Three of those congresswomen, all minorities — Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — were born in the United States. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) fled civil war in Somalia and came to the United States as a child refugee, later becoming a naturalized citizen.
Things soon took an even uglier turn when supporters at a Trump rally that month broke out in a “Send her back!” chant directed at Omar.
Trump’s desire to see his political opponents silenced, and his choice of phrasing, was a stark reminder that when it comes to embracing ideas that otherize Americans who are not like his base, the president has no plans to pivot and is in fact doubling down. More on that later.
2. The most diverse Congress is sworn in
In the 2018 midterm elections, Americans responded to the Trump presidency. That included sending the most diverse class of politicians to Washington in history. They were sworn in in January.
The 116th Congress has more women and racial and ethnic minorities than any previous Congress. The group included types of diversity that often get overlooked, such as having the largest number of new members who have served in the military in more than a decade. The election also led to the “rainbow wave” — the largest number of LGBT Americans sent to Congress in history. Many on the left invoke the importance of representation in the country’s highest offices, and voters largely uncomfortable with the direction in which the country is moving under Trump backed more-diverse candidates.
3. A historically diverse presidential field — but an all-white leader board
The 2020 Democratic field was one of the most diverse in history, with millennials, women, people of color, religious minorities and a gay man competing to replace Trump in the Oval Office.
Expectations were perhaps highest for Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the first black woman to represent her state in the Senate, and her campaign launched before a big crowd on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Her candidacy was competitive initially, peaking after a strong performance in the June debate that included confronting former vice president Joe Biden on his past support for school busing. But her momentum wasn’t sustained. She dropped out of the race in November.
Despite the options and fanfare that came with some candidates’ launches, as we approach the start of 2020 voting, the four top-polling candidates — Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — are all white. Three of them are men, and three of them are septuagenarians.
The reasons for how the field has winnowed will force conversations about electability, media bias and other factors throughout 2020 and probably for future contests.
4. Christianity Today comes out against Trump
One of the most prominent institutions in evangelicalism — Christianity Today magazine — published an editorial asserting that Trump is unfit for his office.
Mark Galli, editor of the magazine, wrote about Trump’s attempts to involve Ukraine in harming former vice president Joe Biden’s presidential bid: “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
Not long after the editorial was published on Dec. 19, Christianity Today’s website crashed. By the following afternoon, #ChristiansAgainstTrump was trending on Twitter. The piece received significant pushback from Trump and his evangelical surrogates and eventually led the Christian Post to publish a letter of support signed by 200 pro-Trump evangelicals.
Trump does not appear to be at risk of losing significant evangelical support, but this year some prominent evangelicals spoke out about the long-term implications of the relationship between Trump and conservative Christians.
5. Pete Buttigieg becomes the first openly gay candidate to top polls
Buttigieg, the millennial military veteran and mayor of South Bend, Ind., is the first openly gay presidential candidate to top polls. In November, Buttigieg was leading in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Following the presidency of Barack Obama, many gay Americans contend the fight for LGBT rights has stalled or, in some cases, lost ground. In Buttigieg, some see a candidate who might be able to continue the work, as they had hoped Hillary Clinton would do had she won the 2016 presidential election.
I wrote in the Fix about Buttigieg’s campaign announcement, in which he stressed that advocating for the rights and worth of LGBT people would be a high priority for him if elected.
6. Mainstream support for reparations, including from presidential contenders
This year brought the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves to Virginia. And with that commemoration came conversations about the role slavery played — and continues to play — in the shaping of the United States.
While discussions about reparations began shortly after emancipation, interest in the topic has picked up so much steam that several Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for studying the issue.
Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro spoke out most boldly in favor of reparations in February. “It is interesting to me that under our Constitution and otherwise, that we compensate people if we take their property,” he said on MSNBC. “Shouldn’t we compensate people if they were property sanctioned by the state?”
One focus in the conversation about income inequality is the wealth gap between white and black Americans. Multiple academics and activists point to the enslavement of black people as the origin of the wealth gap.
Support for reparations is not widespread enough to get significant approval from voters, but as debates about the best way to respond to systemic racism continue, activists aren’t likely to back away from the topic soon.
7. A continued rise in identity-based hate crimes
This year there was also more attention paid to the number of people being attacked because of their identities.
Reported incidents of violence against LGBT people, people of color and Jewish people caused people to feel unsafe in places of worship and in communities and spaces once viewed as relatively safe spaces for certain minority groups.
There were 1,879 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League. And over the past three years, hate crimes against LGBT people have been on the rise, according to FBI data, with 1,130 reported incidents in 2017. And of the single-bias hate crimes reported in 2018, nearly 60 percent of the victims were targeted because of their race or ethnicity, according to the most recent FBI data.
The year ended with calls for lawmakers at all levels of government to address the issue and the current political climate’s role in stoking hate.
8. Trump builds his 2020 race on identity politics
It is common for politicians seeking reelection to try to bring critics into their fold. But with his reelection campaign launch, Trump’s team made it clear that won’t be the plan for the president. Focusing on the voters who support the president most is the key strategy for Trump in 2020.
Tapping into cultural anxieties, Trump has repeatedly doubled down on the messages that have made him such a favorite with conservative Christians, rural Americans, white working-class voters, older Americans and others among his strongest supporters but that have drawn strong criticism from women, people of color and younger Americans.
As has been the case throughout the Trump presidency, this year further solidified Trump’s position as the culture warrior in chief.