The top 10 political stories of 2014

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Ferguson, elections, polarization, health care and the GOP’s lawsuit were the top five.
  • A 9/11 report, immigration, President Obama’s unpopularity, taxes, and the debt round out the top 10

Top 10 political stories of the year: As we near the end of the year, we thought it would be good to look back at what got people reading when it came to stories on our web site related to politics. There were some overlapping topics, so we grouped them into categories. Here’s a stroll down memory lane:

1. Ferguson: Not surprisingly, the shooting of Missouri teenager Michael Brown dominated much of the coverage and readers’ interest. Three of the top stories were, “What does Michael Brown’s official autopsy actually reveal?”, “What do the newly released witness statements tell us about the Michael Brown shooting?”, and “The country reacts to Ferguson decision.” The shooting in Ferguson thrust the issue of race back into the national spotlight and put President Obama and his administration in a difficult position. The president and Attorney General Eric Holder have called for improvements in community policing, and Obama has called on Congress to allocate $75 million over three years for 50,000 new body cameras to be used by police. Activists still would like the president to visit Ferguson, and while he has shown sympathy for the protesters, he also urged, “[W]e need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” By the way, despite everything in the massive end-of-the-year spending bill, funding for body cameras was not in there. It will have to wait until next year – if it passes at all.

2. Midterm election: The consequential midterm election that turned Senate control and, thereby all of Congress, over to Republicans, also dominated — as expected. Our election results live blog, live elections tracker, our live coverage, featuring two of your authors, our Morning Line about turnout being the lowest in 70 years, and even a Kentucky Senate debate between Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, were among the top three purely political, non-Ferguson, stories on the site. It’s not clear exactly how McConnell, the incoming Senate Majority Leader, will run the Upper Chamber, but signs emerged in the lame duck of some of the fights — and political splits in both parties — ahead.

3. Polarization: The moderates are dying, if not altogether gone, in Congress. And Americans continue to be fascinated — or disgusted — by which corners we all fit into. Our Political Party Identification Quiz, which is still live and you can take here, was third only to election results and Ferguson. Right up there was our recap of how liberals and conservatives are worlds apart on issues beyond politics, like with whom they socialize, how big their house should be, or whether they should live near museums.

4. Health care: The health care law, Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act — whatever you want to call it — continued to draw interest. There was more money spent against the law than on any other issue during the 2014 campaign. But the law’s future could, once again, hang in the hands of the nine Supreme Court justices next year when they take up whether federal subsidies for state exchanges are constitutional. It’s clear Americans are still very curious what will happen with the law, especially considering that one of the most clicked-on stories on the site was about a small change, or fix, to the law that Republicans were able to secure back in April. Just what will the new Republican-controlled Congress do about the health care law? For clues, look no further than McConnell’s comments that even though he wants to repeal it “root and branch,” he knows the president holds a veto pen and won’t let that happen.

5. U.S. House sues Obama: Anger over immigration led to House Republicans suing President Obama… over health care? Just as the unaccompanied minors crisis was boiling over in July, House Republicans — for the first time in U.S. history — passed a resolution authorizing the chamber to sue the president of the United States. The language of the bill, though, didn’t have to do with immigration at all, but instead with the health law’s mandate to buy insurance. The lawsuit also did not get filed for several months, but is now making its way through the courts. One of the other top stories was President Obama’s energized response in which he mocked Republicans and dismissed their lawsuit as a “stunt.”

6. What do 28 classified pages from a 9/11 report reveal: The details of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in this country’s history, continues to stoke interest. In particular, one of the most read/watched items on the site was the NewsHour segment featuring New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright, who investigated what could be revealed in 28 classified pages of a 9/11 report. What’s in them? You’ll have to click for yourself

7. Immigration: The red-hot topic of immigration saw an unaccompanied minors crisis at the Southern U.S. border and even sparked a lawsuit (OK, they say it was about health care) and caused a conservative rebellion on the end-of-year government funding plan. But the story that stood apart was the one wrapping President Obama’s actual announcement of long-awaited executive action on immigration.

