Opinion and Forefront

BECK: The biggest and worst of the elections

December 15, 2012

BeckFor the political among us, 2012 was solely focused on the election. From the early days in January with the Iowa caucuses to the ongoing transitions at the state and federal levels, the year was packed with action.

I’m the first to admit we take politics seriously at our humble Irvington abode. So much so, that when I informed our 5-year-old son the election had ended, he hopefully inquired, “Does that mean the debates are over?”

Debates notwithstanding, here are some of my observations about the best—and worst—moments of the 2012 election cycle.

Biggest winner: President Obama. Obama has weathered every attack thrown his way in the last four years. The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, making the scare tactics by the right over “Obamacare” and the manufactured slide into socialism a moot point. Not only did the president survive, he won re-election decisively. Oh, the irony.

Biggest loser: the Tea Party. For all its hype in 2009 and 2010, the Tea Party had a miserable showing in 2012. Despite millions of dollars spent by outside groups, it continued its losing streak in general elections.

This was consistent with 2010, where it won Senate primary challenges in Delaware and Nevada, yet lost the seats to Democrats in the general election. Of interest, it was the comments of Tea Party “rape candidates” Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin that led to a national dialogue about their extreme and unreasonable views.

Best activation of grass-roots network: Glenda Ritz. While there has been an abundance of sour grapes since Ritz beat Tony Bennett for superintendent of public instruction, her campaign activated a motivated grass-roots network. In a move uncharacteristic for campaigns, Ritz ran under the radar of nearly everyone, while Bennett held the front-runner status and cash advantage. It’s clear Hoosier voters care deeply about how their children are educated and how their schools are managed.

Biggest surprise: Mike Pence’s margin of victory. Throughout the summer and fall, as we became better acquainted with Hobo at the Blue Jay in Sanborn, or Pence’s travels in the red truck, conventional wisdom had Pence solidly up by double digits. The finally tally on election night? Gov.-elect Pence won by less than 3 percent, the closest governor’s race since 1960.

Most overused phrase: bipartisanship. Ranking right up there with “Obamacare” and “the 47 percent,” it’s the new buzzword at the Statehouse. With the new super-majorities in both chambers, many are closely watching to see if the Republicans will be able to stay away from social issues. Hope springs eternal, but with the polarizing gay marriage issue on the horizon, let’s hope bipartisanship actually saves the day.

Best newcomer: Rupert Boneham. Libertarian Boneham was a breath of fresh air on the campaign trail and elevated issues such as prisoner re-entry during the debates. His style, humor and tie-dyed attire did more than just lighten the mood; it made politics a little more approachable for the average person.

Best all-around: the engaged voter. It seemed everywhere I went this year, from the preschool drop to family dinners, everyone was talking about the election. Social media, in particular, exploded during the debates and on election night, and the interest continues. Whether it’s following the fiscal cliff negotiations or taking pride in the accomplishments of Sen. Richard Lugar as he moves to his next role, the engaged voter was—and continues to be—the real winner.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.•

• Beck served on the staffs of former Mayor Bart Peterson and former first lady Maggie Kernan. A resident of Irvington, Beck owns the strategic communications firm Beck Communications. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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