Opinion: The presidential elections defined 2016

Nicholas Hunter

Nicholas Hunter

As new calendars are pinned to cork boards and earnest New Year’s resolutions are being printed onto pocket planners destined to gather dust in a junk drawer, many already see 2016 as a thing of the past; 2017, a bastion of hope. And while it is easy to look at the new year as a fresh start after a long and stressful 2016, we may have only seen the catalyst for what is to come.

The 2016 presidential election has dominated the news over the past 12 months. Per Google Trends, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were, respectively, the top two searched people globally. “Donald Trump” was the third-most searched term in the world (behind Pokémon Go and the iPhone 7), and “U.S. Election” was the top search term in global news.

The race between Clinton and Trump to the White House found its home as the top story on CNN even before the primary elections were over. On a daily basis, Trump rallies aired on television, allowing the world to keep up with each inflammatory statement in real time.

As the summer ended and school quickly consumed the lives of many, the world was greeted each morning with Democratic National Committee email dumps that reportedly came from Russian hackers, and were released by the cyberterrorist group WikiLeaks.

While some were simply mundane and others showed the inner mechanisms of the political game, a select few revealed unfavorable opinions held by Clinton and the Democratic Party — possibly the most damaging being the efforts made to squash the surge of support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.

That was only the tip of the iceberg; This dirty and controversial race saw accusations of sexual abuse, the revisiting of the most notorious sex scandal of the ‘90s, a presidential candidate calling soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder “weak” (while the other one called their opponent’s supporters a “basket of deplorables”), and the use of phrases such as “nasty woman” and “we have some bad hombres in here” in presidential debates.

Yet, an election did, in fact, take place.

And by some miracle or catastrophe — depending on whom you ask —Trump, a reality TV star and business mogul, was elected to be the next president of the United States. With no experience in government office and a cavalcade of conflicts of interest to be worked through, he is looking to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

In the seven weeks since the election, world politics have changed drastically. President Barack Obama has stepped forward with official sanctions put forth on Russia for its hacking efforts, which included ejecting 35 Russian diplomats from American soil.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to the sanctions, saying that the Obama administration has “not given up on its hope of dealing one last blow to relations with Russia, which it has already destroyed.”

“We can only add that if Washington takes new hostile steps, it will receive an answer,” Zakharova said in a Business Insider article published on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Trump said in a statement that it “is time for our country to move on” from attempting to punish Russia for their hacking efforts, before saying that he would meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week to be updated on the situation.

This situation is indicative of Trump’s attitude toward the Obama administration since he won the election. Both on Twitter and in official statements, Trump has been publicly critical of the actions of the current administration, and has even been invited by Russia to join in peace talks to end conflict in Syria once his administration takes office.

Some see this invitation, as well as other actions taken by Trump (namely his phone conversation with the president of Taiwan) as him overstepping his role before he officially becomes president. This has led to criticism from a number of Democrats, and even inspired California Rep. Jared Huffman to introduce the ‘One President at a Time Act,’ which enforces the rule that only the sitting president may make foreign policy decisions.

As 2016 finally comes to a close and we look forward, there are some truths that need to be accepted: we elected one of the most unpopular candidates in U.S. history into office this year. Friends have been lost and family members have ceased communication with one another over political views. A triumphant victory to some has left others fearing for their future and their lives.

But not all those things have to stay that way. As we leave the election and the calendar behind us, we can work to repair broken relationships. We can begin to tune out the political rhetoric and see one another as human beings again. We can empathize with those who have fears and create a nation where those people can feel safe and equal.

We can leave this nasty year behind us, and work as a nation toward a better future.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]