Come take a deep breath and revisit the commentary of 2020 with us — the lows and highs, the painful setbacks and the stubborn march toward progress. Where we were, and how far we’ve come. One more look back before we all buckle up for 2021.
The praise or condemnation President Donald Trump is drawing for the latest US actions in the Middle East in no way diminishes the power of the legal bombshell that just exploded in the United States with new evidence of his behavior regarding Ukraine.
Newly revealed documents paint an incriminating picture, showing administration officials anxiously struggling to follow orders from Trump himself despite concerns that the order could go against the national security interests of the United States and warnings from the Pentagon that it could be illegal.
Peggy Drexler: Why does Meghan get all the blame?
Isn’t this what Britons wanted? From the moment Meghan and Prince Harry announced their engagement, the media has blasted and belittled her, hardly ever forgetting to identify her as a divorced American actress with a black mother…They ran her out of town and now they’re mad she’s leaving.
Madeleine Blais: The miracle Kobe Bryant saw
It is hard to look at the photos of Gianna, gazing at the father, feeling safe in his embrace, and knowing that she is no longer here to inherit his mantle. It is hard to look at the photos of Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa and his three other daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, and know that he will not be there to champion them in their future pursuits.
Sonia Moghe: The Oscars ad that hits home for me is one you won’t see
By stifling these realistic images of what the postpartum experience is like, we are making women feel inadequate if they aren’t functioning normally and feeling well-put-together immediately after bringing a new human into the world. We are telling them they should be able to smile through the pain. What does it say to women giving birth — or the partners who watch them struggle — that an ad that offers them self-care products to cope with one of the most difficult times of many women’s lives is “too graphic” for family viewers?
This is, after all, what many people go through to make their families in the first place.
James Phillips: I’m an emergency doctor. I expect to get coronavirus
As an emergency physician at an urban hospital in Washington, DC, this is personal. My colleagues and I will be on the front lines as American emergency agencies will soon likely experience a large and sustained surge of patients with Covid-19 concerns. The public should find comfort that health experts have been preparing for weeks. There is, however, still much work to be done.
I will likely become infected in the next few months.
Michael D’Antonio: America has learned a lot about Trump during coronavirus crisis
The level of crisis the country faces under this pandemic is new, and Trump’s performance has been abysmal — and familiar. For example, tests are not widely available in part because the administration declined to use a World Health Organization testing regime, choosing instead to develop its own, which has not worked as well as expected, according to an investigation from ProPublica. This fateful decision, which squandered precious time, helps explain why other countries have been better at tracking the virus, and tracking is essential to limiting outbreaks.
Kent Sepkowitz: Why South Korea has so few coronavirus deaths while Italy has so many
Why does Korea, the poster child of testing, have so few deaths while Italy and its late-to-the-table testing program have so many? Is it only because more testing brings mild cases into the “infected” group, diluting the statistical impact of the handful of the very ill?
Doubtful. For now, it is because of vast differences in the affected patients. Soon and increasingly, it also will be due to overwhelmed hospitals and doctors and nurses.
Elliot Williams: Donald Trump’s single greatest accomplishment as president
Nobody knows how much damage coronavirus will cause. But one thing is clear: the crisis has tested President Donald Trump — and he has proven to be an astonishing success in a way no president ever has before.
But let’s be clear: his success isn’t at leading a desperate nation. Instead, coronavirus has exposed the real success of the President’s unyielding assault on the media during his time in office.
Vicky Ward: How the very rich are different in the Covid-19 fight
Many don’t realize they may be in a bubble of false security as the number of coronavirus infections spreads out into suburban and rural Long Island — including Suffolk County, home of the Hamptons — and other areas where the country’s extremely wealthy have second homes.
One hedge fund billionaire is at his ranch in Texas; another is isolating from other family members on a compound in Martha’s Vineyard; a couple is in a villa on Harbour Island, Bahamas; an individual rented a yacht on the Long Island Sound … and so on.
