11:45 AM, Dec 22, 2022
2022 Was a Very Good Year
A common take in social networking circles is that this year(and every year) is the worst ever. There's a certain satisfaction, I think, in being dissatisfied publicly. And let's be clear: some truly terrible things happened in 2022. The year began with a new lockdown, because of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, during which the greatest number of new cases was reported by a wide margin. In our house, the vaccines held, and we avoided infection until September, when everyone except Oscar got it. Hospitalization and death became largely the domain of the unvaccinated and the elderly, but the death toll was still monstrous, and even now, hundreds of Americans are dying every day from this. But from here I will mention in relatively chronological order selected events from 2022, and their longterm effects.
When the year began, Vladimir Putin was massing forces along the Russian and Belarussian sides of the Ukrainian border, assuring the world that it was just a training exercise. The Winter Olympics were held in a dystopian fashion in Beijing, with utilitarian concrete eyesores forming the backdrop of most of the outdoor events. As prelude to this, Putin visited Chinese president Xi, and the two implied to the world that they were the future. Their message was that authoritarians are strong and that Democracy breeds weakness and indecision. Almost as soon as the games ended, Putin announced to the world that he was invading Ukraine, intending to finish the job he started in 2014 when he stole the Crimea. The world shed tears for Ukraine, certain that they would be conquered in days, and that Russian imperialism would be the new normal on the world stage, ending the "Pax Americana" we've enjoyed since before our parents were born.
But the Ukrainians had other plans. Since the 2014 invasion, and subsequent ongoing hostilities with Putin's proxies in the country's eastern regions, they had been receiving arms and most importantly training, from Western armies. The strongest push by the Russian forces was toward the capital, Kyiv, and it was stopped cold, as the Russians' primitive tactics, low morale, and lord-serf command structure was overwhelmingly outmaneuvered by the well-trained Ukrainian defenders. This became the theme across all fronts after a while, and by March, all Russian advances were halted. They retreated from their attack on Kyiv and refocused their efforts on making advances in the east, which were only made by brutally and criminally laying waste to cities with artillery, and at enormous human cost to the Russians. In June, Ukraine received HIMARS weapons from the US, and proceeded to demoralize the Russians on every front, so that the theme of the war now is that the Russians are pouring their poor into a well-organized, high-morale Ukrainian blender, and it's been clear for several months now that Putin cannot win the war.
I see this as good news, because the future that he and President Xi foretold will not come to pass. NATO and the world in general came to the aid of Ukraine, and Putin's allies are stepping away from him, and threatening withdrawal from his anti-NATO alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. He is exceptionally weak. His propaganda media has to keep pivoting in the face of repeated and devastating losses in the war. And perhaps most devastating of all: Sweden and Finland are joining NATO, effectively neutralizing any Russian influence and power in the region-- let alone the world. Vladimir Putin is the single most destabilizing force in the modern world, and he's not likely make it through 2023 alive. One of his oligarchs, Yegveny Prigozhin, owns a private army called the Wagner Group, and has said outright that at the behest of his boss, he meddled in the 2016, 18, and 20 US elections, and would continue this meddling in 2022. The mask is off, and it's become clear that defeat in Ukraine will spell a regime change in Russia. I can't say with any degree of certainty that the Russia of the future will be reformed as a good, responsible, benevolent world citizen, but Putin and his oligarchs will be gone, and that alone is a very good thing.
In May, the Supreme Court leaked a document indicating their impending reversal of the protections provided by the Roe v. Wade, and in June, they followed through and overturned it. At first, this appeared to the world as what the conservatives on the Court and the adherents of the "pro-life" movement intended it to be: the end of an era of what they saw as government-sanctioned murder. It's obviously far more complicated than that, but that idea drives donations and elections, and that aspect alone, possibly did not occur to the conservatives on the Court who voted to overturn Roe v Wade. A massive source of donation income and voter mobilization for the GOP dried up overnight, and an unenthusiastic, largely disengaged Democratic base was blasted into action, with a concrete target and campaign issue for the upcoming 2022 election. Under the conditions in place before the Court overturned the precedent and allowed states to take away American rights, and set their sights on others, most agreed that the GOP was coasting toward a massive election victory. But what wound up happening was that the Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate by one seat, not losing a single Senator who ran for reelection, and the GOP took the House by the thinnest of margins, provided mostly by the gerrymandered Florida map. Because of Donald Trump's influence and compulsive need to pick candidates, the GOP nominated a slate of truly terrible candidates in 2022, and as a result, almost every election-denying candidate for state offices around the country was roundly defeated, assuring that any plans to fix the 2024 election were thwarted.
In the time since the election, pundits conservative and not, have agreed that to move forward the GOP has to expel Donald Trump, but his extremist allies are standing by him and the extremism, even though it lost the elections for them since 2018. The House is divided now between so-called moderates like McCarthy and Scalise, and extremists like Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, Biggs, and Boebert. If they manage to elect a Speaker, he or she will not have control over the GOP caucus, and the next two years will be characterized by something that's never afflicted the GOP in my lifetime: disunity. That's bad for the GOP's 2024 election chances, and that's very good news. Though that may not be the way things work out, as there is increased pressure among the people in Party leadership to stay the course, and keep moving to the right. If the extremists consolidate their control of the Party, Trump can come out of hiding and campaign on promises of getting revenge against Democrats and RINOs, and ride the wave all the way to another electoral rebuke in 2024, after which it's still not certain they'd get it through their thick skulls that America doesn't want extremism.
Also, the matters of abortion rights and female bodily autonomy remain unresolved on the federal level, and the Democrats have time to refine a compelling message for the 2024 campaign on these matters, which enjoy supermajority support from the American public. While this is happening, the GOP will be busy executing performative House investigations on Hunter Biden and "woke" school districts, and score-settling investigations against political enemies and rivals. They will pass bills that are doomed to fail in the Senate and White House, to ban trans athletes from competing, and punish physicians who perform abortions or gender affirming care. They will do this to perform for a base that is not large enough to win statewide and nationwide elections in 2024. And this is also very good news.
There's more to write about, but this post is already way too long, so I will end it here.