2012 will go down in history as a landmark year in American politics. Throughout the year, progress has been made on many fronts such as advances in LGBT rights, re-electing the first African-American President to a second term, and an economy that is growing stronger every day. But as is usually the case these days, Republicans took it upon themselves to stand against progress and actually succeeded in pushing legislation aimed at taking away voting rights, women’s rights, and labor rights among others.
With that in mind, the end of the year is approaching and it’s important to know which conservative politicians we should be watching closely in 2013.
1. John Roberts
Once again, Chief Justice John Roberts is first on the list, and rightfully so. The Supreme Court Justice shocked Americans across the country in 2012 when he sided with liberal Justices to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Roberts had been notorious for running a divided court and largely voted with his fellow conservatives until that landmark health care case. He’s a conservative to watch in 2013 because the high court is taking up the Voting Rights Act, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action, among other cases. The decisions handed down in these cases will have great significance across the country and it’ll be interesting to see if Roberts has become an unpredictable vote on the court or if he will resume voting the way conservatives want him to.
2. Rick Snyder
The Governor of Michigan has just killed union rights in his state and 2013 hasn’t even started. Not only that, Michigan conservatives are poised to pass extreme anti-abortion legislation and more emergency manager bills in order to take over more towns and cities. Benton Harbor, anyone? Originally, Snyder wasn’t going to be on the list, but his recent actions and those of his fellow conservatives in the statehouse have propelled him near the top.
3. Rick Scott
Rick Scott is the Governor of Florida. Since his election victory in 2010, he and his fellow Republicans have forced welfare recipients to take drug tests, rejected federal funding for high speed rail that would have created jobs and has most recently led an attack on voter rights that left millions of Floridians standing for up to eight hours in line so that they could exercise their right to vote. Clearly, Rick Scott has no intention of abandoning his war on voters and their rights, hence his appearance on the list.
4. John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich has already tried to kill unions in his state once and while he could certainly try it again, it’s more likely he’ll help his fellow conservatives in the state legislature attempt to kill abortion rights and voting rights first. In the days after the re-election of President Obama, Ohio Republicans went right back to work on anti-abortion legislation. And since losing the battle to enact a restrictive voter ID law, the State Secretary of Ohio has proposed changing Ohio electoral law so that electoral votes are awarded by district rather than by winner-take-all. If such a law had been in effect in 2012 President Obama would have lost the state and most of its electoral votes. It’s quite a brilliant scheme to hijack democracy if you ask me, and it lands Kasich square on the list.
5. Mitch McConnell
There really isn’t much to explain about why McConnell is on the list. As the Senate Minority Leader, McConnell has demonstrated that there isn’t a piece of legislation in Washington DC that he won’t filibuster, even his own. Unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changes filibuster rules in the Senate, we can expect McConnell to make every effort to kill any legislation he can. Even if Reid does change filibuster rules, McConnell will absolutely do everything he can to make sure the US Senate can’t help President Obama move the nation forward. Government appointments, cabinet appointments, judicial appointments, and legislation of all kinds could be held up for years if McConnell has his way.
People call him a swing vote on the Supreme Court, but Anthony Kennedy has sided with conservatives far too often in recent years to hold that distinction. But he has sided with liberals before and with decisions on the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage expected to occur in the next year and even sooner, Kennedy is just as important to watch as Chief Justice John Roberts, perhaps more so.
7. John Boehner
House Speaker Boehner has lost quite a bit of power since taking over the gavel from Nancy Pelosi, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be watched in 2013. Boehner has already demonstrated through his committee chairmen selections that he doesn’t give a damn about diversity. Women and minority issues simply are not on his list of priorities. House Republicans are basically split between Tea Party Republicans who want an extreme path and the ever-so-slightly more mainstream Republicans who are sort of willing to compromise. There is a crack in the caucus and Boehner could very well lose his position as Speaker if he angers one side or the other. And with tax cuts on the wealthy being necessary to avoid the fiscal slope, Boehner could anger most of the Republican Party simply by caving in on that specific point. That means Eric Cantor could wind up being the Speaker of the House. This is definitely a political drama worth watching in 2013.