Kate Maltby: What Shakespeare can – and can’t – teach us about Covid-19
This is typical of literature written in times of infectious epidemic: AIDS literature, too, dwells heavily on the role of luck in infection and survival, and on the nature of survivor’s guilt. Covid-19 literature will likely be the same. Covid-19 may be obviously fatal to the weak or elderly, but a fit young person’s risk of death can still hinge on an unlikely chance encounter, or a randomly severe incidence. Now, in the developed world of 2020, going to the wrong party can again potentially kill people.
Tom Lake: Alone in her room for 38 days, she didn’t want to ask for help
It had been more than five weeks since Susanne Sener’s last real conversation with a real person without the aid of technology. (She had briefly seen a person when she dropped off her dog in a veterinarian’s parking lot.) Even for a woman accustomed to solitude, this was a long time. Normally she would have driven to the office in Colorado Springs four days a week, would have shopped for groceries and visited friends, but now she did her technical writing from home and survived on the boring food supply in her spacious freezer. The mountain woman was safe from the virus, but she found herself craving fresh produce.
John Avlon: Cab driver. Harvard dad. Covid victim.
One of those stories belongs to Mohammed Jafor.
He was an immigrant and a father. He drove a yellow cab to get his kids the best education our country can offer. He did everything right to achieve the American dream. And he died on April 1st — leaving his three children orphaned in an apartment near Gun Hill Road in the Bronx.
Michael Osterholm in conversation with Peter Bergen: We’re only in the second inning of the pandemic
The CDC’s absence in this pandemic in the United States has been, I think, a tragedy. Yes, we’re all well aware of the fact that there were problems with the rollout of testing early on. But there are some of the best minds in the business in the areas of preparedness and pandemic response at the CDC, and their inaction in coordinating all of these modeling activities in a way that we can synthesize them is really unfortunate. If I could urge any one thing happen today in the federal response, it would be to give the CDC a much more important role at the table than it currently has.
Catherine Pearlman: Hey. Wear the damn mask
It’s hard to pinpoint how many of us are clueless and careless — maybe half of those who go outside? A third? Some other fraction? — but it’s certainly way too many.
The lack of empathy is jarring. We need a shift.
We need our leaders — all of them — to get the message out loud and clear. If you are away from the closed system of your home, the message should say, you must wear a mask. That means, too, employers mandating that workers of all kinds mask up. Do they want the disease spread to subside; do they want business and the economy to eventually come back — or don’t they?
Cedric Alexander: Video of George Floyd feels like a monstrous rerun
Six years ago, in 2014, another black man, Eric Garner, pleaded with police officers in New York City who held him in a chokehold, saying “I can’t breathe.” His alleged crime? Selling “loosies” — individual cigarettes — to passersby.
What happened in 2014 and 2020 do share a common root. It is a catastrophic failure of training and an unconscionable failure of culture. Both are derelictions of leadership. Daniel Pantaleo, the then-NYPD officer accused of fatally choking Garner, was fired after a disciplinary trial. He is suing New York City over his termination.
Garner’s words — echoed so wrenchingly by Floyd — became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey on Monday said what should be self-evident to all: “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Allison Hope: Pride is a feeling, not a parade
This year is different. Covid-19 is forcing us all, and as a result, Pride itself, to stay home. There will be no big parades this year. There will be no crowds spilling out of the gay bars; no fundraisers for the LGBTQ nonprofits on the piers on Manhattan’s west side; no spectators elbow-to-elbow — strangers becoming friends, friends becoming lovers. There will be no young gay or transgender person getting on a plane from their Midwestern town where they aren’t out to come to New York, the place where they can be fully themselves for the first time. There will be no adrenaline rush from the sound of one million people who have your back. There will be no Larry Kramer, the activist icon who co-founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP and who just passed away. There will be no glitter.
All is not lost. And yet, we lose something, however intangible, when we can’t gather.
James Meredith: I am George Floyd
Today, black and brown people are inspiring the world with their strength, determination, and willingness to see the struggle through to total victory.
