Happy New Year, friends! May your resolutions be manageable and your media diet less obsessive in 2018.
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Today, let’s talk about the year in Trump.
What’s at stake
I started half my newsletters last year with “everything’s at stake,” so, first of all, thank you for reading them all anyway. But it does feel like we spent 2017 lurching from crisis to crisis, spending our lunch breaks watching congressional hearings and our evenings watching the votes come in on enormous bills that could remake the fabric of American society and our early mornings reading Trump tweets on our phones in bed. After a year like that, our very attention spans are at stake.
The local angle
Philadelphia has been at the epicenter of so many national stories this year. Trump kicked off his presidency at the Loews in Philadelphia, at the annual retreat for Republican congresspeople a week after inauguration, promising the busiest session Congress had ever seen (which has … not exactly aged well). On the street, hundreds of people showed up to protest, which set the tone for Philly’s response to the Trump administration all year. Days later, thousands showed up at the airport after Trump dropped a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries that was soon struck down by the federal courts.
Our city officials’ opposition to the Trump agenda has been vocal and frequent, and increasingly drew national attention. My colleagues and I wrote dozens of headlines along the lines of “Mayor Kenney blasts Trump.” Councilwoman Helen Gym helped organize the airport protests. Local sustainability officials vowed to adhere to the Paris climate accords after Trump pulled out of them. Philadelphians elected Larry Krasner, who ran on an explicitly anti-Trump platform, as their next district attorney. He was sworn in Tuesday. The Democratic Socialists had a banner year, here and around the country.
Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to defund Philly over its sanctuary status — and the city sued Sessions in response. In what critics called retaliation, 107 people were detained in a sweep by ICE agents specifically targeting sanctuary cities. The city won an injunction in the case this fall.
Health-care activists spent the year in near-constant protest as Republicans tried and failed to fully dismantle the law. Philadelphians traveled to Washington to protest and signed thousands up for the ACA at home. The tragedy in Charlottesville, and the president’s response to it, inspired our own reckoning with whom we enshrine in bronze.
Woke Bob Casey emerged via tweetstorm onto the national stage, and his Republican counterpart in the Senate, Pat Toomey, had a hand in some of the most consequential legislation of the year (besides authoring a failed Obamacare repeal this summer, he was largely responsible for cutting the top individual tax rate).
And, of course, every Philadelphian and their mother had some tie to the Russia investigation.
A health-care fight, as always. A whole year’s worth of early-morning Trump tweets for all of us to savor with our breakfast tea, of course. More quiet dismantling of the regulatory state, which we were all too busy making covfefe jokes to pay attention to. The infrastructure plan that was supposed to be rolled out last year is apparently coming this month.
And it’s a midterm year, pals! This fall’s elections will be the first true nationwide test of Trumpism, and judging by what happened in the various special elections around the country this year, Democrats are (cautiously) predicting a major Trump backlash. Emerge PA, which trains Democratic women to run for office, had more than triple the applicants it usually gets.
“I understand that it’s going to be a lot of hard work to get us there,” Emerge PA’s director, Anne Wakabayashi, told me. “But there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of people willing to do the hard work, which is exciting.”
David Thornburgh, the head of the local civic advocacy group Committee of Seventy, said this year’s spike in voter turnout, especially among young people, was encouraging enough: “There’s a kind of a fundamental stirring in the roots that I see as very positive.”
What they’re saying
“As our Country rapidly grows stronger and smarter, I want to wish all of my friends, supporters, enemies, haters, and even the very dishonest Fake News Media, a Happy and Healthy New Year. 2018 will be a great year for America!” — President Trump on Twitter, continuing a storied tradition of wishing the “haters and losers” a happy new year.
“A movement was sworn in today. A movement for criminal justice reform that has swept Philadelphia … and is sweeping the United States.” — Philadelphia’s new district attorney, Larry Krasner, at his inauguration Tuesday morning.
“It’s a very glam night.” — Toni Holt Kramer, a Mar-a-Lago member and founder of the pro-Trump group “Trumpettes USA,” on our populist president’s glitzy New Year’s ball.
In other news…
- The Trump administration has dismissed everyone on its HIV/AIDS advisory council, a few months after half the council resigned in protest, saying the administration lacked a strategy to fight the disease and wasn’t seeking expert advice on health policy. There’s typically turnover on the council — presidents appoint their chosen experts — but usually the current members are allowed to serve out their terms. The administration has not yet announced a plan to replace them.
- This New York Times story about how the Russian investigation kicked off — allegedly because Trump aide George Papadopoulos got drunk and mouthy in a bar with an Australian diplomat (!) — would be a rollicking yarn if it weren’t about, y’know, a foreign power meddling in our election.
- The lawsuit over Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered congressional districts is headed to the state Supreme Court at the end of the month.
What I’m reading
- The Atlantic looks at Penn State’s College Republicans as a microcosm of the debate over Trump that has gripped the GOP all year.
- Vox looks at what the president didn’t do this year, and specifically calls out his response to the opioid crisis as deaths skyrocketed around the county and in Philly.
- A long, fascinating New Yorker piece about China in the age of Trump: “As the U.S. retreats globally,” a military strategist told Communist Party officials earlier this year, “China shows up.”
A non-political palate cleanser
Please enjoy this compendium of the weird stuff Pennsylvania towns drop in lieu of a ball on New Year’s Eve. (My favorite is Dillsburg’s pickle, followed by Bethlehem’s giant Peep.)