A New Year

I’ve long since abandoned the practice of partying on New Year’s Eve. For the past several years, my husband and I haven’t even made it to midnight to welcome the turnover to a new, as-yet-unspoiled year.

But that lack of a proper welcome doesn’t mean that the turn of the calendar page goes unnoticed or that it lacks significance. Actually, for us older folks with grandchildren in their early adulthoods, the portents are especially significant. What will the coming year tell us about the world those grandchildren will have to navigate?

For what it’s worth, I think the year 2024 is likely to be pivotal for the United States–and thus for the world order.

I know that we tend to see whatever it is we look for, and I’ll admit up front that I’m looking for good omens. Those omens are out there–offsetting, to some extent, the dark clouds of hate and fear that dominate the news cycle. The bad omens remain “front and center”–wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the growth of populism worldwide and Christian Nationalism at home, the ability of a handful of Congressional buffoons to paralyze the federal government, and over it all, the persistent warming of the planet and the multiple threats to human civilization posed by climate change.

Then there’s the inconceivable (to me) persistence of support for a moronic, narcissistic madman–coupled with an equally mystifying lack of appreciation for a President who will go down in history (assuming we have a history) as a leader as consequential as FDR.

I’m not ignoring the storm clouds.

But history develops in cycles, and the transition from one cycle to another is typically chaotic and difficult. Various academic studies peg those social cycles at anything between 40 and 80 years. In the US, the last truly monumental social upheaval occurred in the tumultuous Sixties, triggering a reaction that elected Ronald Reagan and devotion to trickle-down economics, and winked at racism and other forms of bigotry and tribalism.

The Internet came along and connected all the malcontents–both those who found modernity, with its multiple ambiguities, unbearable, but also those of us who welcomed it. The Internet destroyed local newspapers, and provided us with the ability to choose the news we wanted to believe, adding to the chaos of social change.

Among the positive omens is the fact that local news is rebounding across the country.

The international effort to combat climate change is moving more slowly than we might like, but more substantively than we had any right to expect in an ever-quarreling world. There are fewer and fewer people who dispute the reality of climate change, and encouraging scientific and technological breakthroughs aimed at ameliorating it.

Medical science continues to advance. People are alive today who would never have made it to their current ages but for those advances, and efforts to stamp out historically devastating diseases in poorer countries are succeeding. (The refusal of ideologically-motivated, scientifically-ignorant individuals to be vaccinated against a pandemic was unfortunate for those individuals and their families, but has likely improved the health–and perhaps the genome– of the overall population.)

And there are multiple signs that a majority of Americans reject the racism and antisemitism and misogyny that still garner headlines. It’s true that the minority of haters is a lot larger than I would have guessed a few years ago, and they are certainly more active. But they are a minority.

Think about it: the demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd were multi-racial. The “Karen” memes on social media and the sharing and shaming of racist incidents captured by those ubiquitous phone cameras are evidence of widespread disapproval of bigotry. Increases in inter-racial and inter-religious marriages (and I would add, the rise of the “nones”) are signs of weakened barriers between members of the human family. Add too, majority approval of same-sex marriage, and the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the (unbelievably paternalistic) Dobbs decision.

The fact that calling a proposal “socialist” is no longer sufficient to defeat it, and the rise of new economic theories challenging free-market absolutism are signs of a growing recognition that–as I used to tell my students–issues are complicated and finding correct answers depends on facts and context.

There’s more, but here’s the thing: the upcoming year will be pivotal. It will tell us whether a determined minority, empowered by gerrymandering and unencumbered by intellect or ethics, will strip women of autonomy, put gays back in the closet, and return Blacks and Jews to second-class status.

My New Year’s Resolution is simple: I intend to work my butt off to defeat the White Nationalist cult that has taken over what used to be my political party.

I hope you’ll join me.


  1. Happy New Year, Dr. Sheila! I can’t recall ever greeting a new year with such trepidation, but here we are. And yes, I will stand with you!

  2. We had the Revolutionary War I, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. They birthed and rescued liberal democracy.

    2024 will be another tumultuous war to save freedom through we the people choosing regularly and reliably who will govern us, but our progress will be measured by the absence of death and destruction this time, and continued rather than restored economic advance.

    The cobsequences of tyranny against our Constitution will continue to be meted out to those favoring the tyranny of the few.

