Good time to look back, forward

By Tom McDonald

State columnist

Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald

It’s all a matter of perspective.

The year 2014 might have been a great one for you. Or it could have been hell. I hope for your sake it was the former, but either way it’s a good time to look back — and forward.

Politically, it was a rough year for the Democrats, both here in New Mexico and in the halls of Congress. Gary King got trounced in November, but we all pretty much knew that was going to happen. It must have been a tough, tough year for the retiring attorney general, as he started out behind and lost ground from there.

As for Susana Martinez, the governor couldn’t have had a better political year. She was courted by the national Republican leadership, enjoyed strong popularity at home, and coasted to re-election with a bottomless supply of money and television ads. Managed with care by her handlers, she could have taken a three-month vacation and still won another term as governor, but instead she stayed on the job and on script, and now enters a new year firmly in the state driver’s seat.

The Republican Party capitalized on public unrest and low voter turnout to win control of Congress in Washington and half-control in Santa Fe. But that could backfire, since now they’ve got to demonstrate they can actually govern in 2015.

I’d say the reverse is true for Obama. He and his party suffered big losses in ’14, but it’s freed him up to act, unilaterally and with far less fear of political consequences, on issues that have been stalled for years. Immigration and Cuba are bold new actions he took right after the mid-term elections, and while they’ve stirred up outrage and threats of reprisal from the president’s loyal opposition, he doesn’t seem to care.

And why should he? Republicans may be crying foul, but others — including Democrats and independents alike — are saying it’s about time.

This won’t be a lame duck presidency in its last two years. Maybe he’ll get nothing done through Congress, but he’s still got his executive powers, and he seems poised to use them.
I’d say it was a great year for Pope Francis, though he sure did stir things up. He made it a year for change in his beloved Catholic church, and while I’m a Protestant by birth and upbringing, he’s become a hero of mine. Godspeed, Holy Father, may your best efforts triumph.

As for the weather, I’ll call 2014 the year of the new normal. For the past several years now, extreme weather has become more and more commonplace. It’s no big surprise anymore to learn that much of the American West just went through the warmest year in recorded history, while back in the Midwest it was one of the coldest.

The new normal is more abnormal weather — which we can reasonably expect in 2015.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:
tmcdonald@gazettemediaservices.com