Here’s a glimpse at five stories you'll care about over the next year:
ANGER AND ANGST
It’s everywhere: Voters are fed up, anxious, and just plain angry. The reasons are complex, with economic and national insecurities, crime, debt, and Washington dysfunction all feeding frustrations in the last portion of the Obama era. Those feelings dominate perceptions in both political parties, and go a long way toward explaining the unlikely political rise of a reality star billionaire. What’s not clear, though, is where this all leads. Voters have endorsed “change” in some fashion in just about every national election since 2006.
You can have your red and blue maps and electoral calculators. They’re only as important as the voters, as changing demographics bring new destinies to the United States. A more diverse electorate has showed particular strength in presidential years, powering Barack Obama’s two elections. What’s not clear, though, is whether that’s a function of the man or the moment. Democrats will seek to exploit built-in advantages that some Republican rhetoric might make more potent. But Republicans –- now led by a 45-year-old speaker of the House, and with two 44-year-old Cuban-American senators vying for the presidency –- aren’t prepared to give up on their claim of representing the future.
HEART AND SOUL
The Democratic Party looks like it’s coalescing behind Hillary Clinton. But have we been here before? Clinton’s candidacy has an obvious appeal to Democratic voters: Her qualifications, her experience, and her campaign apparatus all make her the obvious and runaway front-runner for the nomination, if not the presidency. But, as the old line has it, Democrats like to fall in love, while Republicans like to fall in line. The party has not shown itself to be in love with Clinton, and Bernie Sanders has a claim on the party’s heart a year out. Complicating this calculation are assessments of President Obama’s legacy, with his presidency looming large, as always, over Clinton’s candidacy.
2015 has been a tremendous year for political outsiders, led by Donald Trump and Ben Carson and their collective zero years of government experience, and Bernie Sanders and his “democratic socialist” mantra. But will next year -– when the voting actually happens -– be the same? It’s so popular to be an outsider than even the senators and governors -– and a certain former first lady, senator, and secretary of state -– want to get in on the action. Americans have, with virtually no exception, handed the presidency to governors, members of Congress, and military leaders. The chances of that extremely long streak being broken are slim, though a few candidates are generating uncommon interest.
America loves its famous names. This election features two of the great political dynasties of the past three decades, with a Clinton on the Democratic side and a Bush running again as a Republican. As always with both families, though, it’s complicated. Hillary Clinton’s road to the presidency has revived memories of scandals’ past, with a new one, regarding an email arrangement, to boot. Jeb Bush is dealing with tangled family relationships at every turn, not least the GOP’s attitude toward his last name and his brother’s presidency. In the end, for all the tumult in politics, familiar names remain.