Politically 2017 got off to a tumultuous start. On January 20, Donald John Trump transitioned from private citizen to the leader of the free world promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. His supporters cheered every word.
The very next day, a large protest marched through Washington, protesting every issue imaginable, but focusing rage on President Trump. Calls for his impeachment were already heard.
The rest of the year followed suit. Trump’s supporters lauded every move he made while his opponents could find no good in anything.
The political divide is as wide as we close the year as when we began. The intervening months brought some historic and politically significant events.
The Trump economy began the year well and ended even better. Employment is up, as is consumer confidence. The stock market is hitting new highs on a regular basis.
The Dow cleared 20,000 for the first time just days after President Trump was inaugurated. As the bell rings for the final time in 2017, it’s flirting with 25,000.
The recent tax cuts, unfortunately passed along partisan lines, promise to boost economic growth even more.
Even before the tax cuts actually kick in companies are announcing four-figure bonuses for hundreds of thousands of workers and others promising to raise their minimum wages.
The economy is now moving again, cause for joy for all. A rising tide really does lift all boats.
The tax cut discussion is also taking a different tone. Just a few weeks ago Nancy Pelosi was telling us that the tax cuts were “Armageddon.” Few took her overheated hyperbole very seriously. Now even some of her colleagues are looking at the political realities, and want to sing a different tune.
Their complaint now is that the tax cuts for the middle class aren't permanent. A wise move for the GOP would be to have a vote, as quickly as possible, to make those cuts permanent. There might be some bi-partisan votes.
Tax cutting used to be a bi-partisan effort. When JFK cut taxes, he did it with overwhelming support from both sides. Likewise, Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts had strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.
The president also got the fastest appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Neil Gorsuch is a judicial superstar whose age and intellect mean that he will likely be a moving force on the court for a generation. His successful appointment was a major victory.
Here at home there was yet another protracted budget fight. In the end, the good work of House Speaker Mike Turzai and the groundbreaking efforts of Rep. Dan Moul and others stood between Pennsylvania workers and a big tax increase.
Despite Tom Wolf’s constant and concerted efforts to raise everybody’s taxes, a broad based tax increase was staved off.
Wolf will now run for re-election with his distinction of being the most liberal governor in America firmly cemented. Not many taxpayers, including rank-and-file Democrats, believe their lives will be improved by paying higher taxes. He’ll try to run from that record all year long.
Republicans clearly see Wolf as vulnerable, despite a historic pattern of both re-electing incumbents and having a governor from one party for eight years followed by eight years of the other. Both those streaks were broken when Wolf defeated Tom Corbett in 2014.
House Speaker Mike Turzai, State Senator Scott Wagner, businessman Paul Mango and attorney Laura Ellsworth are vying for the right to face Wolf in the general election.
Each has their own story and policy initiatives. They share a common commitment to fiscal responsibility and allowing individual workers to keep more of what they earn. They’re all promoting policies of economic growth.
The seat of incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey is also up in 2018. Again, there’s no shortage of potential GOP rivals. The main competitors are State Rep. Jim Christiana, Cong. Lou Barletta and businessman Paul Addis.
Each congressional seat will also be on the ballot. Many of these promise to be tough and close contests as the state once again shows its ‘purple” roots.
Leading off the hotly contested races will be a March special election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Cong. Tim Murphy. Following will be races to fill the seats of retiring members Barletta and Dent and tight contests in the “collar counties” of suburban Philadelphia.
Complicating all of this is the possibility that congressional district lines could be redrawn for 2018 if the courts choose to get involved as a result of lawsuits challenging the current configuration.
2017 brought political upheaval as well as tragedies of terrorism and natural disaster. We witnessed the first solar eclipse visible from coat to coast in a century and the passing of notables of stage, screen, government and education.
It was quite a year. 2018, with the always important ‘mid-term’ elections, promises to be even more exciting.