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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listens to a question as he appears at "The People's Caucus: Vote Truth to Power" at the Holzworth Performing Arts Center at Davenport North High School, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The specter of socialism

There is a specter haunting the Democratic Party — the specter of socialism. The party looks poised to embrace the mantle going into elections season. Just weeks out from the crucial Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders looks within striking distance of the nomination. He may even qualify as the frontrunner. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for months considered the favorite, looks wobbly.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrives to meet with reporters following escalation of tensions this week between the U.S. and Iran, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pelosi versus president

It's the last play of a tied game, and an unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object on the one-yard line. The puzzled play-caller is flagged for delay of game, then the pigskin is finally snapped as time expires. On a quarterback keeper, it's hard to tell if the nose of the ball crossed the goal line plane before it's snatched away and carried the length of the field into the opposite end zone. Someone just won, but who?

FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate businessman Tom Steyer waves before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Los Angeles, Calif. Steyer has unveiled an immigration proposal seeking to make immigrants fleeing the effects of climate change eligible for legal entry into the United States. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Tom Steyer outruns Cory Booker

Pity poor Cory Booker. The Democratic senator from New Jersey and also-ran presidential candidate has palpably craved the presidency for some two decades. And he did all the right things: First, he attended Stanford University and won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford. Next came the obligatory law degree from Yale Law School. And then he embarked on a frankly thankless job, serving as mayor of hardscrabble Newark, New Jersey for two terms.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right, joined by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and presidential candidate Julian Castro, left, wave to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at Brooklyn's King Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Foes of Senate filibuster show true colors

On her presidential-campaign website, Sen. Elizabeth Warren says her plan for "gun-violence prevention" includes breaking what she calls the National Rifle Association's "stranglehold of Congress" by — among other things — "eliminating the filibuster."

President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. troops, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Washington, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Vice President Mike Pence, and others look on. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The power of 'maximum pressure'

Leading political luminaries contend each captain of the U.S. ship of state must have a doctrine guiding the nation's foreign policy. President Trump doesn't have one, they argue, and that's why he's gotten crossways with Iran. To the contrary, the president's strategy for dealing with the Islamic state's malevolent mullahs is as clear as it is simple: Maximum pressure. Judging from the most recent exchange of hostilities, it appears to be working.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters on the morning after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. Pelosi refused to say Wednesday when she'll send the impeachment articles against Trump to the Senate for the trial. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Parsing the Pelosi pause

It happens: A prized Christmas gift, buried under a mountain of torn wrapping paper, gets thrown away by mistake. Impeachment is like that. It's both the most momentous story of the just-concluded year and, owing to the bustle of the holidays, the most forgotten. As Americans take down the ornaments and look up the headlines they disregarded during the Yuletide season, the conscientious need to turn a wary eye toward the efforts to expel a U.S. president without the use of the ballot box.

Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone strike on Friday, at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) square in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Choosing to be the strong horse

Fortune has its price. The United States is blessed among the nations, but with prosperity has come responsibility, and the Middle East has a way of exacting that obligation. Until such time that the world no longer needs the region's oil riches as the lifeblood of progress, the red, white and blue must remain visible from every angle. Always-angry Iran may gnash its teeth and live-and-let-live Americans may cringe, but there really is no alternative.

FILE - In this July 31, 2019, file photo, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference following a two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington. President Donald Trump is calling on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates by at least a full percentage-point over a fairly short period of time, saying such a move would make the U.S. economy even better and would also greatly and quickly enhance the global economy. In two tweets Monday, Aug. 19, Trump kept up his pressure on the Fed and Powell, saying the U.S. economy was strong despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

What next?

The beginning of a new year is a time to take stock in ourselves, to revise our goals and plans for the future, and to hope against hope the coming year will be better than the last.

Confetti and other debris lies on the street in New York's Times Square, early New Year's Day, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Tempering the 'roaring 2020s'

The '20s are back, having come full circle to a new century. These will not be your great-grandfather's Roaring '20s. The third decade of the 21st century has launched with the same brash spirit as that latter-day era, but is raised to the next exponential power by the frenetic pace of human progress. If the promise of the fresh decade is to avoid the crash that befell that tumultuous period a hundred years ago, Americans will need to reinforce their soaring aspiration with heightened appreciation of prudence.

Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) makes a catch against the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Redskins' woes beyond the name

Another NFL regular season has ended for the Washington Redskins in humiliating fashion, with a record of just three wins and 13 losses, following a 47-16 thrashing by the hated archrival Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday evening.

FILE - In this Monday, July 1, 2019 file photo, a homeless man moves his belongings from a street behind Los Angeles City Hall as crews prepared to clean the area. California Gov. Gavin Newsom blamed the Trump administration on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, for withholding data that is blocking the release of $650 million aid to combat homelessness. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

California dreaming

For a century and a half, America has been California dreaming. The Golden State is a uniquely blessed state in many ways: A stunning geography, temperate weather, oil. and not to mention the original economic engine that powered the '49ers, gold, are among its sterling assets.