Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008: A look back

What a year it was! With less than 48 hours until 2009, the annual tradition of looking back upon the year that was is in full swing. The economy, President-elect Barack Obama's historic election and continued violence in the Middle East, Pakistan and other countries around the world are three of the myriad of stories that dominated headlines in 2008. Below is a look back.

Barack Obama

President-elect Barack Obama's historic election on Nov. 4 represents a monumental shift in American politics. More than 50 percent of Americans voted for the former community organizer under the increasingly dyer economic situation, an extremely unpopular incumbent president and growing disillusionment. Obama's election presents a stark rejection of Bush Republicanism and a growing call for change among those who have grown increasingly tired of the status quo. Obama takes office in less than a month. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to keep the promises he made on the campaign trail. It remains clear, however, Obama has the wind at his back as he prepares to enter the White House in 2008.

Economic Crisis

The only 2008 story that could possibly overshadow Obama's meteoric rise to the White House is the expanding economic crisis. The other shoe dropped with Lehman Brother's collapse in September. Detroit and Wall Street have fallen to their knees (with some embarrassing and frankly infuriating revelations along the way) as they seek bailouts from skeptical Washington lawmakers. President Bush appeared to abandon his free-market principles as the writing on the wall became increasingly clear. Unemployment has increased and consumer confidence continues to plummet.

New York remains one of the crisis' epicenters. Officials have estimated up to 200,000 people will lose their jobs. Both the city and state are facing severe budget shortfalls because of Wall Street's implosion--all in all there is a sense a dark cloud with precious few silver linings will continue to hover over Gotham in the new year.

Proposition 8

November 4 was an arguable watershed moment in American history, but this day ended bittersweet for LGBT activists with Proposition 8's passage in California. The amendment, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, came less than six months after marriage for same-sex couples became legal in the Golden State.

Outraged LGBT activists, citizens and their supporters immediately began to speculate as to why Prop 8 passed. They pointed fingers to the black voters, the Mormon Church and eventually those who organized a largely ineffective and arguably incompetent campaign. And this anger manifested itself into widespread protests across the country in what some have dubbed Stonewall 2.0.

The immediate anti-Prop 8 fervor has appeared to dissipate somewhat, but it remains clear marriage for same-sex couples will continue to garner headlines in 2009. New Jersey and New York are among the states in which lawmakers are expected to debate the issue. The California Supreme Court is also slated to rule on lawsuits challenging Prop 8 in the coming year.

Sarah Palin

Politics is often about personalities, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin generated more reaction than anyone else possibly outside of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. This apparent political neophyte, with her Tina Fey-esque looks and apparently picture perfect family, seemingly appeared out of nowhere to become Sen. John McCain's vice presidential nominee. The late night jokes about her pregnant daughter Bristol, her frame less glasses, her Alaskan accent and other aspects of her life came almost as fast as one can mutter 'You betcha.'

In all seriousness, Palin's veep nomination represented an extremely cynical attempt to energize the Republican Party's socially conservative base that remained lukewarm at best to McCain's campaign. It worked to an extent, but Palin unfortunately became a political laughing stock among moderate voters, pundits and even some Republicans.

Final Thoughts

Heath Ledger's tragic death in January, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's spectacular downfall in March, controversy over National Parks Service rangers issuing citations in Fire Island's infamous Meatrack in June and José Sucuzhañay's senseless death in Bushwick earlier this month are among the myriad of stories I covered in 2008. Some of the more memorable moments of the year include Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese's decision to include me in his Fire Island Pines fundraising pitch, a media trip to Key West in October, covering Obama's election in Times Square and discussing control of the New York State Senate on the Brian Lehrer Show.

2008 is certainly a year that will go down in the history books. It was an extremely turbulent year that brought hardship to millions of people. 2008 also brought hope to others who had decided the status quo was no longer an acceptable option. And it is with that optimistic tone I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009.

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