I believe that this global uprising will never stop, and it will move into every heart, home and community on Earth, until the day when all people are treated with the dignity, respect and love that God intends for us. I believe that on that day, white supremacy will finally be buried forever.
Yaffa Fredrick and the voices of ‘Generation Resilient’: A generation hit by three soul-crushing crises
In a moment when the country is reckoning with ways to dismantle institutionalized racism, debt relief could be an ideal place to take concrete action.
The pandemic poses a risk not just for recent graduates, but for the many students who must return to school this fall. And since Covid-19 will likely be an issue come September, teachers must consider how they design lesson plans for their students — taking into account the challenges of the spring semester.
What Goya just signaled to Latinos
Jeff Yang: The Problem with ‘the letter’
As thousands die from coronavirus, these signatories are expressing concern over viral hashtags. As the streets fill with protesters shouting “Black Lives Matter,” they’re metaphorically shouting “Our Words Matter.” As society becomes increasingly aware of the devastating impact of police brutality, these signatories have chosen to shift attention to an imaginary political correctness police.
Ray Halbritter: The terrible R-word that football needed to lose
The NFL and the team finally made the right call, for which they should be commended. Make no mistake, today is a win for the NFL. While long overdue, this is ultimately a good decision for the Washington team, the NFL, our country — and not just Native peoples — since it closes a painful chapter of denigration and disrespect toward people of color.
Future generations of Native youth will no longer be subjected to this offensive and harmful slur every Sunday during football season.
Nicole Austin-Hillery: John Lewis’ answer to my question guides me to this day
Mr. Lewis had a way of putting you at ease and making you feel like nothing was more important at that moment than sitting and talking with you. And that is just what we did.
There was no question too small or obvious for him to answer. He gave me more time than anyone of his stature would have been expected to allow and I savored every story, every parable and every lesson he shared.
Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates: We can’t leave adolescent girls behind in Covid-19 response
Even before Covid-19 struck, more than 98 million adolescent girls worldwide were not in school, according to UNESCO. Now, due to ripple effects from the pandemic, the Malala Fund predicts an additional 20 million girls of secondary school age could remain out of school — not just this year, but possibly forever.
It’s not only girls’ education that’s at risk. It’s their safety and security, too. During a crisis like this one, adolescent girls face a heightened threat of physical and sexual violence, early and forced marriage, and unintended pregnancy on top of sustained economic hardship.
Dean Obeidallah: Joe Biden just destroyed one of Trump’s biggest attack lines
Almost on cue Saturday afternoon, around the same time Biden was on his bicycle, Trump tweeted out from the posh confines of his country club one of his go-to attack lines against the former VP, calling him “Sleepy Joe Biden.”
The irony was delicious. There’s Biden briskly riding a bicycle while Trump is at his private country club, where the only exercise he seems to get is getting in and out of his golf cart. Yet Trump is calling Biden “Sleepy.” Sometimes comedy writes itself. But in this case Twitter helped as the hashtag “Trump Can’t ride a Bike” got traction online, with one anti-Trumper juxtaposing video footage of Biden riding his bicycle with Trump struggling to walk down a ramp after delivering the commencement address in June at West Point.
Kate Clarke Lemay: The untold story of women who risked their lives to do good – and get their rights
As in 2020, the year 1918 was shaped both by global pandemic and protest. As Americans today process a momentous anniversary — the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s right to vote — against the current backdrop of Covid-19’s devastating effects, the story of the suffragist doctors is a timely reminder of the honor and respect still due to too many forgotten American women.
KaYesu Machayo: What I fear about remote learning
My education feels like it is under attack, and my dreams seemingly are evaporating before my eyes. I wish I could go back to campus in the fall, and I wish even more that my fate weren’t so influenced by my race, gender or socioeconomic status.
I have peers across the country whose families and communities haven’t been touched by the pandemic or school closures in the same way that low-income, Black, and Latinx families have.
Nancy Altman: Social Security could come to a screeching halt
Trump has shown himself willing to attack numerous fundamental institutions. He has attacked the US Postal Service, which the Constitution explicitly lists as an enumerated power of Congress. He has attacked the free press and our elections. Does anyone believe he wouldn’t take our Social Security system hostage to attain a radical reform?
