I'm a political junkie, but being in the military it's hard to contribute. Maybe if I didn't care about "rules" or "regulations" so much I could do more, but I like my job and the liberty policy of "stay out of newspapers, hospitals, and jail cells" has served me pretty well thus far. Anyways, now that everything's done here's some things I'm thinking.
Policy > Politics
I read this site every day over the last few months, but once the conventions started I was pretty much silent since anything I said would be an explicit or implicit endorsement of one candidate or the other, and US Military members are not allowed to do that. Now that we're set for the next... while, I guess, I can type once again. Hooray!
The election also showed this too me. No one thought that the GOP would lose seats in the Senate this year, at least not until fairly late into the long campaign. All the external factors were against a big D win, and most of them were still present this week. Fortunately for progressives, the policies of the GOP came up and made a bigger impact than any other external factors. Or, in the top race's case, the utter lack of consistent policy ideas beyond "make America better."
Tax Returns - R.I.P. 2012
I think this will end up being the most lasting effect of this campaign. The Romney campaign gambled that the population wouldn't care about his tax returns not being released, and he was right. Despite bucking a longstanding precedent he still won a ton of states and didn't really pay a price for it. Red states still voted for Romney, blue states still voted for Obama, purplish states voted for the incumbent... which is kinda what the polls had been suggesting since... [checks 538] yeah, ever. I really don't think we'll see tax returns brought up on insider vs insider elections unless there is some monumentally positive thing in the releaser's returns. To paraphrase Chris Rock, you're supposed to pay your taxes, what do you want, a cookie?
If a non-insider (someone who isn't fabulously wealthy and hasn't been involved in politics before) runs, it might be able to be forced as an issue. Just as long as Sen. Reid isn't doing the forcing. Speaking of Senator Reid...
Senate reform is required, but will it happen?
Sen. Reid has been promising filibuster reform this congress, and he has more than enough votes to pull it off before the congress begins. Will he, and what form will it take remain to be seen. The simplest solution requires no rule changes at all and is outlined below.
Sen. A: I move we vote on Backlogged Judicial Nominee #24601I think it's called the motion to proceed, but I'm not sure. The filibuster is a valuable and useful tool, but it's purpose is to bring the public into the Senate debate, not to stall votes. If Sen. Reid doesn't allow the Senate to move on to other business the Senate will grind to a halt because Sen. X has to go on record saying he wants it to. The public will get mad, everyone from both parties gets involved, and every time there's a vote the obstructionists will spend political capital to stop the Senate from moving on to something more productive. Spend a couple weeks "debating" a non-controversial judicial nominee and I don't think you'll do it again. Plus the Senate makeup will change after the following election.
Sen. B: I haven't heard enough debate to make an informed opinion.
Sen. Leader: OK, we'll stay on this until you can make up your mind. Who wants to talk first?
Also, everyone's taxes are going to go up, at least for a little while, in January. The Speaker has made clear he's open to new revenue from the Confidence Fairy, but not from actual government revenue sources. Oh well. If Senator Reid is willing to jump he'll find himself in a much better bargaining position. Unfortunately I'd guess about 90% of the population (including myself) believes he'll have a hard time convincing the Speaker that Sen. Reid's just crazy enough to do it. There's also that little problem of "Will he actually do it", completely separate from the psychological issue. Ultimately the Senates problems stem from leadership that believes the Senate can function like it used to even though the conditions that allowed cordial bargaining no longer exist. There's no bargaining, it's simply playing chicken with taxpayers as the victims, and that's a game that Democrats have been poor at in recent memory.
So yeah, I'm glad it's all over now and we can focus on policy again. I'm still not sure how much policy can actually get done, but if Sen. Reid follows through on his tax and filibuster threats there may be just enough of a "Shit just got real" reaction to let policy proceed.