Every December, The Atlantic looks back on the previous year—to highlight not just the big moments, but also the progression of big ideas. Below, the last of three installments highlights some political and cultural stories worth revisiting—or discovering for the first time.
The start of the presidential race and the fitful state of race relations in the United States dominated headlines throughout 2015, but the year’s events inspired thoughtful analysis on a number of other topics, too.
Religion, Liberty, and Same-Sex Marriage
- Prior to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling, Jeffrey Rosen, in “The Dangers of a Constitutional ‘Right to Dignity,’” warned about the constitutional slippery slope of Justice Kennedy’s dignity doctrine.
- After the justices announced the Obergefell decision, Emma Green previewed how the debate would shift in “How Will the U.S. Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Decision Affect Religious Liberty?”
- In Kentucky, Kim Davis became the face of gay-marriage resistance—leading Garrett Epps to explain why her actions violated government employees’ basic obligations: “When Public Servants Refuse to Serve the Public.”
- After the outcome of November’s state-level elections, Molly Ball pointed out that, in many ways, “Liberals Are Losing the Culture Wars.”
- “Gay and Mennonite” is Emma Green’s feature on the dissonance within the church over homosexuality.
- Emma Green also followed the media frenzy when the pope visited the United States in September. In response to growing fervor about the “liberal” Catholic leader, she penned, “Pope Francis Is Not a Progressive, He’s a Priest.”
Politics, Business, and the Economy
- Delaware Governor Jack Markell argued that “Americans Need Jobs, Not Populism,” and the Democratic Party should work with business partners to make that happen.
- In March, Walter Frick explained why “Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial.”
- Sean McElwee highlighted an unlikely alliance between a conservative pastor and a gay former Obama staffer fighting the exploitation of financially unstable Americans in “The Odd Couple Fighting Against Predatory Payday Lending.”
- Mario Loyola highlighted another odd couple, “Tesla and the Texas Tea Party,” arguing that lawmakers claiming to support free markets often end up sanctioning business cartels.
- A feel-good story about book sharing became a nightmare when municipalities started regulating the practice, prompting Conor Friedersdorf to consider “The Dangers of Being Neighborly Without a Permit.”
- Russell Berman, in “Kansas’s Failed Experiment,” traced the devastating fiscal outcomes of some massive tax cuts and wondered if conservative candidates would consider it as they develop 2016 platforms.
- Yoni Appelbaum made the case for a little less reverence of America’s Founders in “America’s Fragile Constitution,” explaining how and why they produced today’s political dysfunction.
- In “The Known Unknowns of Lethal Injection,” Matt Ford, who has followed the topic closely for The Atlantic, argued that the capital-punishment system is becoming increasingly reckless.
- As the Defense Department prepares to overhaul its personnel system, David Barno and Nora Bensahel detailed why many worry that the Pentagon is failing to hold onto its best talents: “Can the U.S. Military Halt Its Brain Drain.”
- America’s mass-shootings continued in 2015, reigniting gun-control debates. In the wake of the massacre at Umpqua Community College, David Graham explained “Why Conservatives Mistrust Even Modest Efforts at Gun Control.” And after the shooting in San Bernardino, Nora Kelly reported “California Weighs Stricter Gun Laws” and considered whether greater regulation is really the answer.