By any measure, 2015 was an incredible year filled with storylines whose effects will likely reverberate for the foreseeable future. To be clear, it wasn’t a good year. Many of the top themes focus on death and violence and turmoil. But, in many ways, it was a hopeful year marked by economic improvement, a growing international commitment to peace, and some dramatic technological advancements.
It’s difficult to peer into 2016 to see what the future holds, but we can take a look back at the top storylines of 2015 in hopes that we can draw some useful lessons. Here is our take, in no particular order:
1. The Rise of the Political Outsider
This is the year that the political class’ heads collectively exploded. Conventional wisdom held that unconventional candidates like billionaire Donald Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson would inevitably rise, then fall into the political ether. But these candidates aren’t just bending the rules, they aren’t even just breaking the rules, they’re taking the rulebook, setting it on fire, spreading the ashes across the primary states, and then rewriting it ad-hoc. The reason is that voters—and not just conservatives—are pissed off at the current state of affairs, disgusted by anyone and anything having to do with Washington, and cynical about politicians’ motives. The result is putting a premium on authenticity, even when that deviates from political purity.
2. Hillary Clinton’s Scandals
It seems like a lifetime ago at this point, but not too long ago the headlines were dominated by a series of scandals that Clinton seemed incapable of escaping. First came the investigations in the Clinton Foundation’s finances, which revealed that the eponymous foundation accepted millions of dollars from foreign governments during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Those countries included Algeria, Qatar and Oman, each of which was concurrently spending millions to lobby the State Department on foreign policy issues. And then came the revelation that she used an insecure, homebrew email server during her time as the nation’s chief diplomat, which she subsequently reviewed and erased at her discretion. The months that followed were a repartee between a cagey Clinton and an unusually determined press, which raised questions about Clinton’s truthfulness and judgment. That more hasn’t been said about these scandals is troubling.
3. Mass Shootings
Umpqua college in Roseburg, a movie theater in Lafayette, a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, a church in Charleston. These and many other mass shootings were sadly prevalent this year. And while the Left has used each of them to push a gun control agenda, Republicans–though not loudly enough–are advocating for a more holistic solution that includes fundamental mental health reform. Here’s to hoping that Rep. Tim Murphy’s Mental Health Reform Act is finally passed in 2016.
4. Speaker’s Race
Republican’s from across the conservative spectrum are probably loathe to revisit this difficult period. Despite a successful tenure that led to dramatic reductions in the federal deficit, Speaker Boehner resigned after the Republican caucus grew increasingly fractious. The resulting race was a bit chaotic, especially after Rep. McCarthy, who was considered the frontrunner, removed his name from consideration in the name of uniting the caucus. Fortunately, after much urging by colleagues, Rep. Paul Ryan entered and won the race, which immediately set a new, idea-driven tone. Although pundits pounced on the idea of division within the Republican ranks, we actually think it’s the sign of a healthy intra-party debate that will serve to strengthen our ideas.
5. Washington Working Again
Although Democrats hate to admit it, in part because it doesn’t jive with their attempt to paint the Republican Congress as a fractious mess and in part because it reflects so poorly on their time in the majority, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have successfully gotten things back to normal. That means opening up debate, restoring power to committees, allowing amendment votes, and frankly, just passing some good legislation. The results speak for themselves – the biggest rewrite of education laws in 25 years, the most comprehensive custom enforcement legislation in a generation, the first long-term transportation bill in more than a decade, and all that came in just the last month! We’re excited to see what the Republican Congress has in store for a productive 2016.
6. Foreign Policy Blundering
Terrorism dominated the headlines in 2016 as the group known as ISIS wreaked havoc in the Middle East and began to display its reach into Western countries. Sadly, President Obama often came across as a deer-in-headlights. He seemed to consistently underestimate the enemy and was even caught manipulating the intelligence in an effort to downplay the ISIS threat and protect his chosen narrative. When Americans wanted and needed some decisive leadership, President Obama shrunk from the occasion, became a weak-kneed mess, and failed to come up with any meaningful plan to contest the ISIS threat. Worst of all, he repeatedly admitted that he didn’t have a plan, not only feeding American’s insecurity, but fueling ISIS’ ego. Hopefully, this administration can get it together this year and work with our allies to make some headway against terror in the Middle East.
Photo credit: Anthony Quintano