Opinion | Bruce Butler: Wrapping up 2022, looking ahead to 2023
This past week, the 2022 midterm elections officially concluded with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock defeating former Olympian and football star Herschel Walker in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff election. Of course, the 2024 election cycle has already begun, with whoever is pulling the strings behind Joe Biden announcing that South Carolina will be the first Democrat primary. This is a strong indication of the president’s intention to run for reelection. Biden performed poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2020, so having the first contest in South Carolina should give Biden an electoral boost. Donald Trump has announced his intention to run again for president, and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has switched from Democrat to independent in preparation for her 2024 reelection campaign.
After all the mudslinging, the changes were small, but significant, at the margins. The Senate will change from 50-50 to 51-49 Democrat in the next Congress. Despite her party renunciation, Sen. Sinema will continue to caucus with the Democrats, meaning Democrats have a numerical advantage on Senate committees and they no longer need Vice President Harris to break tie votes. On the House of Representatives’ side of the Capitol, Republicans won a slim, 220-213, majority. In true Republican fashion, they are going to stumble out of the blocks as they fight over electing Rep. Kevin McCarthy speaker of the House, even though there are no other candidates who have any momentum. The Democrats can fan the GOP fire depending upon how they play their hand on the final government spending package that will be debated later this week.
Looking into next year, hopefully divided government will help reduce some of the profligate spending that has placed the Biden administration in dynamic opposition to the Federal Reserve Board, which increases the chance of a double-dip recession in 2023. I also predict there is a good chance the social media platforms’ Section 230 legal protections from editorial liability will be eliminated or heavily modified by the incoming Congress.
With the lull in the national news cycle, new Twitter owner Elon Musk has been dumping troves of internal corporate communications that conclusively show that Twitter was regularly meeting with U.S. government officials and actively censoring conservative political speech on their platform. It appears that former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey perjured himself in testimony before Congress. It is not a stretch to suspect that other social media platforms, like Facebook and TikTok, were practicing the same political censorship as Twitter, and there are social media platform grievances on both sides of the aisle that make bipartisan support for new regulation likely. There is going to be pressure on these executives to prove they were not suppressing certain individuals and content for purely political reasons, at the suggestion or request of U.S. government agents. With the power and influence of social media, combined with the active involvement of government officials and political operatives, this scandal makes Watergate a laughable prank.
In Colorado, nothing has changed. However, Summit County’s State Rep. Julie McCluskie will be the next speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, a development that certainly increases Summit County’s clout in Denver. The only real suspense for Colorado is when Gov. Polis will throw his hat in the ring for the 2024 Democrat presidential nomination.
Locally, 2022 was the year of short-term rental rules. The county and most of the town governments passed limits on the number of short-term rental licenses available in their respective jurisdictions. We will see if 2023 is the year of lawsuits over the license limitation mechanisms. Most of the jurisdictions continued to push forward with workforce housing construction. While we will never outbuild the demand for workforce housing, Summit County is ahead of many other localities addressing this issue!
Good public policy and governance are important in a functional society. However, it is nice to take a break from politics and focus on the things that matter most. Take time to be with your family and friends this Christmas and holiday season. As thousands of visitors pour into the county over the next few weeks, remember we are the lucky ones who get to enjoy one of the most beautiful places on earth all year long.
Bruce Butler's column "Common Sense Conversations" publishes biweekly on Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Butler is a former mayor and council member in Silverthorne, where he has lived for 20 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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