2016 is the year that the covert became overt. The implicit white nationalism of conservatives became explicit with the embrace of Trump. The backroom understanding between Wall Street and the cowardly liberal establishment took center stage in the defeat of Bernie Sanders. And the anti-democratic features that had been lurking behind our elections — gerrymandering, voting rights restrictions, the electoral college — burst into the open by delivering victory to the candidate with about 3 million fewer supporters. Finally, the endemic bias, sensationalism, and distortiveness that has always characterized news reporting became explicit with “fake news.”
Why was 2016 the year of the overt? Was it happenstance, thanks to the idiosyncrasies of Trump, Bernie, and Julian Assange, or was it an eventuality that was ripe for occurrence thanks to budding social movements and technologies? If this is the development of a process with its own momentum, rather than the coincidence of exceptional individuals and circumstances, then we must confront deeper, more historical, more existential forces than the flickering shadow play of party politics.
What does 2016 mean for the future? Is this the end of hypocrisy, and is that good or bad? Was there value to the illusions of principled parties, representative democracy, factual journalism, and now that we are disillusioned, do we teeter on the brink of cynicism, apathy, resignation?
With the soul of America bared naked for all to examine, will we transcend the disfigurement now that it has been exposed or embrace it as the new norm? How can we come together to make the ugliness revealed in 2016 an overture to something beautiful?