Happy New Year And New Decade
It's been quite a year, and quite a decade.
Happy New Year from all of us here at Outside The Beltway, and with it the start of a New decade. Yea, I know there are those who will argue that, because there was never a year zero in the Gregorian (or Julian) Calendar, the decade doesn’t actually begin until January 1, 2021. These are, by and large, the same people who argued that the new century and new millennium didn’t begin until January 1, 2001. As The New York Times noted back in November, though, when a decade begins and ends is at heart a cultural question:
Unlike the definition of daylight saving time, the definition of a decade is not governed by legal guidelines. But the debate got people talking. Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, a curator in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, said, “There are two different ways to designate decades.”
First, there is the modified Julian date. But, he added, “people work with language more than numbers.” The second way is to designate decades by popular convention and usage. An example? Most people would say the 1950s went from 1950 to 1959.
“People want simple answers,” Dr. Mac Low said. “But the answer is not always simple.”
Mr. Chester agreed. “There is no absolute,” he said.
Using a modified Julian date, the 2020s will begin on Jan. 1, 2021, Dr. Mac Low said.
But that is out of sync with common usage. According to Emily Brewster, a senior editor at Merriam-Webster, a decade in popular culture is not defined by scientific convention. Because of this, the 2020s will begin on Jan. 1, 2020, and end on Dec. 31, 2029, Ms. Brewster said.
“It is interesting that there is this arbitrariness,” she said. “It’s unconventional, like language.”
So, consider the new decade as beginning whenever you want it to, I guess. As a matter of culture and history, though, the consensus is likely to be that the new decade begins today and will end on December 31st, 2029. And that’s how I’m going to consider it.
As for the year that just passed, what is there to say? We’ve spent the past year watching things get worse and worse in Washington, with the perverse and destructive becoming just a normal part of the news cycle. The report prepared by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators, which confirmed yet again that a foreign power sought to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election, left open the suggestion that there may have been coordination of some kind between the Russians, Wikileaks, and the Trump campaign, and strongly suggested at the very least that the President and his Administration obstructed justice in their effort to undermine that investigation has been largely forgotten. Also forgotten is the testimony of longtime Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen, currently serving time in Federal Prison, regarding the conspiracy between himself and the President to pay off two women that Trump had affairs with when his wife was pregnant. Finally, we’ve seen the fact that the President has clearly been profiting off of his Presidency in violation of the Constitution get largely ignored. It’s all been very depressing.
The year took a turn in September, though, when a whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community seeking to bring attention to a July 25th phone call between President Trump and the newly elected President of Ukraine. In that call, the President appeared for all the world to be linking military aid and diplomatic progress with the United States to investigations of former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as information regarding the discredited conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that interfered in 2016, a conspiracy theory that American intelligence officials have demonstrated to be Kremlin propaganda. This revelation set off multiple investigations by the House of Representatives and, ultimately, the impeachment of the President shortly before Congress left for the holidays.
All of this leads us to what the new year will bring us. At some point in January, the Senate will convene for the third impeachment trial of a President in American history, the outcome of which is in no serious doubt. The other big story in the year to come, of course, will be the election. In addition to the race for the Democratic nomination for President, we’ll also be dealing with elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate that will decide who controls Congress for the next two years. In that respect, the GOP likely has more to worry about in the Senate than the Democrats do in the House, but the fact that the Democratic majority depends significantly on candidates who won in 2018 in districts that the President won in 2016 could be a big issue going forward.
In any case, Happy New Year and Happy New Decade!