Opinion

Reporter’s Notebook: The Top 10 Political Stories Of 2014

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

It is 2015, so here’s the list of the Top 10 Washington political stories of 2014.

This list differs from other sites’ parade of crises, scandals and media frenzies. That’s because it looks past the immediate headlines to identify the trends and developments that are reshaping Americans’ government, sometimes for good and mostly for ill.

1. During the summer of 2014, President Barack Obama crashed his top second-term legislative priority — passage of a so-called “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” that would boost immigration and cement Democratic political power for decades. Obama failed because he tried to replay the Obamacare fight — he didn’t compromise, he ignored the details, he tried to bamboozle the public, and he paid off businesses to win maximum political gain for the Democratic Party. The resulting bill would have doubled the inflow of lower-wage legal migrants and guest-workers up to near 4 million per year, almost equal to the number of Americans who turn 18 each year and turned the nation into California. Unfortunately for Obama, 130,000 Central Americans rushed the border to grab what he was offering, and the public’s reaction spiked up to 57 percent strong opposition. Polls had showed the public was evenly split on Obama’s plans in late 2012, but by late 2014, voters who cared about the issue opposed his immigration policies by two to one, and the GOP choose to win the 2014 anti-amnesty election instead of accepting Obama’s request to commit political suicide.

2. By late August, the establishment’s selfish alliance of the clever and the wealthy had lost the immigration debate to ordinary, average Americans. They lost even though almost the entire establishment — progressives, business leaders, Wall Street, the GOP’s leaders, universities, agriculture companies, foundations, and the media — united behind amnesty, and spent enormous piles of cash to hire a myriad lobbyists, pollsters, former legislators, religious leaders and PR flacks. Their huge effort to “manufacture consent” for amnesty failed because the public doesn’t trust Washington — and it now can use the Internet to research, organize, rally and vote against the self-serving priorities of the clever and wealthy up in federal city.

3. The 2014 immigration debate showed that Washington’s go-to tool for economic growth is cheaper labor, both blue-collar and white-collar. Sure, Washington elites also think the economy will gain from more federal spending, and high-tech science, middle-class giveaways, and putting itself in change of banks, universities and hospitals. And of course, a bigger migrant population will expand the economy, but that low-skill population growth diverts money away from research, high-tech investment, higher wages and extensive education, and redirects the cash towards low-tech businessWall Street dividends, wage subsidies, food stamps, medical aid, basic education and government dependence. Unsurprisingly, the public — however quiet and polite they are in public — really hates, hates and hates this Washington-Wall Street cheerleading for a cheap labor policy.

4. On Nov. 4, the Democratic Party recklessly discarded their majority in the Senate, just two years after giving away their majorities in the House and in state legislatures. They lost nine Senate seats in 2014, including five seats held by Democrats who voted unanimously for Obama’s wage-cutting comprehensive bill. If those Democratic senators had rejected Obama’s crony-capitalist bill, they’d likely have survived November’s anti-Obama, anti-amnesty, and anti-Washington flood. The Democrats’ determined, consistent and coordinated self-mutilation now grants the GOP dominance at every level of elected government, except for the Oval Office.

5. In December, Congress castrated itself, constitutionally speaking. Throughout 2013 and 2014, Capitol Hill’s Democratic and Republican legislators properly debated and eventually rejected the president’s high-immigration, low-wage policy — but then limply let the president declare that he would rewrite the nation’s laws to match his preferences. Obama’s multi-level, home-brewed amnesty would generously grant works permits, Social Security, drivers’ licenses and financial aid to roughly 6 million illegals, plus block enforcement against 6 million other illegals. It would cost Americans at least $2 trillion over 50 years, and distort the American economy with a flood of cheap, low-skill labor. Regardless of the merits of Obama’s plan, Congress self-imposed passivity let Obama claim the authority to write the nation’s laws.

6. In December, the judiciary was given another history-making chance to play Defender of the Constitution when 24 states filed to block Obama’s amnesty. In 2012, the court bungled the Obamacare decision when the Chief Justice relabeled the Obamacare mandate as a tax. But now the chief justice and his eight fellow guardians must decide whether they will enforce the constitution by requiring the President to execute the laws faithfully, and by requiring Congress to vote for or against new laws, instead of covertly delegating law-making authority to a roomful of presidential aides. They may be ready to act — in June, the court spanked Obama’s claim to decide when the Senate is in recess.

7. In December, just after winning the November election, the GOP’s leadership outed themselves as donation-craving corporatists, not vote-seeking populists, when they ignored the near-universal demands of their own voters to favor the high-immigration policy pushed by their business donors. The leadership could have inserted language in the 2015 spending bill that would have blocked Obama’s personal amnesty, but they instead inserted language allowing Wall Street to make risky investments using cash from taxpayer-insured accounts. Naturally, the party split — 67 GOP legislators voted against the budget — while Obama happily accepted the Wall Street giveaway and the GOP leadership’s tacit approval of his home-brewed amnesty. This is a risky strategy for Republicans, which was shockingly demonstrated to Majority Leader Eric Cantor when he lost his primary in June 2014.

8. Throughout 2014, the established media cheerfully played the role of Buzzfeed’s cats, and spent the year chasing the president’s laser pointer around the political arena. On immigration, the media uncritically accepted the president’s euphemisms (“out of the shadows” and “shield” instead of amnesty,) plus the president’s sympathies (towards migrants, not Americans) and his contempt for worried Americans (“anti-immigrant”). Few reporters provided facts that could help voters decide — How many people would be given work-permits? What’s the impact of a greater labor supply on professionals’ wages in a slow economy? — and few even considered how their college roommates, their professional peers, and their future children would gain or lose from an unlimited flood of government-subsidized foreign professionals.

9. In spring and summer, in fall and winter, a parade of pollsters outed themselves as opinion-makers, eager to skew questions and tout percentages for the benefit of their employers. Mark Zuckerberg served as the primary punter, when he paid 10 polling firms to mouth the predictably positive results from a carefully tested set of poll questions about immigration. But some pollsters deliberately or accidentally conducted polls that allow the public to indirectly reveal what they think: Yes, we like the idea of immigration and we like immigrants, but we’d really love to have a lot fewer, right now.

10. In every week of the year, 2014 showed that foreign policy fiascos, farces and catastrophes are merely media froth because the Democratic base is focused on domestic political gains and media outlets won’t shame the Democratic president. In 2014, Obama suffered little or no political harm when he dithered while western Iraq was blitzed by a murderous jihad army, while Gaza-based militants declared a ceasefire after bombarding a western-style democracy with rockets and tunneling terrorists, while China expanded its reach across the Pacific and while Russia invaded the struggling democracy in Ukraine. Obama also pursued a one-sided deal with the ruling family of communist Cuba, he pleaded for an empty deal with Iran’s nuclear-armed theocracy, he transferred prisoners back to the Islamic Taliban and to al-Qaida, and even put on his imaginary religious authority hat to declare that Islamic jihadis aren’t motivated by Islam. But his overall ratings rarely fell below 40 percent.

So that’s the year in political trends and lessons. Come on back in December 2015 for more happy news.

Follow Neil on Twitter