2008 – I

There’s years that go by and they fly because they are so enjoyable. There’s other years which draw out to prolong agony and tension. Strangely enough, I think 2008 was both. I think back to some things and they seem like yesterday, but there were months that seemed like years that we went through. I suppose that’s because the year wasn’t all good, nor was it all bad. It had its clear ups and its clear downs, and a bunch of grey bits in between. Let’s get through them, and see where we’ve been over the past 364 days.

January began, and across much of the Internet was the US election. Coming up to a year of polling, campaigning, debating, and mismatched messages, the Iowa caucus was being held on January 4 – moved up from its traditional date due to other state pressures. A further consequence of this was the stripping of Michigan and Florida delegates in the Democratic race, and a halving of them for the Republicans. In the first few days of January, we had only one pollster (Ann Selzer) saying something unbelievable – Barack Obama would run first, John Edwards second, and Hillary Clinton third. Every other pundit and poll indicated a clear first place for Clinton, and a tight race between Obama and Edwards for second.

As we all followed, Selzer would be spot on, and Obama’s stunning victory in Iowa would be the first stride in a monumental primary campaign, and a historic presidential campaign. New Hampshire would be Clinton’s ‘comeback’ – only to be killed off a couple weeks later in Nevada on the 20th, where Obama won, and South Carolina on the 26th, which Obama trounced. Michigan and Florida were given some attention in the early stage, but more would be given later as the primary race between the Democrats tightened. The Democrats, unlike the Republicans, had a clear message to choose between: An experienced, ‘Washington-insider’ with Clinton or a fresh, youthful face with less expeerience but a heap of hope and change with Obama. The Democrats, awash in these two messages, decided to turn their backs on the economics-based campaign of Edwards because, well, who could see anything so drastic happening in the next few months?

For the Republicans, January, in hindsight, is evidence of a party in trouble. Wyoming was won by Mitt Romney, Iowa by Mike Huckabee, and New Hampshire by John McCain. Then Romney would win Nevada, McCain South Carolina, and the write-in statement of ‘Uncommitted Pro-Life’ (yes, those words and not an actual candidate) won Louisiana. The party was just as confused at the end of January as it was at the start. The party had no idea about a face or a message or a national platform they wanted to take into the general election. Would it go to the base and go to a Huckabee ticket? Would it take notice of the small, little economic tremors that had been felt late last year and go with an economically sound Romney ticket? Or would it do the unlikely and elect the ‘maverick’ that hardly towed the party line, would be the oldest elected president, and run to the McCain ticket?

January, for the rest of it, had all sorts of news coming and going. Heath Ledger had died, an absolute tradgey. Australia and India were playing cricket, the end of a test series marred with serious troubles and lacking sportsmanship on all sides (not just the Australians as some tried to portray). Those economic tremors I was talking about in January culminated in a stock market crash around the world by late January – just the first in a long series of them that would still be happening today in the US. And the price of petrol finally hit US$100 a barrel – the first time ever. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were still going on. And we were waiting to see how Australia’s election of Kevin Rudd would play out when parliament reconvened.

For me, I was preoccupied with three things. The first was work. Having started my second-ish job in November, I was just settling into routine come the third month, having gone through a busy period in December too. I was working quite a lot of hours, and glad. I was earning a bit of money, and keeping myself busy. The second thing on my mind was obviously the US election. In 2006 I had pegged Obama to win. For the whole of 2007 I had kept tabs on the race, and in the last half of the year began blogging about it in-depth. I wrote a good post on Superdelegates at the request of two readers – a post that would prove to be widely popular across the blogosphere over the next few months. The third thing … well, it was about a girl (to borrow a line). All three of these things would dominate most of my mind for the rest of  the year.

February, and the biggest thing to hit this blog was Super Tuesday. The all-important day that would decide if Obama was a January flash-in-the-pan or a serious contender. He came out tied with Clinton – meaning he was here to stay. We with some inside knowledge, and had been keeping pulse of the race for a while, knew that Clinton had not planned her campaign beyond Super Tuesday. That Obama kept the race alive through it meant he would have the upper hand – especially since then next week of primary races were ones he would definitely win and win some very big. That happened, and Obama took over the delegate lead by mid-February. Finally, by the end of February, we all came to see what Obama’s secret weapon was: money. He had fundraised a heap over January and February. By the time he was elected to office, Obama would have raised over $700 million.

For the Republicans, John McCain emerged the clear favourite for the party through Super Tuesday, and February was just one of the formalities in waiting for all his opponents to drop out of the race. Eventually, by early February he would be the party’s nominee (in name), and would have a 4 month advantage and head-start over his Democratic opponents in the general election. Pundits, seeing the Republican maverick getting nominated and seeing how much of an advantage he had in terms of time and (at that point) money, began to expect a close general for whichever Democrat got up.

