Friday, January 2, 2009

2008, The Year That Was

Happy New Year, everyone!

I'm late on my 2008 retrospective, but here it goes:
2008 was, in my estimation, the third most significant historical year of my lifetime. The two that I put ahead of it are:
#1 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall)
#2 2001 (the September 11th terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan)

Huge and historic events took place:
a. We had a hugely historic presidential race -- the first legitimate female candidate for President almost secured the Democratic nomination. The first African-American candidate nominated by a major party won the Presidency. Think about the context -- only white males had ever been NOMINATED by major parties prior to this year, let alone WON a Presidential election. In the 1960s it was considered a big break for a Catholic to win the Presidency (many thought that was impossible 40 years ago), now we have an African-American win it -- and a first term Senator, no less.
b. We faced down the 2nd most serious economic crisis in US history. To put it simply -- our years of living on debt (politely called "leverage" in financial circles) at all levels of the economy -- consumer, business, etc. We face the prospect of the most severe economic contraction since the Great Depression (although probably not close to as severe as the Great Depression.) We saw the US Auto Industry, the benchmark of American industrial strength failing. We saw the socialization of the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and possibly others to come.
c. We saw a turning point in the war in Iraq, with reduced levels of violence and reduced strength of Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

All of these events are hugely significant and will have impact on our history for years to come.

Since this blog is mostly about the world of politics, in political terms this year saw:
a. The most resounding Democratic presidential victory since Bill Clinton's 1996 defeat of Bob Dole. Barack Obama won the Northeast and the West coast solidly as would be expected, but won states in every other region of the country as well -- the Southwest, the Mountain West, the Midwest and the Southeast.
b. Republicans saw their numbers in congress diminished to their lowest levels since post-Watergate.

For the first time since 1994, we have a Democratically controlled congress and a Democratic President. The Democrats also have far larger majorities than in the first two years of Bill Clinton's first term.

What a year it was. Some good, some very bad. Here's to hoping that our new government will develop solutions to guide us out of the complex and troubling situations in which we find ourselves economically and geopolitically.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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