Is it still 2016? This really seems like the year that never ends. So much has happened of historical import that 2016 will no doubt go down as one of the richest historical moments in American History. It is almost unbelievable to witness some of the sea changes we have experienced on a national and global scale.
In January, President Obama delivered his last State of The Union address as the nation’s first black President. The historic rise of Barack Obama almost fifty years after Dr. King’s assassination signaled both the pinnacle and the decline of the civil rights movement. In his final address Obama invoked DR. King’s language about the arc of progress and the necessity of change. He signaled that a change was upon us, but that we must face both the perils and opportunities with confidence and clarity – for despite all the noise it bends towards justice.
In February, the Flint water crisis forced us to confront the reality that much of our national infrastructure had reached critical points of decline. It begged us to consider what happens when partisanship in Government supersedes the public good. The problems in flint mirrored a hamstrung national legislature in congress that has kicked the ball down the road when it comes to addressing critical matters of trade, infrastructure, debt and industry. We decried the politics of gridlock and short-termism that led to this state of affairs, and prayed for a break in the impasse.
The inimitable Supreme Court giant Antonin Scalia passed in February. Although the esteemed jurist was known for his controversial comments in oral argument, those who knew him well understood that he was not being merely acerbic towards litigants or his fellow jurists; rather he was genuinely perturbed by the potential dangers of imprecision – especially because reasoning by analogy was necessary in some cases to fit the words of the law over a novel set of facts. He will be missed.
In March, Dr. Ben Carson ended historic campaign for President of the United States. Dr. Carson ran a remarkably dignified and honorable campaign, and was a dark horse favorite early in the primaries. Carson went on to be the first of the candidates to honor his pledge to support the eventual nominee and is now on the verge of being confirmed for HUD secretary. Many who doubted Dr. Carson now see the wisdom of his decision to stay the course and work for the public good rather than for party or personal ego. He is a shining example of what faith and perseverance can do.
In March, the Super Tuesday races revealed a surprise that no one saw coming – the inevitable rise of Donald Trump. It was a sobering wake-up call for those who assumed that Trump would fizzle out in the primaries, perhaps a surprise even to Mr. Trump who had whispered to Governor Christy early on in the Primaries that he didn’t think he’d make it past October. But that was not to be the case, and the prognosticators would continue to be proven wrong up until election night when Trump surprised the nation and was elected President. It remains to be seen whether the President-Elect will deliver on his bold promise to ‘make American great again.’
What is perhaps even more surprising than the Trump upset is the fizzling out of the Clinton candidacy. Clinton was by far the more skilled politician and should have benefited from the afterglow of Obama, who continues to enjoy high ratings. Clinton apparently did not benefit from the tailwind created by a popular two-term Democrat incumbent, and some of her critical flaws – a perception of corruption and inability to level truthfully with the American people created a likeability problem that ultimately proved to be her downfall.
June brought us Brexit, with the British public voting to break away from the European Union in a surprise shift that has been reflected in the U.S. election and elections in France and Italy. Then candidate Trump spoke presciently about the event from his golf course in Scotland, stating “Basically, they took back their country…it is essentially the same thing in the United States.
Police shootings dominated the news in July, with the recorded incidents of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The issue brought black lives matter to the fore once again, and the question of whether police use of force against blacks was unjustified and unfair. In the aftermath, there were protests all around the nation to speak out against the perceived injustices. At one of those protests a lone gunman killed five police officers who were protecting protesters, sparking a controversy over whether BLM had gone beyond championing justice and created an environment of reprisal against police officers.
The issue would take on national significance at the Democratic and Republican Conventions, with Republicans celebrating the lives of fallen officers and honoring their families amidst calls for an increase in law and order. Democrats on the other hand featured the families of those who were killed by police and called for a renewed emphasis on justice and equality. In many ways the election became a referendum on these two competing aims.
2016 has been a year of incredible change. The new administration seems a stark departure if not an outright repudiation of the outgoing President’s policies. And the drama and noise has continued unabated even after election night. It’s hard to believe with all that happened that 2016 is still not officially over.