For an alternate viewpoint, “Counterpoint: Why 2023 Was a Great Year for Republicans.”
With 2023 closing, much will be written about topics ranging from top 10 lists to fashion, food or music trends related to the year that was.
Given the contentious and unpredictable nature of the current political climate, we must take stock of the political fortunes, and perhaps misfortunes, of the major parties that maintained a constant tug of war throughout 2023.
Indeed, there are plenty of highs and lows to be shared among Republicans and Democrats. Still, I’ll take time here to review the year and explain why 2023 was a good year for Democrats.
First, it is hard to ignore the success Democrats and Democratic-aligned issues enjoyed at the ballot box.
State electoral victories in places like Virginia put MAGA-allied politicians with higher aspirations, like Gov. Glenn Youngkin, on notice as Democrats maintained Senate control and regained House control, bringing his agenda to a halt for his final two years in office. Victory for Democrats.
Andy Beshear’s unlikely victory in Kentucky, again, provides Democrats with an interesting snapshot into how to govern and campaign in a progressive way but connect with a challenging electorate. Victory for Democrats.
We must recognize two ballot initiative victories in Ohio. First was a crass attempt by Ohio Republicans to head off a November ballot measure protecting a woman’s right to choose. By conducting a special election aimed at requiring a supermajority for public ballot measures to become law, this measure not only challenged women’s rights but also democracy. The vote wasn’t close in what has become a deeply Republican state. Victory for Democrats.
Then, the November ballot measure protecting reproductive choice passed by a similar margin. Scoreboard times two for Democrats in Ohio. Ohio!
And these electoral victories make a difference. Just look at two Midwestern states that used Democratic majorities paired with Democratic governors to gain a range of legislative victories. In Michigan and Minnesota, Democratic control brought gun-safety measures, reproductive rights protections, LGBTQ+ protections, climate-friendly measures, and strengthened workers’ right to organize. Victory for Democrats.
Speaking of labor organizing, 2023 saw a traditional Democratic bloc repeatedly make gains by standing up, speaking out, and winning organizing and contract victories.
Following 2022 victories at such workplaces as Amazon and Starbucks, workers continued organizing and winning at the local level. But the headline-grabbing strikes for writers in the entertainment industry and auto workers defined 2023 victories for Democratic-aligned labor allies. Victory for Democrats.
Sometimes, victory comes more in the form of problems for your opponents. The year 2023 proved that point for Democrats with a stack of woes for Republicans.
It was hard not to see that the Republican Party remains wrapped tightly around the little finger of dictator-in-waiting Donald Trump. His legal woes from business wrongdoing in New York, seemingly deliberate and careless handling of sensitive documents, and insurrectionist and anti-democratic behavior on a national scale contrast nicely for Democrats against their governing and electoral successes. This framing is, yes, a Victory for Democrats.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives proved to be a net win for Democrats and their ability to contrast leadership with the chaotic and dysfunctional running of the people’s business.
It seems pretty straightforward. The party with the most members elects a speaker and goes about its work. Not so with the 2023 Republican House Caucus. It took four days and 15 votes to get Kevin McCarthy as the first, yes first, speaker.
Then came not legislative progress but a series of bizarre and fruitless political projects in the form of committee hearings, impeachment inquiries and message bills with no meaningful results for the people.
The one exception was a deal McCarthy finally made on the most basic of functions, funding the government, which promptly cost him his job.
Did the chaos subside? Well, no. More speaker votes and infighting followed over the next three weeks until Mike Johnson was finally elected speaker.
The sum of this very public display of broken and, frankly, unfit leadership for Republicans can be seen as nothing other than a Victory for Democrats.
So, a quick review of the Naughty vs. Nice list shows Republicans with a 2023 record filled with dysfunction contrasting with Democrats with a nice roster of electoral, legislative and ally victories.
Yes, 2023 was a good year for Democrats.