Maybe I watched too much football and basketball over the holiday, but I think 2014 will be all about the matchups.
Here are some key ones that will shape the year.
Politics vs. Problems — This is a marquee fight that we’ll see again and again this election year. Should our elected leaders address the state’s dilapidated roads and bridges, or fix obvious flaws in a still worthwhile effort to expand health care coverage, or will they throw bombs from the safety of their partisan bunkers? Politics is heavily favored.
Campaign Bucks vs. Common Good — This big-money tilt for all the marbles will be televised, again and again, 30 seconds at a time, all year. Groups and individuals will pour millions into Iowa’s U.S. Senate and House races while their true agendas and donors will remain in the shadows. Voters trying to make their voices heard above the buzz won’t have the bucks, but never count them out.
Transparency vs. Expediency — Who will prevail? Team Transparency with its desire to push public officials to tell taxpayers exactly what’s going on, or Team Expediency, with its insistence that big deals can’t get done with the pesky public nosing around. If the Cedar Rapids City Council approves any more tax incentives packages for unknown developers, we’ll know transparency is trailing.
Future vs. Past — A classic matchup playing out across the political landscape. In the governor’s race, a young Democratic upstart still may emerge to challenge five-term Gov. Terry Branstad. But in the emerging presidential caucus race, those same Democrats are likely to rally around Hillary Clinton. You’ll need a score card to keep track of who is going forward and backward.
Ideology vs. Governing — Will Iowans send new representatives and a senator to Washington, D.C., who want to wage an ideological war or who seek to join a cooperative effort to govern a big, diverse nation? Governing should be the favorite in November, if it survives the primaries.
Reform vs. Transformation — In education, reform is the sort of top-down playbook politicians love. But transformation is a scrappy upstart from the grass roots. Reform may grab some headlines in 2014, but transformation is your best bet long term.
Hit vs. Stand — State gaming regulators will decide whether to take one more casino card from Cedar Rapids or stand on the 18 they already have. Smart money says they’ll risk it.