WASHINGTON, January 1, 2017 — 2016 was one crazy year, during which America witnessed its fair share of terror, sadness and shock. Like its predecessor, 2017 will definitely be a year for the history books, with President-elect Donald Trump entering the White House. Americans have not been very charitable towards 2016, but appear to be looking forward to 2017. As we all get ready to join them, let’s first pause and take a look back at the stories that had the most impact on America and Americans in the year just ended.
10. North Carolina Bathroom Bill
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a law staing that in government buildings, individuals (like students at state-operated schools) may only use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex identified on their birth certificates. In August, a U.S. District Court judge granted an injunction that prevented the University of North Carolina from enforcing the restroom provisions of the bill. The bill is en route to being amended in the state legislature.
9. Flint Water Crisis
Tap water created a public-health crisis in Flint, Michigan after it was discovered to contain high-levels of lead. Children in Flint were tested and found to have elevated levels of lead in their systmes. Flint changed its water source in 2014, routing it to their adjacent river in an effort to free themselves from the expensive and inefficient water system provided by Detroit. The Michigan AG has filed criminal charges against several former and current state and local officials as a result of this fiasco..
8. Supreme Court Vacancy
Beloved by conservatives and constitutional originalists alike, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February 2016. The vacancy left by Scalia’s death allowed President Obama to nominate liberal judge Merrick Garland to succeed him. But his nomination was held up by Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader including Mitch McConnell, who said he would not move forward with Garland’s nomination. With a new Republican President about to join the still-Republican House and Senate, Garland’s nomination is essentially DOA, and the vacancy will eventually be filled by a candidate who, presumably, will be cast in the same mold as was Justice Scalia.
7. Russian Hacking
The CIA announced they believe the Russians interfered in the presidential election, with the sole purpose of helping Donald Trump win. Their announcement caused a fury among Republicans and the Trump campaign. The hacks included a leak of DNC emails that led to the resignation of Party Chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, when it was revealed that her staff favored Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders.
6. Clinton Emails
Clinton’s use of a remote private email server for Federal government business while secretary of State plagued the former Democratic presidential nominee throughout her entire campaign. The New York Times had actually exposed Clinton’s use of the private server in 2015. Last summer, FBI Director James Comey announced that no charges would be brought up against Mrs. Clinton, even after admitting she was extremely careless in the handling of highly classified information. Clinton partisans claim his last minute reconsideration of this case late in Campaign 2016 severely damaged the former Secretary of State’s ability to win the election.
In a surprising turn of events in Europe, Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum held in June. The decision surprised many pollsters, who had expected Britain to vote to remain in the EU. The decision forced Prime Minister David Cameron to resign, leading to the new government being formed, and now led by Cameron’s Conservative Party successor, Theresa May. The Brexit results have caused the British pound to fall to a 31-year low, with the currency dropping below $1.20 at one point.
4. Pulse Nightclub Shooting
2016 has been a year filled with violence and tragedy, including a terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last summer. The nightclub was a popular establishment among the gay community. The gunman Omar Matteen, entered the club with a semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic pistol and opened fire, killing 49 people, making this the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
3. Attacks on Police
Violence against America’s police escalated in 2016. The violence initially erupted when Alton Sterling was shot dead at close range while being held on the ground by police in Baton Rouge, La. on July 5. Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Both victims were African-American. The very next evening, a man ambushed, shot and killed 5 police officers in Dallas.
2. Fidel Castro Death
Longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro passed away in November. Many in Cuban communities across America rejoiced as the hemisphere’s longest ruling dictator was dead. Castro’s death is causing at least some pundits to wonder whether Cuba will at last get back on a path to real democracy.
1. Donald Trump Wins Election 2016
In the most surprising political upset in U.S. history, real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States. Trump first announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in June 2015, but pundits and his fellow Republican competitors quickly dismissed the announcement as a political stunt. Surprising nearly everyone, except perhaps for his die-hard supporters, Trump managed to overcome a crowded Republican field that included former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as well as Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. After winning the nomination, he was again given zero chance to beat Hillary Clinton and her well-funded machine, but turned the political world upside down with his decisive electoral college triumph on November 8. The Trump story will continue to dominate the news cycle in 2017.