Adding insult to injury, it is easy to imagine that Donald Trump will host a Rose Garden signing ceremony for legislation ending Social Security as we know it.
Jane Greenway Carr and CNN Opinion readers: How we spent our summer not-vacations
I know that some people have made the best of this time and accomplished great things. I wish I can say I am one of those people. But I do feel that there are also many people who are struggling with their everyday lives as well. Those who feel guilty for complaining, while they remain healthy with a roof over their heads and a steady income. We suffer even though we know we shouldn’t. These people need a voice. I hope I have somehow given them a voice. — Arlene Lobell, Frisco, Texas
Joe Lockhart: Kayleigh McEnany has crossed a line
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany faced her moment of reckoning in the briefing room on Wednesday, when reporters confronted her about the recordings, released by veteran journalist Bob Woodward, in which President Trump acknowledged in early February that the coronavirus was airborne and deadlier than the flu, even as he publicly dismissed concerns about the virus and called it the Democrats’ “new hoax.” In March, Trump told Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the dangers of the virus, saying, “I always wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” McEnany failed on an epic scale in her response.
Peniel Joseph: NFL’s racial justice efforts fall far short
This year’s Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake have hastened a long overdue national reckoning on Black citizenship and dignity.
For the NFL, this meant ending the willful ignorance that allowed commissioner Roger Goodell to stand by while powerful owners like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys conflated peaceful protest against the killing of African Americans by law enforcement with disrespecting the American flag (he has recently adjusted his stance somewhat). This latest awakening looks performative at best, and the motions the league is going through are simply not enough.
Scott Jennings: Trump’s town hall didn’t go well
On the issues, Trump probably had his best political moment when talking about bringing the troops home from the Middle East. And he definitively denied the anonymously sourced story in The Atlantic that claimed he said awful things about American soldiers wounded or killed in battle. He also had a nice retort that will appeal to his kind of voters when he said: “It’s a big battlefield and I have a lot of forces against me. Sometimes you don’t have time to be totally, as you would say presidential — you have to get things done.” This message will drive the elites crazy and thrill those who hate the elites immensely.
Tess Taylor: Why we left California and just kept driving east
We had a hard month in a bad year in a series of bad years. We just knew that where we live every year has become more exhausting, more smoky. And we were simply so fatigued by this year’s version of the horror show that we drove half across the country to a place where we knew that we could reliably inhale and exhale.
Renee Knake Jefferson and Hannah Brenner Johnson: How RBG went from a ‘moderate’ choice to a fiery dissenter
It is appalling that less than 4% of the justices serving on our Supreme Court have been women and that women still do not comprise an equal number of judges sitting on lower federal courts.
When President Barack Obama greeted RBG at Justice Elena Kagan’s swearing-in, he asked her: “Are you happy that I brought you two women?” Ginsburg replied, “Yes, but I’ll be happier when you bring me five more.” We will be happier too, seeing more women selected for the Supreme Court and positions of power across all professions.
Robert Redford: The big question I want answered
Maybe it’s too much to suggest, at the peak of a presidential campaign, that we have a serious discussion about burning rainforests or understaffed long-term care facilities. Complex problems don’t make great campaign issues. They don’t rally your base; they don’t get people to the polls (or the post office). But these are not subjects that are going to patiently wait their turn, that are going to hang back in line until we’re ready to talk about them.
For all these reasons, it’s my hope that this November will provide a hard reset — of our national direction, most of all, but also our national attention.
John D. Sutter: The 8-year-old who fears adults can’t be trusted to fix the climate crisis
Noah, I agree we adults of the world aren’t doing right by you or your future. I share your mother’s concerns about what the weight of the world that’s sitting on your shoulders could do to you. (“I worry about him and all kids,” Green told me recently by phone. “I worry about them getting depressed about [the climate crisis] and giving up on it — feeling hopeless.”) It’s not fair that climate change has become the burden of the young simply because your generation will live on this planet far longer than mine or your mom’s. There’s more we all can do.
