The Atlantic Politics Daily: The 2016 Campaign Cycle Is Still Going

What we learned in the decade that was. Plus: Why are American campaign cycles so interminable?

It’s Friday, December 27. In today’s newsletter: What we learned in the year that was. Plus: Why are American campaign cycles so interminable?

Like Congress, this newsletter team is taking a breather until the new year (though if there’s breaking news you need to know about, we’ll be back in your inboxes).


These are just a few of the most enduring images of the latter half of this decade.

From oil spills to volcanic eruptions, space milestones to major protest movements, scenes of the aftermath of war to scenes of the aftermath of natural disaster: See the full photo essay, selected by our photo editor Alan Taylor.


(Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic)

1. “No one can reasonably claim that the 2020 Democratic candidates or Trump started the campaign season we’re living through.”

Let’s put a few things into perspective. In Japan, campaigns last 12 days. In Australia, they last 33 to 68 days.

In America, campaign season is the one season that never ends—everyone is always campaigning, all the time, Molly Jong-Fast writes.

Only one of the 2020 Democrats ran in 2016, Bernie Sanders, and he announced after Hillary Clinton, likely without thinking he had a chance in hell. Trump wasn’t the first Republican to announce his candidacy for 2016—that’d be Ted Cruz, who told the world he would be president in March 2015. That was before Trump called his wife ugly and said his dad murdered JFK.

Read the rest.

(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

2. “It will end with about half of America triumphant, and the other half furious and fearful.”

That’s Ron Brownstein’s heads up on 2020.

The 2020 presidential election remains very much up for grabs, but one thing already seems clear: It will end with about half of America triumphant, and the other half furious and fearful.

Ron has this year-end analysis of the facts and figures that augur a contentious year to come:

Since 1968, one party has simultaneously controlled the White House, the House, and the Senate for only 14 years. The past four times a president went into a midterm election with unified control of government, most recently Trump in 2018, voters revoked it. Neither Democrats nor Republicans can truly be confident about the outcome of the presidential race in 2020, and while each party might be favored to hold the congressional chamber it now controls, neither advantage is impregnable.

Brace yourself and read this full analysis.

(Bruce Bisping / Getty)

3. “He is a decent stand-in for what you might call evangelicalism’s silent majority.”

That’s Emma Green on Leith Anderson, one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America. Before the recent uproar around Christianity Today’s viral editorial calling for President Donald Trump’s removal, Emma had sat down with Anderson in New York for a conversation about evangelicalism is headed today.

Leith Anderson: I feel a pressure to portray evangelicals in terms of faith and beliefs. There’s something like 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about the poor and the widow and the orphan and the homeless and the hungry. To me, that transcends politics. That’s what we believe, and that’s what we’ve got to do.

Or immigrants. With all the teachings in the Bible about the way you treat the stranger and the immigrant, have we taken strong positions on immigration reform and Dreamers? Yeah, we have. But I don’t see it driven primarily by current political issues. I see it driven primarily by what the Bible says.

Read the rest of the interview.


(Getty / New York Daily New Archive)

Don’t kid yourself; we’re still in the 2000s. Amanda Mull is here with a sharp end-of-decade rumination that’s also a whirlwind cultural tour of the last two decades.

The year 2001 was when many things broke. Financially, that was the year the American mortgage began showing signs of trouble. In the four years that followed, home-equity extraction in the country would more than double as people took out more loans. From 2001 to 2007, American mortgage debt would also double.

Culturally, the popularity of the first season of Survivor, which ended in the fall of 2000, pushed scores of reality shows into production the following year—and pushed American television off the reality-TV cliff, creating the initial conditions for how American fame would fundamentally change in the next 20 years. The first season of The Bachelor, for example, debuted in early 2002.

Here’s why our collective sense of time has become so scrambled.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an associate editor on our Politics team, and Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters. You can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments, or send a note to

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