8. President Obama’s unpopularity: The president was in a tough spot during this election year. There were a myriad of issues that were out of his control both at home and abroad. But in his sixth year, he was in a familiar position for presidents, with all-time lows in approval. It got one of us asking in June whether Americans had simply tuned out the president.

9. Taxes: Death and taxes, they say, are the only things assured in life. And Americans want to know where they stand, which might help explain why a story from last January, “Tax code changes will hit high income Americans hardest,” was one of the top stories on the site for 2014.

10. $18 trillion in debt: It’s a huge number. But just as Congress was moving toward passing a massive $1 trillion spending bill to fund the government for a year, the country’s debt moved past $18 trillion (and then dipped below again). There are plenty of reasons for the debt increase — and both parties are at fault in one way or another. But Americans continue to be worried about the level of debt and what it will mean for the country’s future. The largest driver of the debt is entitlements and health care, but those are relatively apolitical, easy-to-tackle topics, right?

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 2000, President-elect George W. Bush nominated Colin Powell to be the first African American secretary of state. Who was the first African American to be appointed to a cabinet-level position and under which president? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to William C Rives (@MrWmCR) for guessing Monday’s trivia: Which two major, historical documents did Jefferson author or write portions of? The answer was: the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.


  • A majority of Americans believe the CIA’s post-9/11 harsh interrogation techniques were justified, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday.

  • While an overwhelming majority of Republicans (76 percent) agree that those interrogation techniques were justified, more Democrats (46 percent) think they weren’t justified(37 percent), according to a Pew poll.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report released last week put most of the onus on the Central Intelligence Agency, instead of senior White House officials. Writing for Politico, Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. says, “it is extremely dangerous to let off senior officials in this way.” He adds that, “it only risks increasing the likelihood of future use of torture if there is a new calamity like 9/11.”

  • As the Senate tries to wind up its year, Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to go home, and says he has yet to sleep in his new home.

  • For the first time since July 2013, the U.S. has a permanent surgeon general confirmed for office. In a 51-43 vote Monday, the Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy.

  • Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is up for reelection in 2016 in a blue state, went against the National Rifle Association and fellow GOPers by voting to confirm Murthy.

  • With potentially tough contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Jeb Bush is going to rely heavily on a win in South Carolina to get through the Republican primaries in 2016, if he runs.

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is meeting with 100 GOP donors and fundraisers in Miami next month to strategize about “Team Marco 2016” — but it’s not certain which office that campaign refers to.

  • Warren Can Win,” writes David Brooks.

  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has traveled to both coasts recently to woo GOP donors, especially those nervous about his electability.

  • With economic indicators improving, but many Americans not seeing that progress in their daily lives, Democrats are split over how — or whether — to take credit for stronger economic news.

  • Historic losses for Democrats this midterm did not just cause them to lose power on the Hill, but also weakened their field of potential 2016 Senate candidates.

  • In an 8-1 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer who was mistaken about a North Carolina traffic law did not violate the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

  • The Supreme Court also decided against taking up a case about an Arizona abortion law, which is currently being blocked by a lower court. The Arizona law would limit the availability of non-surgical abortions.

  • The fight in Congress over a compromise federal spending bill revealed tensions between pragmatists and purists in both parties. NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff sat down with Todd Zwillich of The Takeaway and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report to discuss the polarization and political dynamics of the incoming Congress.

  • Gov. Bill Haslam proposed a plan Monday to expand Medicaid in Tennessee, but insists he stills opposes the Affordable Care Act.

  • With the possibility that same-sex marriages could begin January 6, 2015, Florida’s attorney general asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and uphold the state’s ban.

  • NASA spent $349 million to build a rocket tower in Mississippi, then shut it down.

  • The charity set up for victims of the Boston marathon bombing is ready to shut down.


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