According to a discussion in the Mishnah -- the early 3rd century redaction of Jewish law -- there are actually four New Years:
- The first day of Nisan is the New Year for kings and festivals;
- The first day of Elul is the New Year for tithing cattle;
- The first day of Tishre is the New Year for the reckoning of years, for Sabbatical years, and for Jubilees, for planting trees and for vegetables.
- The first day of Shevat is the New Year for trees, in accordance with the ruling of Beit ("the House of") Shammai. However, Beit Hillel reckons the fifteenth of Shevat as the New Year for trees. (Source: Tractate Rosh Hashanah 1:1)
(Today, those of us who are practicing Jews observe only two of the four original New Years -- Rosh Hashanah, the "new year of years," and Tu b'Shevat, the "New Year of trees.")
Now, for those who are unfamiliar with Mishnaic debate -- or have never even heard of such a thing as "rabbinic law" -- this might sound pretty strange: four new years instead of one? However, if one pauses and ponders for just a second, we have more than one New Year in America as well:
- January 1, the new year of years.
- July 4, the new year for America
- October 1, the new fiscal year for the federal government.
- Aries 1, the new year for astrologers.
And, lest we forget, January 1 of each odd-numbered year (such as 2011) is actually the beginning of the following year's presidential election.
Yes, you read the above correctly; as of tomorrow -- or "today" or "yesterday" depending on when you read this essay -- the presidential election of 2012 is already in full swing.
And you thought tomorrow -- or today or yesterday -- begins (or began) 2011!
Already, we have our first "declared" Republican presidential candidate. He is Andy Martin, professional political gadfly (he ran for Barack Obama's former senate seat in 2010) and self-proclaimed "King of the Birthers." Recently declaring on a radio talk show that he would be running on what he called a "birther platform," Martin said, "I'm going to have a tremendous impact on the presidential election, not because I'm the frontrunner. Clearly I'm not," he told the radio audience. "But I'll be driving the agenda in the Republican Party."
Interestingly, Martin -- who during the 2010 Illinois senate primary accused now-Senator Mark Kirk of being a homosexual -- avers that Barack Obama was likely born in Hawaii. And yet, he is still running on a so-called "birther agenda." "My campaign doesn't say he was born here or he was born there; it says 'produce the facts.' Tell the truth to the American people. If you want our confidence, if you want our sons and daughters . . . to die for your policies, we have to trust you."
And you thought Sarah Palin was weird!
Lining up behind -- or in front of or alongside of -- Andy Martin are a slate of other, less cartoonish men and women whose names are being bandied about as potential Republican candidates. The most prominent of these include:
- Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: On paper, Romney would seem to have what it takes to become the G.O.P. standard bearer in '12. He's both tall and rich, has a most photogenic family, has been a successful executive, and is as clean as a hound's tooth. Nonetheless, he's also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon), which won't sit well with the party's evangelical wing, and presided over a state which instituted his own version of "Obama Care." In order to have even a a slight chance at the nomination, Romney will have to somehow prove that he was always against his signature program.
- Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour: Barbour is the ultimate insider. A high successful lawyer/lobbyist, he served four years (1993-1997) as chairman of the Republican National Committee, during which time the G.O.P captured both the House and Senate for the first time in nearly two generations. White-haired, pugnacious and endowed with a strong "good ole boy" Southern accent, Barbour, in talking about growing up during the Civil Rights era said, "I just don't remember it being that bad," and credited the "White Citizens Council" for "keeping the KKK out of Yazoo City." Barbour has also been accused of profiting handsomely off of Hurricane Katrina.
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: Gingrich has a reputation for being a thinker; he has a PhD and was largely responsible for the Republican's "Contract With America" in the 1990s. Professorial by nature and with many books to his credit the former speaker currently serves a Fox News commentator. His personal history does not sit well with the "family values" wing of the G.O.P.; Gingrich has been married three times and divorced twice. He reportedly served his first wife -- who had been his high school geometry teacher -- with divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery for uterine cancer. His former staffers were quoted as saying, "He's a sociopath, but he's our sociopath." Gingrich resigned from Congress after the House Ethics Committee charged his GOPAC political action committee with financial irregularities, for which he was fined $300.000 and formally reprimanded for violating House rules.
- Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: A lightening rod for conservatives and Tea Party acolytes, it is hard to believe that Palin has been a public figure for just slightly over 2 years. Prone to verbal gaffs, writing notes on her hand and speaking without first thinking, Palin has national name recognition -- the first thing required for anyone to become a successful nominee. In fact, this national name recognition could be her downfall; when everyone knows who a person is -- and a majority have a negative view -- it's almost impossible to reintroduce oneself to the public. Palin's "just one of the boys" image is beginning to wear more than a bit thin with both Republican insiders and the public at large.
- Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: Huckabee is well-respected by his party's evangelical wing -- he's a former Baptist preacher. who does not believe in Evolution. After running a surprising second to John McCain in many 2008 Republican primaries, the guitar-playing Huckabee -- like both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich -- found a home at Fox News. To date, Huckabee has not had much traction with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. However, in the past two weeks, he has begun speaking out on an issue originally raised by Palin: the so-called "Death Panels," which he -- like Palin before him -- claims are one of the chief mandates to be found within "Obama Care." If Huckabee is going to base his candidacy on the issue which much of the mainstream media named the "biggest political lie of 2010," he is in for a short run.
These five are by no means the only potential G.O.P. nominees for 2012. The list could easily include Governors Mitch Daniels (IN), Bobby Jindal (LA) and Tim Pawlenty (MN), representatives Tim Ryan (WI), Ron Paul (TX) and Mike Pence (IN), and one former governor who, although not as frequently mentioned as Romney, Palin, Gingrich, Barbour or Huckabee, is the fellow I would keep eye on:
Yes, I am speaking of Jeb Bush . . . and so are a lot of Republican Party insiders. He is, quite possibly, the one candidate who looks -- at least at the moment -- like he has a chance to go toe-to-toe with President Obama. Deeply conservative and PRO-BUSINESS, this Bush unlike his older brother, knows what he believes . . . and believes he knows best. If any of the other potentials grab the nomination, I think the president can look forward to a second term.
In any event, stay tuned, because it's going to be an utterly fascinating year.
To all my loyal readers, I wish you
- Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
- Bonne Annee
- Kenourios Chronos
- Felice anno nuevo
- Kul 'am wa antum bikhair
- Prosit Neujahr
- S Novim Godom
- A gutt und gezunt yor tsu alemenen,
- L'shana tovah and of course,
- Happy New Year!
©2010 Kurt F. Stone