Garry Kasparov: Win or lose, with Trump, prepare for the unimaginable
Autocrats are aware of the consequences they might face for the damage they do, but they believe they can avoid those consequences by staying in power, forever if necessary. Trump might have been indicted several times over were he not protected by his office, and a sense of impunity tends to make one sloppy.
Trump no doubt believes that he has more to lose by leaving office than by fighting — lawlessly or not — to stay. The oligarchs and thugs he so admires surely agree. They won’t easily let go of such a lucrative investment — one of their own kind in the Oval Office.
David Gergen: The single most important quality a president must have
A president cannot get big things done here at home unless he can marshal the support of a sizable majority of the people. Sure, recent presidents have exercised power more frequently through executive orders, but those aren’t lasting in their impact: The next president can easily reverse them, as Trump has demonstrated. Nor can a president easily persuade other advanced nations to embrace controversial policies unless they believe he is a reliable friend.
Indeed, I believe that the restoration of trust should be the single highest priority of our next president. Everything else will flow from there.
David Axelrod: Why Donald Trump lost
Autopsies examining why Trump became the first president in 28 years to lose reelection may list Covid-19 as the proximate cause. But that is only part of the story.
Like the patient with chronic disease, Trump’s political demise wasn’t caused by the coronavirus but by the underlying and familiar deficiencies of character and leadership of America’s first reality show president.
Donald Trump defeated Donald Trump.
Kate Andersen Brower: ‘The club’ of former presidents will never be the same
Joe Biden will face the vexing and — given Trump’s uniquely compromised stature — unprecedented decision of whether to allow his predecessor to receive intelligence updates, which has long been standard operating procedure. Trump’s unusually close relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, even as the intelligence community says that Russia continues to interfere in our elections, makes continued access a potential cause for concern.
Traditionally, presidents allow their predecessors to be briefed because former presidents often meet with foreign leaders. That access can be limited or cut off entirely. It is totally the sitting president’s prerogative.
Luvvie Ajayi, Kamau Bell, Penn Jillette and other leading voices: After bitterly divided election, what’s next for America?
Half the country voted for Trump. These people did not buy a pig in a poke like in 2016, these were people who knew what they were voting for and voted anyway. It’s appalling and horrifying, but these people are not monsters. These people are our neighbors and our relatives. These people are us, and we need someone who can teach us to love them again.
Joe started saying the right things already, but he has to go all the way. Please, Joe, make me embarrassed to say anything bad about Trump supporters. Please fill all our hearts with love for each other. Please. – Penn Jillette
Richard L. Eldredge: To my family who chose Trump over me: Was it worth it?
We had allowed a complete stranger to vaporize our family. A bond that spans The Beatles and swing sets, Frisbee tournaments in the street, sitting front row together at “E.T.,” late-night cruises in your car while blasting Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” album and me nervously pinning on your boutonniere on the day of your wedding.
So, here we are now, on the series finale of “The Apprentice: White House Edition,” after millions of citizens in the single largest election in American history have united to say, “You’re Fired.” As he now shuffles his sad shell off the national stage, what happens to us and our family?
Roxanne Jones: Kamala Harris shows Black women they have the power to change the world
Our ability to adapt is why we have survived, and often thrived, in America’s unwelcoming White spaces. And it is why I, and millions of other people around the world, rejoice that Kamala Harris is the first Black woman ever elected vice president in the United States.
Yes, Harris struggled at the start, but she rejected the safe chameleon strategy. Harris found the strength to embrace her true self and ascend to the nation’s second-highest seat of power. Black women, like me, understand the courage this type of transformation takes.
Sara Stewart: This Netflix hit is now our universal escape hatch
“The Queen’s Gambit” is giving us something else we’ve been sorely lacking: Literal and functional escapism. As Beth’s star rises on the chess circuit, she attends chess competitions in increasingly glamorous locales — 1960s Las Vegas is pretty fabulous, but it pales in comparison to her trips to Paris and Moscow. Remember trips? And hotel rooms? Maybe few of us have been to Russia, but I think we can all wax nostalgic about what it was like to arrive in an exciting new place.
