I took a few weeks off from writing this column, both to furiously edit a novel in preparation for a January deadline, and to try and take stock. The first of these tasks was easy; the book will be done on time, and I think it’s pretty good. But the second, that’s much harder.
I hardly know where to start with 2016, except to say that I can feel an entire cultural and political era slipping away as the year finally comes to a close.
Many are celebrating. The people in my own circles, though, are holding on to one another while grimly bracing themselves for the worst. I’m dreading venturing into a future that is as uncertain as any I’ve ever faced.
All I know for sure is that this was a year of endings, both good and bad. So let’s try to revisit the year that was, and chronicle all the things that came to an end.
Let’s start with the local, because it’s easier to stomach. This was the year we had to stop pretending that Connecticut’s stubborn budget crisis, now entering its eighth year, was something that could be solved without deep cuts, layoffs, and the shredding of what was left of the social safety net.
The worst part is that the crisis still isn’t over. The current budget deficit for next year’s budget is $1.3 billion dollars. No one is under any illusions that there’s a fix out there that won’t just keep making things worse.
Another thing that came to an end was 20 years of Democratic dominance in both chambers of the legislature. The Republicans finally managed to wrest enough Senate seats away from the Democrats to evenly divide the chamber between them, something that hasn’t happened in a century.
A power-sharing arrangement is in place that will give Republicans a lot more say over what bills make it to the floor. Sure, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman is still the tie-breaking vote if it comes down to it, but it’s still a dramatic departure from business as usual.
And 2016 also saw yet another company move out of Connecticut. This time, though, it was General Electric, whose Fairfield headquarters was a mark of prestige for the state. GE decided to move their headquarters to trendy downtown Boston, leaving a campus full of empty buildings. Nearby Sacred Heart University is buying the property, ensuring that Fairfield’s grand list has zero chance of recovery.
Lastly, we witnessed what is likely the end of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s career on the national stage. No cushy Clinton cabinet position awaits him, and all he has to look forward to is a looming election in 2018 that he has no chance of winning, should he run.
Oh, sure, Malloy could still make a mark as a loud opponent of President-elect Donald J. Trump, but his stint as head of the Democratic Governors Association resulted in his party losing nearly all of its high profile gubernatorial races, only managing to flip North Carolina by the smallest of margins.
That’s the local. The national is harder.
Americans this year found out that a lot of the things we believed about ourselves weren’t true. Would an American party really nominate and then elect a dangerous, unqualified narcissist as president? Would they be willing to look past racism, sexism, and unbelievably obvious conflicts of interest just to spite their enemies? Yes, it turns out.
A lot of the conventions and unwritten rules of our democracy wilted away this year. The president couldn’t get his Supreme Court nominee to a vote as Republicans stalled for nearly a year. A major party candidate survived scandals that would have melted any other candidate into warm soup. His rallies were toxic hatefests, he threatened to jail his opponent, and his rise dragged all the white nationalist cockroaches out of the darkness and into the White House. He still tweets childish taunts, and makes idiotic pronouncements that have caused international incidents. It’s going to be a long four years.
We also lost any chance we realistically had at dealing with climate change, of making progress on civil rights, and stemming the rise of populism, extremism, and nationalism all over the world.
Is it an end to our democracy, as some people worry? I don’t think so. We will endure. But it’s the end of an era, certainly. Elections in the future will be different. The stakes have changed.
What does that mean for 2017? God alone knows. But we will look back on this year as the moment when we could have stopped whatever is coming, and failed.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.