As many events of 2012 showed, things can change quickly. The course of a presidential campaign can be changed by a single debate, and reversed by a hurricane; the main political issue of the country can be shifted by one horrific tragedy. That said there are some issues which will be relevant and interesting in the next year regardless of what else happens. The following list contains ten such topics to follow in 2013.
- Gun Control: After Sandy Hook, gun control took center stage as a national political debate, and it isn’t going away. Both Barack Obama and John Hickenlooper have promised a debate on the issue in the next year, with Obama even promising to “put his full weight” behind a gun control package. Lawmakers such as Dianne Feinstein, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter have been drafting legislation. Meanwhile gun sales are at a near record high, and NRA memberships have skyrocketed. Both gun control and gun rights activists have become increasingly vocal. The issue will be a major one on not only the state and national levels, but also the international level with a proposed UN treaty, and it will likely have significant political ramifications as well as possible effects on gun ownership.
- Julian Castro: Looking to 2016, much attention is being paid to a possible Hillary Clinton run, but many are ignoring her likely competitor whose political trajectory seems to be mirroring that of Obama, himself. Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, gave the keynote speech at the 2012 DNC, after which he was lauded as a rising star within the party. He has since traveled to London to speak, earning him praise as being popular on the international stage, and has also signed a book deal which highlights his political ambitions. Shortly after the presidential election, which news stories have exclaimed that he called before any of the major networks, he discussed the probability of turning Texas blue within eight years. The son of a left wing activist and leader of La Raza, his twin brother is also a politician, elected this year to the US House of Representatives.
- John Hickenlooper: In the first half of his first term and after a unique campaign and election, Governor Hickenlooper earned the reputation as a rare moderate Democrat. A former small business owner, he performed better than most of his party on CATO’s fiscal report card, even earning recognition for some of the laws passed under him. He also did not pass highly partisan legislation which would alienate his opposition, even defending gun rights after the Aurora theater shooting, and he consequently enjoyed significant popularity. He operated, however, with a mixed legislature, a situation which changed on Election Day. Soon afterward, he began to pursue the issue of gun control, and some began to question whether he would remain a moderate with a solidly Democrat legislature. If Hickenlooper remains a moderate, he will easily win re-election and may even win over people who are currently skeptical, but if he moves to the left in a divided state such as Colorado, he will face more and stronger opposition. The next year will reveal which path the governor takes.
- Mark Udall: Up for re-election in 2014, and with his campaign run by head of the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee and fellow Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Mark Udall is increasing his public presence. Follow him in the next year to be prepared and informed during his 2014 campaign.
- Droughts and fires: 2012 was a terrible fire year, with hot weather, dry conditions and in one case, significant government errors. So far there is little indication that 2013 will be any better. This is not a directly political issue, but paying attention can give information about opportunities to help, such as this one to help replant trees in Waldo Canyon. There are also policy debates and initiatives to follow about courses of action to help alleviate the effects of the drought, such as the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP).
- The Economy: It is extremely unlikely that the “Fiscal Cliff” will be averted, meaning that taxes will increase while spending across certain programs is cut, and combined with the impending Obamacare tax hikes, the economy, weak and fragile enough that it couldn’t even stay stable after Obama’s re-election, will certainly be impacted. In addition, Colorado’s minimum wage will increase in 2013.
- Unions: Unions are growing politically more active, with actions such as the Hostess strike and others like it, and also including political activism on issues such as taxes and gun control which seem unrelated to labor and workers’ rights. This has prompted a political backlash, including the election of Governors Scott Walker and Chris Christie, removing Teachers Unions in Douglas County, and most recently passing Right to Work legislation in the labor stronghold of Michigan. Both forces have gained strength in recent years, and are worth following in 2013.
- Fracking: Energy is a controversial issue in general, but fracking has garnered particularly strong debate in recent years. With activism such as Matt Damon’s movie, Promised Land, and legal battles such as Colorado’s lawsuit against the City of Longmont this year, the issue is a highly politicized one. During this year’s presidential campaign, however, Obama used the result of advances in fracking on private lands as evidence of his success on energy issues, though his administration had recently sued some of the most prolific oil fields. Furthermore it provides a strong boost to an otherwise struggling economy. Ideological versus practical politics conflict on the issue of fracking, so the issue should be watched in 2013.
- UN Treaties: Recently debated UN treaties have included proposals to regulate the internet, gun control and other sovereignty-infringing treaties such as one about disabilities. Some of these debates have recently been reopened, including the gun control proposal which will be debated in March. UN proposals and American reactions to them should be closely followed in the year to come.
- Debt Ceiling: The debt ceiling will be reached again in March, and politicians such as Nancy Pelosi have already promoted the idea of giving the president the unprecedented power to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. This issue in all its facets will be a must watch in the next year.
The year ahead will bring many news stories that are unexpected and affect the course of the state, the country and its politics, but regardless of what else happens, these ten issues and people will be important, relevant, and interesting to watch.
For more articles by Sarah Tanksalvala, click here. For continuing notifications of Boulder County political news, subscribe for email alerts, or follow STanksalvala on Twitter.