Nicole Hemmer: What the Greatest Generation had that the Covid generation lacks
Holidays sharpened the sense of deprivation and the desire to stop sacrificing, at least for a day. Early signs that Thanksgiving would be particularly contested emerged during the Depression in 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt, hoping to give the economy a much-needed boost, moved Thanksgiving up a week to extend the Christmas shopping season. Americans revolted. Republicans derided the change as “Franksgiving” and only half the states acknowledged the new date, rejecting what they saw as government intrusion on a sacrosanct tradition.
Little did they suspect that within a few years, the war would dramatically remake Thanksgiving, making traditions both more desirable and more difficult to sustain.
Jill Filipovic: At Thanksgiving, an America of obscene contrasts
This year, many American families will find gratitude harder to summon heading into the holidays. Unemployment, widespread hunger and unchecked sickness and death are weighing heavily.
The President doesn’t seem too worried — and neither does Wall Street. The Dow went above 30,000 on Tuesday, and then Trump popped out before the cameras to crow about the market’s success. It was brief — just one minute — but obscene. There is perhaps no greater example of the distortions wrought by the President’s reliance on the markets as indicators for American financial well-being than this: A record-high Dow, while record numbers of Americans are hungry.
Joe and Jill Biden: Our most important Thanksgiving tradition
We are grateful for the frontline workers who have never stopped showing up over these long and confusing months, making sure our food is harvested and shipped, keeping our grocery stores stocked, picking up our trash, and keeping our cities and towns safe.
We are grateful for the health care workers who put in long shifts and isolate themselves from their loved ones, the nurses who comfort and help people say one last goodbye, and the doctors who fight for every breath.
Elizabeth Leiba: The story I had to share after Kyle Rittenhouse posted $2 million bail
Sitting in the back seat of a police car, the strangest thoughts went through my head: Handcuffs are heavier than they look on TV. If someone isn’t deemed a threat, their hands are cuffed in the front. There are no door handles on the inside of the back seat of a police car and the windows are tinted so you can see out, but no one can see your shame as you sit inside.
I stared down at my cuffed wrists, hands in my lap, as the officers stood outside filling out the arrest report and chatting casually. They laughed at some inside joke. I was numb. This seemed like a dream.
Gabbie Riley: The day I woke up to find my industry had vanished.
I’m in sales for the hotel industry … or at least I was. On Sunday, March 8, I was heading to California from Minnesota, where, because of the freezing weather, I was in need of a dose of warmth and vitamin D. Little did I know then that a blissful Sunday brunch in Santa Monica would be my last dose of travel for the rest of 2020.
By Tuesday, Coachella had postponed its festival. By Wednesday, the NBA announced that it was suspending its season and the MLB announced that spring training and the beginning of the season were suspended. My specialty in hotel sales was in sports and entertainment. A triple threat of industries pulling the emergency brake.
Robert Alexander: Mike Pence is going to put the seal on Donald Trump’s defeat
It’s important to remember that electors are human beings who are chosen at state party conventions or by state party committees, often as a reward for their work on behalf of the party (the Constitution states that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States” should be appointed). Electors are expected to be loyal to the party’s ticket, and while there is no federal law requiring them to follow the will of the people in their state, 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring pledges from their electors and 14 states provide a means to replace an elector who attempts to vote contrary to expectations
John Bare: Love, death and pie: My last moments with my wife
When I would stop at a country store near Davidson on the pretense of buying organic eggs and artisan cheese, Betsy would put in her order and wait. The first things in my basket were ginger cookies and fried pies. Betsy would unwrap a fried pie and eat it on the drive home.
Now, I cry in the car. And I cry in the grocery store, at work, on the phone, in my doctor’s office. I have cried writing, painting, sculpting, sending emails and pruning shrubs. I have cried in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts and Montana. I am aggregating votes in the Electoral College of Crying.