While You Were Offline: 2019 Is Just the Runway for 2020
Finally, we've made it to 2019—a year that will bring events better than any that came in the last 12 months simply because they won't be happening in 2018. Almost immediately, it’s obvious that things are better, because … the US national debt is higher than ever? No, that's not right. Maybe it's because Apple's stock is falling as it faces problems with iPhone sales? That can't be it either. President Trump is under scrutiny for allegedly using undocumented workers in his properties. Perhaps that's it? No, no, no… It's not the tropical storm hitting Thailand, either. Wait. Is it possible that 2019 is just more of 2018 all over again? We just need a sign…
Mitt Romney Takes a Stand
What Happened: It's a new year, which means that some within the Republican Party are looking for another standard-bearer for the Never Trump movement. This week opened as if there was a strong contender, but things didn't end well.
What Really Happened: When Mitt Romney was elected Senator for Utah back in November, some people wondered if the former presidential candidate was setting himself up for a far greater political campaign in the near future, especially considering many on the right considered him a potential anti-Trump candidate for 2020. The new year started by suggesting that, hey, maybe that was right.
Romney’s op-ed piece, which ran on New Year's Day, was at best mildly critical of the president, complaining that Trump hasn't lived up to his personal expectations, and adding, "with the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring."
All told, it was relatively mild stuff, but it was somehow treated as something far more serious by almost everyone inside the political arena.
It wasn't just the Republican Party that wanted to respond to the piece; it prompted a lot of commentary from a media hungry for a Republican civil war.
To be fair, many on the right were upset by Romney's stance.
And, of course, President Trump couldn't not respond.
But perhaps the most embarrassing response of all came from Ronna McDaniel, Romney's own niece.
Oh, wait; maybe the most embarrassing thing was Romney's interview on CNN the day after the Post op-ed ran, in which he more or less said that he was, despite everything, standing behind President Trump.
Welp, that was good while it lasted.
Elizabeth Warren Gets in the Race
What Happened: Remember the elections that just happened a couple of months ago? We hope you've recovered from them, because the 2020 campaigning has already begun.
What Really Happened: Well, if Mitt Romney isn't going to lead the anti-Trump brigade, then folks will have to look to the candidate the Democrats choose to run against him next year. And because American politics is a never-ending cycle, that race has already started. In fact, it started before 2018 was even over.
Yes, Elizabeth Warren has declared her interest in running for president in 2020, but she wasn't even the first person to do so.
Warren's announcement nonetheless got a heap of media attention, underscoring the value of early starts (and slow news days, let's be honest). On some kind of surreal virtual victory lap, her campaign launch video wasn't the only video she put online that day, much to the … uh, let’s go with "delight," of many.
That's not the only Brett Kavanaugh callback you'll see this week; clearly, parts of 2018 are still working their way through the collective system. Still, if the cynics were actually correct in believing that Warren's beer drinking was a failed attempt to be cool, then she accidentally punctured her own balloon pretty soon afterwards.
Still, not everyone was against the Instagram feed choices.
If this already seems exhausting, just remember: It's still 23 months until the next presidential election. For anyone thinking that the solution is to start drinking now, just wait until people think that you're just doing it to be cool.
The Takeaway: We're going to throw this one to comedian Rhea Butcher, if that's alright.
Trump's Game of Thrones-Themed Poster
What Happened: In the annals of genuinely strange Donald Trump performances, last week's return to work after the holidays provided an all-time great. (Note: "Great" may not be entirely appropriate, considering.)
What Really Happened: Eager to get back to work after the holiday break, the president held a cabinet meeting midweek last week. It was … a thing. Here, via Twitter, are some of the highlights, such as they are.
Even by President Trump standards, it was a surreal meeting, and the media coverage reflected that, even in the reports that didn't get sidetracked by the Game of Thrones poster on the table, which was somehow a real thing? Actually, surreally, it was just the start of his new branding?
It was, trademark questions aside, a breathtaking start to the year for the President of the United States. Still, he is someone who loves the media attention, so perhaps this would work out perfectly for him.
OK, maybe not.
The Takeaway: No, but really; everyone seemed to realize just how bad this was as it was happening.
Say Hello to the Congress of 2019!
What Happened: The new Congress of 2019 got sworn in.
What Really Happened: It's unclear, still, whether the arrival of the new predominantly Democrat House of Representatives this week is the kind of thing that's likely to break the fever of American politics, or just make things worse, but as quickly became clear, likely won't be dull.
As expected, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi was easily elected Speaker of the House, making history in the process.
But what will Speaker Pelosi do with her new power? Quite a lot, it seems.
And in case anyone thought that she and the new Congress would take its time in getting to work … apparently not.
It's going to be a bumpy next couple of years, isn't it?
The Takeaway: If the new Congress being diverse and led by a woman was seen as a negative by some on the right, it certainly can't be argued that the Republicans are skewing in the opposite direction in terms of visuals.
Dance Like the Opposition's Watching
What Happened: Apparently, dancing is very bad if you're young and one day become a politician. Or, at least, that seems to be the message concerning new criticism of congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
What Really Happened: Of all the new members of Congress being sworn in on Thursday, the internet's favorite may have been Kyrsten Sinema, purely for how she showed up that day—
—but let's not forget that the newcomer being paid most attention by both the media and the right remains Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had been receiving all kinds of attention in the run up to being sworn in. But if the majority of that attention—at least on the media side—was about the substance of her arguments. The same couldn't be said of one particular bit of commentary that came about on social media midweek. If it could even really be called commentary.
Yes, that's a video of Ocasio-Cortez dancing with friends when she was younger, recreating scenes from The Breakfast Club to Phoenix's song "Lisztomania" (it was a meme a few years ago). If it was truly meant to destroy her credibility, it … didn't really do what it was intended to.
Some might say it backfired. Quite a few, in fact. A lot, even. Indeed, perhaps it really backfired.
But maybe we're not looking at this the right way…
Yes, that seems much better. Still, at least it didn't make Republicans look bad… Oh, wait.
That was actually a point brought up by many, which was surely not the intended result.
So, yeah. This didn’t really work out too well, considering.
All told, the most important lesson of the whole thing was probably that at least one of Ocasio-Cortez's inspirations approved of the whole debacle.
The Takeaway: In the end, AOC owned her dancing, and pwned her opposition in the process.