Most progressives would just as soon flush 2016 down the toilet. In addition to the election of Donald Trump, it seems that a very disproportionate amount of artists, musicians, and actors have been taken from us. Anyone who spends any time out in the ‘social media world’ can witness a cavalcade of liberals wishing for 2016 to go away.
There were some very bright spots, however. Not all was bad in 2016. In fact, some of it will probably serve as building blocks as progressives move into 2017 and beyond. Here are five good things progressives can certainly put in the ‘win’ column for the year that was;
1- Marijuana legalization won big in the 2016 election
Democrats haven’t been able to hold on to any branch of government in the past few years it seems, but voters once again overwhelmingly are voting for marijuana legalization both medically and recreationally. This year, four more states joined the ranks of allowing marijuana to be legal for medicinal purposes. More impressive, all four were ‘red’ states — Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana. On the recreational side, pot went four for five, winning in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. The only defeat for the cause came in Arizona, where some have noted that the bill failed due to ‘poor wording.’ That is similar to what happened in a 2015 measure that was defeated in Ohio. Hopefully, both states will do a better job the next time around.
2 – GOP Gerrymandering ruled Unconstitutional in Wisconsin and North Carolina
It certainly didn’t do voters much good in 2016, but this is something that could have a great impact for progressives in the coming years. In fact, in North Carolina, Democrats and progressives should begin rolling up their sleeves as 28 seats will be up for grabs in special elections in 2017. If they want to begin rebuilding at the state and local level, this is a golden opportunity.
3 – Bernie Sanders started a progressive movement like this country hasn’t seen in decades on the left
He may not have won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders undoubtedly was 2016’s progressive rock star. Sanders built a movement that should if people are smart, continue to grow. Sanders won 22 states (plus the ‘Democrats Abroad primary) in the primaries and more importantly, the ideals and positions he ran on, by and large, are hugely popular with Americans. Minimum wage reform, electoral reform, making college affordable, climate change and others — all issues where people want more progress. Of course, Sanders can’t be the candidate in every race, so progressives would be wise to recruit candidates that share their ideals and values to continue te Sanders Revolution.
4 – Unemployment sinks to levels not seen since before the ‘great recession.’
No, it didn’t win the election, but it is good news. After all, the goal is progress, not winning elections. Much needs to be done in the areas of income inequality and wage fairness, but more people are back to work. The unemployment rate hit 4.6 percent as we close out 2016.
5 – The guy behind the ‘bathroom bill’ got voted out of office.
While North Carolina did vote Trump for President, they handed Governor Pat McCrory his walking papers. Whether voters voted against him because of moral or financial reasons, McCrory’s defeat was a great sign that people are moving forward. No, progress rarely comes as quick as we want it, and often there are stumbling blocks and setbacks — but slowly progress comes, even to the rural south. the important thing is to keep working and keep fighting for what you believe in. The only way progress doesn’t come is when people simply give up or remain silent.
Beyond the list, keep in mind, all things in life are not political. While 2016 overall might have felt like a kick in the crotch to some on the left, life as a whole had things many of us, if not all of us can celebrate. Ebola, one of the worst diseases one can get, was declared ‘wiped out‘ this year. How bout the Olympics? It was predicted to be a disaster but ended up being a pretty great event and a moment of ‘world unity’ that we could use more of. Plus, Americans performed very well and brought home lots of medals.
Speaking of sports, if you root for the Cubs, you were happy in 2016. Penguins fans celebrated a Stanley Cup win. A few weeks later up the road, the city of Cleveland celebrated an NBA championship. Earlier in the year, Denver hoisted the Lombardi trophy winning their third Super Bowl.
I put this question of ‘what good things happened this year?’ on my Facebook page. Overwhelmingly, people didn’t mention politics. Most people mentioned their health, or simply ‘being alive another day / year.’ Others mentioned falling in love, getting married or ‘moving forward’ in their relationships. Some spoke about their children and grandchildren. Some who were simply brought into the world in 2016 and others who had great personal achievements. One guy was happy his car with 287,000 miles was still driving down the road.
All really good things, if not great things, indeed.