Political Predictions for 2007

by Randy Shaw on January 3, 2007

At the start of 2006, few predicted that Republicans would lose the Senate, that more Americans would identify George W. Bush as the nation’s top villain than Osama Bin Laden, and that Barack Obama would be seen as a top Democratic candidate for the 2008 presidential nomination. Newly elected Virginia Senator Jim Webb was not even considering running when 2006 began, and Republican congressional leaders were still suppressing Mark Foley’s e-mails to congressional pages. What will happen in 2007? Here are the top five predictions that appeared in my crystal ball.

1. Progressives will be denouncing Nancy Pelosi by February 1

George W. Bush has wreaked such havoc on America that progressives are understandably desperate for a change in course. The November 2006 elections were supposed to chart a new direction, but turning the tide quickly will not be easy in the face of Bush’s intransigence.

Many San Francisco progressives, from those at the Bay Guardian to Green Party activists, have never liked or trusted Nancy Pelosi, and are looking for the chance to say, “I told you so.” Criticism of Pelosi will escalate at the first sign that progressive measures are not steamrolling through Congress, regardless of the House Speaker’s inability to rule by fiat.

Should Pelosi deliver on key House Democratic promises—the minimum wage hike, reducing interest rates on student loans, reversing Bush tax cuts for the wealthy—her critics will focus on other issues, such as her support for Israel and inability to enact universal health care.

2. Democratic Presidential Candidates Will Move Party Leftward on Iraq, and Hillary pulls out

In 2002, aspiring Democratic presidential candidates believed that it would be “political suicide” for the 2004 race against Bush to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This led John Kerry and John Edwards to support a war that was inconsistent with their past positions, and this in turn helped moved the Democratic Party into the pro-war camp. Kerry’s support for “Bush’s war” hurt him in the 2004 race, and even today many progressives do not forgive John Edwards’ pro-war vote.

In 2007, Democratic presidential candidates will be moving the Party to a solidly anti-war stance. Edwards came out strongly for major troop reductions in his announcement speech last week, and Joe Biden made it clear that he will do everything in his power to get the Senate to prevent a “surge” of additional troops. In 2007, Barack Obama will step up his rhetoric against the war, and his outspoken opposition will leave Hilary Clinton without a constituency base.

By this time next year, Clinton will have withdrawn from the race. With Obama and Edwards fighting it out for the nomination, Clinton backers will be urging Al Gore to make a late entry into the race.

With Republican sources claiming that even its own Senators are split on Bush’s likely plan to increase troops, Senate Democrats have all the political “cover” they need to demand withdrawals. If Obama and Clinton start to waver, expect Edwards to become increasingly vocal—if he can add the anti-war constituency to his labor base, the 2008 nomination is his.

3. California Will Become National Leader in Health Care Reform

My crystal ball may be foggy here, but I think that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is eager to do something that puts the state on the national map. He loved the national media exposure of his global warming initiative, and would like nothing more than to be viewed as the guy who made meaningful health care reform happen.

The Governor has said he will not raise taxes to fund health care, and previously opposed John Burton’s employer mandate, whereby those not providing health insurance must contribute to a fund that provides such coverage. But I foresee the Governor now accepting such a mandate as the only way to finance universal health care.

As a former movie star, nothing matters more to Arnold than popularity. Ronald Reagan had a similar background, which is why both governed much differently than George W. Bush. Arnold needs a “Big Idea” to be relevant in Sacramento, and having seized upon health care, he either fulfills his identity as an “Action Hero” or is relegated to being a bit player.

With Democrats eager to enact universal health care, Schwarzenegger only needs a handful of Republican votes to make it happen. I believe it will in 2007.

4. The Chronicle Credits Gavin Newsom for Restoring SF’s “Golden Era.”

After making a tough prediction on health care, I deserve an easy one. 2007 will be the year in which the Chronicle and most other local media coronate Gavin Newsom for restoring everything to SF that was allegedly taken from the city by his political benefactor, former Mayor Willie Brown.

As I discussed on January 2, the Chronicle did not even wait until 2007 to begin its coronation process. The paper is already touting the Mayor on its front-page for reducing homicides to 2000 levels, and expect similar articles on housing, transit, homelessness, health care, the environment, civil rights, public safety, neighborhood improvements, streets and sidewalks, etc.

While the Chronicle’s fawning election-year coverage benefits the Mayor, its knee-jerk predictability also undermines Newsom’s actual accomplishments. Once a paper gives the Mayor credit for everything, even its objective and soundly researched stories are disbelieved.

5. Immigration Reform is Enacted

While the national Republican Party is split over Iraq, it is imploding over federal immigration policy. Republicans face continued losses in the Southwest over their anti-immigrant agenda, and Ciro Rodriquez’s upset victory in the Texas special congressional election in December shows the problems Republicans are having with Latino voters in what has recently been a hard-core GOP state.

Immigration reform did not pass in 2006, despite the massive marches, because it was an election year. That’s why the measure will pass in 2007, rather than wait for 2008.

The bill that passes will be better than anything on the table in 2006. The biggest difference is likely to involve those who entered the country since 2006. Rather than create an unworkable system whereby undocumented immigrants would have different rights based on duration in the country, a single rule applicable to either all, or all who have been here for at least two years, is likely to prevail.

There will be some form of guest worker policy in the bill, which is unavoidable given political realities. Some progressives believe such a policy renders any bill unacceptable, but the alternative is keeping eight to ten million people a traffic stop away from deportation.

Immigration reform is the only issue where George W. Bush has shown flexibility. He badly needs to accomplish something, and will sign immigration reform before Congress leaves for the summer.

My last prediction, which I make regrettably, is that hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqi’s will die in 2007 because of the continued U.S. occupation. Democratic leaders have long opposed withhold all funding for the occupation, but this strategy increasingly appears the only way to stop the madness.

Send feedback to rshaw@beyondchron.org

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