8. Scott Walker
Speaking of drama, a hell of a lot of it has been swirling around Scott Walker. Since becoming the Governor of Wisconsin, Walker has destroyed union rights and has signed a variety of legislation to restrict abortion and to overturn equal pay laws in the state. He’s been the perfect conservative pawn and he looks to continue his quest to turn Wisconsin into the reddest state in America. As part of that quest, Walker intends to make tax cuts for the wealthy a major goal in 2013 as well as gutting business regulations which more than likely means that environmental protections and worker safety regulations are going to be assaulted. Walker has also expressed a desire to kill same day voter registration on Election Day, a right that the people of Wisconsin have enjoyed for over 30 years. Getting rid of the law would mostly affect younger voters, a group that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in November. At this point, the only way Walker wouldn’t be on this list is if the people of Wisconsin kicked him out of office.
9. Tom Corbett
The Governor of Pennsylvania isn’t as bad as the other governors on the list, but he should still be watched in 2013. Corbett and his conservative pals nearly succeeded in implementing restrictive voter identification laws and since he has two years left in his term, you can bet that fight isn’t over. Pennsylvania Republicans have also floated the possibility of changing their state’s electoral law so that electoral votes are awarded by district instead of the winner-take-all process. Such a move could hand Pennsylvania to Republican Presidential candidates on a silver platter for decades to come, even if a majority of the population votes in favor of the Democratic ticket. Conservatives have also made attempts to push through anti-abortion legislation including an invasive ultrasound that Corbett shrugged off by saying that women could just close their eyes during the procedure. A governor who can make that kind of comment deserves to be watched closely, especially by women.
10. Bob McDonnell
Governor Ultrasound, also known as Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell, earned his dubious yet appropriate nickname because of legislation he signed requiring women to undergo an invasive ultrasound if they wanted to have an abortion. McDonnell has been very quiet as of late, probably because he knows his nickname hurt his chances of being the Vice Presidential nominee for his party in 2012. But considering the fact that Virginia is still very conservative at the state level, Governor McDonnell still wields considerable power. The state legislature has passed anti-gay legislation and McDonnell, along with his conservative colleagues, all believe in the complete conservative agenda. That means more legislation aimed at discriminating against the LGBT community, more legislation designed to strip women of vital reproductive rights and legislation aimed at worker’s rights. And since Virginia just voted for President Obama a second time, it’s a sure bet that anti-voting legislation will be on the table in an effort to disenfranchise Democratic constituencies in future elections. For all of these reasons, McDonnell is on the list.
You may have noticed the absence of conservative women on the list. You may have also noticed that all of the above conservatives on the list are white guys. This is not by design. There are so few Republican women and minorities that actually hold public office and even fewer that have positions of power within the party that it doesn’t seem likely that any of them would be worth watching in 2013. I could have put Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on the list. I could have also chosen South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. I could have even chosen Senator Marco Rubio, who could spend 2013 laying groundwork for a White House run. They would all certainly be the next three on my list. But the current Republican Party has done so much to place sexism and racism on their list of party values that it didn’t make sense to place people on the list that the GOP itself doesn’t take seriously. It is my hope that this changes of course. Hopefully, the few minorities and women within the party can shape it in the future. But I doubt much will change in 2013.
Overall, Republican Governors are the conservative politicians people should watch the most. People seem to have completely overlooked state level conservatives over the last two years. Media personalities such as Rachel Maddow have dedicated many hours of air time to demonstrate what conservatives are doing to states across the nation. But for some reason, federal government has gained all of the attention for not doing anything. Meanwhile, thousands of pieces of legislation are being passed by Republican controlled legislatures across the country and are being signed by Republican Governors. Over 900 anti-abortion bills have been passed alone since 2010. State level conservatives are waging war against voting, contraception, health care, labor unions, worker rights, the environment, civil rights, and just about everything else and in between. Harry Truman once asked when Americans would realize who is hitting them. At least at the federal level, Americans know it is Republicans. The question is, will Americans pay attention and recognize who is hitting them in their own states, and if so, will it show at the ballot box in 2014? All we have to do is pay attention and watch.