What we learned about American democracy in 2017

This time last year, I was trying to figure out a year-in-review piece that would make sense of all we had seen, without knowing much about what to expect from the Trump presidency. In retrospect, this seems like nothing so much as a failure of imagination: The rapid transition from a Trump administration that could exist only in a realm of jokes to an administration that actually existed was one of the most disorienting things I’ve experienced in politics.

But now we’ve lived in this reality for almost a year. In that long, liminal space between the election result and Trump’s inauguration on January 20, several questions kept coming back — to me and to others, I think. Would American institutions hold? After a decade of controlling Congress, the presidency, or (briefly) both, what kind of opposition party would the Democrats be? And finally, what counterfactuals and alternative versions of events would continue to haunt us through 2017? How different would Trump be from another Republican who might have won the nomination under other circumstances?

I’m not sure we can answer all these questions, or even that we want to. Instead, let’s look back on what they mean and whether the assumptions that led to them have held up over this unexpected year. CONT.

Julia Azari (Marquette), Mischiefs of Faction