As we've all seen, music can perfectly capture the zeitgeist of an age. Bob Dylan's early folk songs represented a time of social upheaval; two decades later, heavy metal encapsulated the vulgar opulence of the 1980s.
One of this year's most popular songs, as measured by YouTube plays, was an Internet-propelled ditty in which Cee Lo Green used an unambiguous two-word phrase to invite the listener to copulate. It was a crude yet apposite representation of our present state of politics.
Congress began the year by ramming through a health care bill the public didn't ask for and, polls said, didn't want. In March, using slippery legislative maneuvers and institutional bribery, Democrats, as if adopting Cee Lo's message as their guiding principle, passed a bill that required all Americans to purchase health insurance.
The bill's passage, coupled with high unemployment due to a continuing recession, caused Congress' approval rating to sink to somewhere between "rat poison" and "guys who squirt lotion on you at the mall." Soon, voters were able to deliver their own two-word message to Democrats and the Republicans who emulate them.
Of course, 2010 will be remembered as the year the Tea Party took over the national contest that matters most: Dancing With the Stars. Small-government enthusiasts dialed en masse to ensure Bristol Palin made the finals of the reality television competition, before finally losing to Jennifer Grey, who apparently was at one time an actress.
On America's undercard was the battle for control of Congress. Nationally, Republicans picked up more than 60 seats in the House of Representatives, gaining control with the same kind of voter tidal wave that forced them out of office in 2006. The GOP picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate, including Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, who shocked America by defeating 18-year incumbent Russ Feingold.
In fact, the voter uprising turned out to be a double rainbow for Republicans in Wisconsin, the state most willing to defenestrate its incumbents. Wisconsin was the only state where Democrats lost control of both houses of the legislature, the governorship and a U.S. Senate seat.
This may be, in part, because of the state Democratic Party's tendency to extend a middle finger to voters where an olive branch would have sufficed.
Mike Tate, the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), took a page out of the David Koresh Leadership Manual, branding Tea Party attendees as "extremist elements" who "frankly don't believe in this country." Tate compared people with rational concerns about government spending to "red-baiting McCarthyites, the Know-Nothings and the KKK."
DPW spokesman Graeme Zielinski kept up the puerility, saying Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker "shames" Wisconsin, and calling Walker's running mate, Rebecca Kleefisch, a "lunatic" just days before she had colon cancer surgery. While successful liberal candidates were figuring out how to moderate their message, Tate and Zielinski were busy spraying their party with voter repellent.
Of course, Walker did win, beating languid Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to take over the governorship from the unpopular Jim Doyle. Throughout the campaign, Barrett had the confused look of someone wondering how Lady Gaga managed to turn meat into a dress.
Even before he took office, Walker stood up to supporters of building a train between Milwaukee and Madison. He argued that the $810 million allocated to the project by the federal government would be better spent elsewhere and killed the project.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, a supporter of the plan, chided Republicans for not being open to "new" ideas, like, um, trains. Perhaps Cieslewicz will now offer a futuristic plan to run rickshaws between Milwaukee and Madison.
The Democrats of Wisconsin had so little compunction about flipping the voters the bird that, in one instance, they flipped a jailbird.
In an attempt to sneak through state employee union contracts before Republicans took over in January, Assembly Democrats called on the services of jailed state Rep. Jeff Wood, an independent, who cast the deciding vote to placate the unions. So while the four-time impaired driver may not be fit to walk around in public, Assembly Democrats are okay with letting him decide the fate of $154 million in union contracts.
Yet those lurid machinations paled in comparison to what happened mere hours later, when Senate Democratic Majority Leader Russ Decker emerged from his office with both his middle fingers blazing. Decker unexpectedly switched his vote, thereby killing the union contracts.
The state's preeminent labor leader, Marty Beil of AFSCME, responded as if he were giving a class on labor stereotype reinforcement. Beil was so angry he almost uttered a multi-syllabic word; instead, he simply resorted to calling Decker a "whore."
In retrospect, the best part of 2010 might be that it is over. Hopefully, the story of 2011 will also be told with the use of a single finger. Let's just hope it's the thumb, Fonzie-style.
Christian Schneider lives in Madison, works for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and blogs at christianschneiderblog.com.