By far the biggest story has been the Ferguson Uprising sparking a new movement against police violence aimed at African American communities. Also big this year was immigrant rights activists successfully pushing President Obama into offering relief to a segment of the undocumented population. The major portion of Obamacare was rolled out even as the law continues to face serious challenges, and marijuana became legal in a number of localities. Gay marriage victories piled up faster than we could keep track. A deranged Santa Barbara shooter targeted women and Bill Cosby’s rape habit came to light. In sports, the scandal over Ray Rice highlighted issues of violence against women, and Donald Sterling’s racist comments revealed his virulent racism. The Veterans Affairs Department withered in the face of scrutiny over its medical care, and the GOP swept midterm elections. It has been an eventful year indeed.
Ferguson, New York, and Police Brutality Protests
I don’t think there’s any doubt about the fact that the Ferguson uprising over the acquittal of Darren Wilson for Mike Brown’s killing was the biggest story of the year. Bound up in that one story were the stories of all the African Americans killed by police like Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, John Crawford, etc.
Midterm Elections and GOP Wins
Republicans around the country rejoiced after sweeping victories in the House and Senate in November’s midterm elections. But, two thirds of the voting public did not turn out to the polls and the fossil fuel industry and billionaires like the Koch Brothers with the blessing of Citizen’s United gave millions to Republican campaigns.
Immigration and Executive Action
After months of anticipation, President Obama unveiled his Executive Action on Immigration this Novemberto provide relief from deportation to some immigrants. The new program expands upon the original Deferred Action or DACA program.
Rollout of Obamacare and Subsequent Attacks
Obamacare was able to dust itself off this year after a disastrous initial rollout. Healthcare.gov registered more than 8 million new enrollments in 2014 but 34 states refused to build exchanges and 23 states denied expanded Medicaid coverage. There were several legal challenges including from Hobby Lobby. Now another court case will be heard before the US Supreme Court this coming March challenging the subsidies which could unravel the entire program.
This past May a major scandal rocked the Veterans Affair Department when it was found that a VA hospital in Phoenix was manipulating records to hide the fact that vets were facing unusually long delays in receiving care due to a shortage of medical staff and clinic space. The New York Times reported last week that senior government officials including Eric Shinseki, US Secretary of Veterans Affairs since 2009 knew about the problems but was unable to do anything about them due to lack of resources. Shinseki resigned from his post shortly after the scandal broke.
This year marked the two year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary where 26 people were shot and killed. Despite the horrific loss of young lives, a Pew Research Center poll shows that for the first time in over 20 years Americans believe that it is more important to protect the rights of gun owners than to impose gun controls. In May there was yet another mass shooting at the University of California at Santa Barbara where a 22 year old man by the name of Elliot Rodgers shot and killed 6 people before committing suicide.
Bill Cosby: the Rapist
Twenty eight women stepped forth this year to publicly accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault. While many were shocked to learn of the allegations, the accusations had started 14 years ago. Despite the large number of women who have come forward with similar accounts, Cosby has remained free of any penalties and has never been charged with rape.
Donald Sterling’s Racism Domestic Violence and Ray Rice
This year the racism and rampant domestic violence which plague the world of professional sports was revealed to the public. Donald Sterling the owner of the NBA basketball team The Clippers was secretly recorded by his girlfriend making racist comments. This eventually led to him being banned from the League. Meanwhile in the NFL Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was caught on surveillance video knocking his then girlfriend unconscious. The incident led to the NFL establishing new stricter policies on domestic violence but ultimately Rice was allowed to play again after a brief suspension.
This year we saw a historic shift in Marijuana laws. Colorado and Washington State became the first in the nation to allow legalized marijuana sales and in Alaska and Oregon voters approved a ballot measure to tax and regulate the drug. And despite the fact that the majority of people who are arrested for marijuana possession are people of color, Congress blocked Washington DC’s attempt to repeal all criminal and civil penalties for possessing the drug.
Gay Marriage Victories
2014 proved victorious for gay marriage with 35 states now making it legal for same sex couples to marry. While polls show that more and more Americans are in support of gay marriage, challenges are still being brought by conservative groups intent on stopping the practice. Rulings which were upheld in Federal court upholding gay marriage are now being brought in front of the Supreme Court which will likely hear the case in 2015.
Stock Market Resurgence
To the delight of the 1 percent, Wall Street surged back stronger than ever when the economy collapsed back in 2008. This November over 320,000 new jobs were added bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.8%. And, stocks are zooming. Yet, over 14% of Americans are still living below the poverty line. The New York Times recently had a headline that said ‘Economic Recovery Spreads to the Middle Class’.
GUEST: Michelle Chen, contributing writer at the Nation.