Why four? Because five is just as arbitrary.
With that out of the way . . . . Many blogs, pundits, commentators and so forth have just finished looking back at 2013 and what the biggest stories of the year past were. We're going to try a different tact: prognostication. Here's what we think the biggest political stories of 2014 will be:
This issue got some attention toward the end of 2013 in the form of President Obama's speech on the subject and Bill de Blasio's election to the mayoralty of New York on an explicit platform of reducing the disparities between the the "tale of two cities" in New York. Indeed, a bona fide Socialist was elected to Seattle's city council.
This portends at least some wonderful rhetoric and perhaps sustained media attention to the issue of income inequality, which we know is as bad as its been since the 1920s. There will be allegations of "class warfare" (a Republican/Newt Gingrich staple), but this is an issue whose time, it appears, is finally coming.
The 2014 Mid-Term Congressional Elections
This falls under the category of "biggest" in the sense that the pundits and political commentariate will treat almost inevitable Republican victory in the House -- the Democrats have about a 1 percent chance right now of retaking the House -- as "meaning something big." The media will psychoanalyze the electorate. What does it mean?
Well, not much, insofar as 2016 goes, but that won't stop the cable news networks from doing what they do so well: musing about politics without any basis in fact, or, put another way, not much.
What Congress Will Pass: Immigration Reform and Banning Mandatory Minimums for Non-Violent Drug Offenders
Speaker John Boehner is feeling good after his victory over the Tea Party caucus in the House over the budget. After making life miserable for him since January 2011, Boehner has partially lifted this monkey off his back -- his biting criticism of the Tea Party shows he's had it. Now, he making moves like throwing his support behind some sort of immigration reform. Mark the tape: this is the year at least some limited form of immigration reform passes, if only because the GOP cannot lose the Hispanic vote as badly as they did in 2012 and expect to win in 2016.
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But the Tea Party is not all bad news. In a heartening development, Senator Rand Paul is looking to team up with newly elected, and Twitter champion, Cory Booker of New Jersey to reform mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders. With the additional support of Attorney General Eric Holder, this should be the year for this common-sense reform.
Entrenchment of Presidential Power
While the GOP will doubtlessly call Obama lawless, and Democrats will bury their heads in the proverbial sand (both forgetting that they had the opposite reactions when Bush was president), we will see Obama, faced with a legislative process that is largely hopelessly gridlocked (broken?), enact as much of his agenda as possible through executive orders; indeed, we've already seen as much with gun control. This is an inevitability as long as the Tea Party remains a "veto point" in the legislative process.
But this is not a good thing -- while each respective party feels comfortable when "their guy" is in the White House, the executive branch gets stronger both on the domestic front and what scholars have called the National Surveillance State. While you might call civil libertarians chicken littles, we would do well to remind ourselves that it is presidential democracies, not parliamentary ones, that are more likely to decay into dictatorships.