It started on a high note, but then became discordant and ended on a somber one. 2020 began with the economy in high gear and unemployment at an all-time low, including for minorities. There was wage growth and, in fact, more jobs than qualified American applicants, and almost anyone who really wanted a job could find one. Although President Donald Trump could claim credit for keeping most of his campaign promises, including tax reform and the end of scores of job-killing restrictions on businesses and industry, Americans were sharply divided in their opinion of his presidency. Yet in spite of the polarization, optimism regarding the future seemed prevalent.
Then, in March, our lives changed. Initial reports of the strange, new virus from China were met at first with assurances that it posed no great threat to Americans. But China’s lack of candor in reporting on the outbreak in Wuhan and failure to control the travel of those exposed resulted in a global pandemic. We were urged to listen to the experts in dealing with Covid-19 but the experts didn’t always agree and their advice was often inconsistent. First, masks were not recommended except for hospital workers and could provide a false sense of protection. Then they were absolutely required to stop or slow the spread of the disease. We were warned that vaccines could be years away. The pandemic was, of course, no fault of the president, but, as the nation’s chief executive, he owned the crisis, just as President-elect Joe Biden will own it after Jan. 20, during what will probably be its final, deadly phase before enough people are vaccinated.
The tragic death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman focused public outrage on instances of police brutality and prompted mostly peaceful street demonstrations calling for reforms to the use of force by police. But many of the demonstrations turned violent resulting in rioting, arson and looting and a few even resulted in the occupation of public property. There were calls to defund police departments and violent crime subsequently increased in many cities. The violence and unrealistic demands to defund police detracted greatly from the effectiveness of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trump-hating Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, continued a relentless campaign to remove a duly-elected president from office, with the House impeaching him in August without a single Republican vote even though they knew full well he would be acquitted in the GOP-controlled Senate. Rancor and bitterness continued to characterize American politics making bi-partisan legislation in Washington all but impossible except for the initial $2 trillion CARES Covid-19 relief package. Opinion was sharply divided over, among other things, whether the federal government or the states should lead in dealing with the pandemic.
After the initial spring surge in cases stressed medical capacity in some states, the summer brought some relief only to have infections surge again in the fall and especially after the Thanksgiving holiday. Still, thanks to the administration’s Operation Warp Speed and the incredible work of the pharmaceutical research community, vaccines were developed, tested, manufactured and approved and started to become available at year’s end.
Even with a pandemic raging, much of the energy and attention of the political class was focused on the Democrat nomination process and the national election. With presidential elections every four years, about one-quarter, more or less, of an incumbent’s first term is focused on campaigning for re-election. Mr. Biden’s primary victory brought a measure of relief to those who feared the ascendency of the radical left wing of the party.
Regardless of impressive achievements including his third appointment of a conservative associate justice to the Supreme Court, a resurgent economy in spite of the pandemic, U.S.-brokered peace initiatives in the Middle East which had eluded past administrations, and no new wars, Mr. Trump continued to be his own worst enemy because of his ill-considered habit of tweeting about everything and everyone who displeased him plus his revolving-door style of staffing his administration.
He subsequently lost an election that he might have won if only he had made an effort to act and speak more like the president of the world’s most powerful nation and leader of the free world. Even so, the election was close enough that he still might have won if at least one of two things had happened before, instead of after, the election, to wit: the availability of the first vaccines and/or the announcement by the Department of Justice that Hunter Biden was the subject of a federal investigation.
The election itself was a mess. Although claims of fraud were never substantiated by hard evidence, many differences among the states regarding the rules, timelines and authentication procedures and last-minute changes to the rules and deadlines not authorized by state legislatures as the Constitution requires, resulted in a contested election. This ensures that the bitterness between the parties will persist and worse, public faith in the integrity of our elections will continue to wane. But the good news is that the pandemic should end in 2021 and many lives will be spared. Let us rejoice in that and work together to make the next year better. Happy New Year and stay safe.