That week of Obama victories though, I was enjoying a holiday with Andrew up in Queensland – a good escape from those three things that were weighing on my mind. We had a good time, going to themeparks, the casino, the beach, watching DVDs, drinking, and staying up to all ends of the night.It was a good escape from the run-of-the-mill that had set in, and gave us both a chance to get away and relax. We had quite a good time, and the taste of travel started me thinking about a trip further abroad later in the year.

We had such a good time that we almost missed Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation – certainly the biggest Australian piece of news for the month, and one of the top ones through the year. A moment for Australia, that’s for sure. Around the world, it was reported and taken in. When a business client of my father’s from Kansas came our way later in the year, he asked me about it. Also on the Kevin Rudd front, I penned a post that summed up his achievements, while the traditional media was busy covering a whole bunch of people saying he was doing nothing. The result was that (shock aand awe!) he had actually been working! Other news from around the world was that Fidel Castro resigned as President of Cuba (and was replaced by his brother Raul), President of East Timor José Ramos-Horta was attacked and nearly killed, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf suffers defeat at the polls, and Iran launches its first rocket into space. The Australia/India cricket series/fiasco was still going on, but would be coming to an end very soon thankfully.

The blog got its 4000th visitor then. You can see the latest tally to the right of the screen now. And I wrote a silly little post called The Obama Photo Album, taking a poke at some hysteria that was going around at the time, at Clinton, and writing some sarcastic tid-bits about photos I found of Obama. There have been times I regret writing this. The post would bring in excess of 16,000 visits by the end of the political season, and a lot of vistors were blind to the sarcasm and thought I truely was telling people not to vote for Obama because he had an afro.

Into March, and, for me, university restarted for the year. It was a semester for the last of my Arts/interesting subjects, because for the year after this semester I’d be doing just education/boring subjects. My work hours were cut down through the week, but increased over the weekends (not to my disappointment – I get paid more on the weekends). I was doing a US Civil War subject – and would write a good essay that I would later post up here due to interest. However, the rest of university was time-consuming and boring for the most part. Perhaps worst of all, I had to go back to using the CityRail system for transportation.

You would think that being time-rushed would cut down on my blogging. Instead, I posted 52 times for the month – a record that still stands. Of course, US politics dominated the topics on the blog. The main US politics concern was March 4 – Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. ‘Clinton’s Last Stand’ it was being called – she had to win big in Ohio and win Texas to justify staying in the race. When the first results came out, it went her way. A week later, when the official results were released, she had lost Texas. But everyone was past that. The media, by now, realised that they got more viewers and money through creating a race that didn’t actually exist. You see, Obama had all but won the nomination by now. All that had to happen was Clinton to drop out or superdelegates flock  to Obama. Some behind-the-scenes deals were made that Clinton would be allowed to run through the entire race without intervention by the Democratic leadership or superdelegates, and if she didn’t drop out after it was clear she would lose, then the party would cut her loose themselves.

The shining moment of March was Barack Obama’s ‘A More Perfect Union’ speech. It’s gone down in politically history as one of the best speeches ever. We were given an insight into how great a politician Obama was – and the sort of person that so many people had underestimated.

Zimbabwe would hold a national election – it would take months and months to actually get a workable result. The Republic of China has an election too – with promising results.

On the Thomas-front, a bunch of issues came to a head in my life that took me through a few bad weeks. It was about the girl, again. In its wake, I decided that I really did need to get away from all this for an extended time, so I started looking into holidays. I had been saying that I should go to the US seeings how the exchange rate was quite good – 80-85 cents for the AUD at the time. I started collecting catelogues. At the behest of my mother, I got a diabetes test – negative.

April, and the US election was beginning to hit a rutt. Obama would win polls against Clinton, he would win state elections, but Clinton wouldn’t drop out. McCain had disappeared and people wondered what he campaign would be like. But even the US politically news had died down. People like me (that is, with no life) were interested in the fine, acute movements – but there wasn’t much to blog about. Which was probably a good thing – university had started to bite into my time. Mountains of assignments and what-nots were forming, and they needed attention.

For me, April might have been boring, but it would turn out to be a very important month. I booked my holiday – a Contiki tour that would span a month, taking me from the west coast to the east coast, and some time at the end to spend with a friend I have over there. The second I booked it, I was very excited to get it underway – it would be my first chance to venture out into the world on my own, without a guiding hand of a parent or relative.

And that’s about how memorable April was. Australian politics was perhaps more interesting – talk of the budget, a failing Liberal party leader, and some other headlines made for some interest. But, really, the month passed me by quietly.

I’m going to break this post into parts. I don’t expect I’ll finish it before the new year, but it gives me something to work on each time I log on.

Thomas.

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