans will have control of the Senate. And President Obama will be dealing for the first time with a Republican controlled Congress.
President Obama seems undaunted by the mid-term results and is already threatening to go it alone on his agenda. The final two years of President Obama’s administration definitely promises to be interesting and polemical now with Republicans in control of Capitol Hill.
I want to wish Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to our readership. It has been an honor to share my views every month, and I look forward to continuing to do so in 2015. Thank you, for supporting #YoungPolitics. See you in 2015!
Pete Vujovich – MN, University of Minnesota 2011 Graduate, Bio – It is hard to argue the most significant political news story is anything other than the midterm elections. More specifically however is the low turnout nationwide. Forty three states had less than 50% turnout, and no state had more than 60%.
According to the Washington Post, only 36.4% of the voting eligible population cast ballots this November. Even the wave elections of 2010 boasted a turnout higher than 40%.
These low turnout numbers resulted in massive wins for the Republican Party. The biggest announcement of election night was they would take over control of the United States Senate. But the less reported story is the last time the Republican Party had a majority this large in the House of Representatives, while also having control of the Senate was in 1928.
While I am not predicting the economic calamity that ensued following those elections, I am predicting the same level of gridlock we have seen the past six years between the President and Congress. While each side trumpets their willingness to compromise, there is little to no evidence to suggest either side is willing to make significant enough concessions to move the dial.
The victim of this low turnout is not the Democratic Party. Nor is it the countless hearings on problems with the Affordable Care Act (with no solutions to fix the problems). Nor is it the time wasted on hearings about Benghazi, or the numerous Senators who wish to impeach the president.
The real victim is our democratic process. Can we really call ourselves a democracy if over 60% of people actively decide not to vote? If we wish to continue to be the city upon a hill, and a leader for all nations, I suggest we act like we are remotely concerned with who is in control of our government.
Photo Credit – Stuart Miles