  3. It’s possible that we might save democracy in the US, for some people (we have never had a true democracy in this country) but unfortunately since we allowed the right wing fascists and corporate whores to take over this country’s government and to determine our national energy policies beginning with Reagan, we passed the tipping point for Environmental destruction years ago. Globally we are looking at total ecological and economic collapse within the next 10 years and there’s not a damn thing we can do to stop it now. No amount of “hopium” will save us and we have our collective greed, ignorance, and over consumption to blame for it. 2024 will be another calamitous year for further heating of the planet including countless wildfires, floods, and plagues that will kill many earthlings. 🙁

  4. I like the way you carefully scrutinize those political and social tea leaves. And yes, there absolutely are reasons for hope amongst the disarray, distrust and angst we try to decipher daily.
    Another excellent column, Sheila, and one that gives me a measure of hopefulness as this year comes to a close. Here’s to 2024 — may we all come through it wiser, chastened, and with our democracy still firmly in hand.

  5. Taken together, the hope, fear and utter defeatism/hopelessness are symptoms of a desperate world of humans trying to cope with gross over-population. They’re simply too many humans all clamoring for… something.

    When humans can’t even manage a PTA, how can we expect 8 billion humans to manage that which keeps them alive. Our misguided embrasure of “everyone should be able to reproduce” is so against the rules of adaptation as to numb the minds of observers. Of course, we all want a great life with loving families, etc., but what does that lead to?

    Why are there persistently 30+ shooting wars going on? Why does the oil/gas/coal industry insist that there’s nothing to see here? Why do certain mindless groups (Republicans) keep trying to destroy democracy? Are we still operating with that cave-man, neolithic brain that only worked for the survival (barely) of small, cohesive tribes? Seems so.

    One year will not do all that much to turn the tide of our own self-destruction. We’ll keep adding 75 – 100 million new mouths per year while our water goes bad, our air becomes increasingly unfit to breath and the micro-doses of forever chemicals continue to enter our food/ingestion processes.

    If thermonuclear war doesn’t kill us off, plastic residue will.

  6. I have the same outlook and resolution about 2024. In about a month, I’m flying over to start our move to the states to make damn sure 45 doesn’t become 47. I hope the courts and lack of votes will help us all achieve that goal. I don’t normally make resolutions but I’m willing this year!

    Happy New Year Professor! May all our dreams come true. Good health to you and yours!

  7. As Heather Cox Richardson notes in her daily newsletter today, one day short of his first 100 days in the White House, on April 28, 2021, President Biden spoke to a joint session of Congress and outlined an ambitious vision for our nation.

    He stated: “Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility? Can our democracy deliver…to the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate, and fears that have pulled us apart?”

    America’s adversaries were betting that our country was so full of anger and division that democracy could not deliver. “But they are wrong,” Biden said. “You know it; I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.” In short, Biden asked could the United States demonstrate that democracy is still vital?

    It is clear that the policies outlined in his address and the challenges he put forth could be met. What he accomplished in the first two years of his administration, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, is coming to fruition as a result of investments in the United States. He has delivered. The U.S. economy is stronger than that of any other country in the G7 along with the EU-with higher growth and faster drops in inflation than any other G7 country over the last three years. As Cox Richardson further notes, Heather Long of the Washington Post said yesterday there was only one word for the U.S. economy in 2023, and that word is a “miracle.”

    Sheila is right: President Biden will go down as the most consequential president since FDR.

    It is incumbent upon all of us to shout the accomplishments of his administration from the rooftops as we go in to election year 2024 . As Biden said in 2021, “(o)pening doors of opportunity and guaranteeing some more fairness and justice—that’s the essence of America. That’s democracy in action.”

    The ballot box will be key for all of us next year in preserving our democracy. We must get out the vote and wholly reject a candidate who poses such a clear and present danger to American democracy as we know it.

  8. Happy New Year Sheila!

    Looking forward with hope that this year we defeat the political party we used to belong to, that was taken over by unprincipled authoritarian greed. Dividing Americans with lies and disinformation, this GOP must be defeated. Cheers to a better New Year in 2024!

  9. Sign me up! I am with you all the way. We have to get to work. Happy New Year and thank you for shining your light on the often dark world of the uninformed.

  10. “President Biden will go down as the most consequential president since FDR.” Yup…by not stepping aside for a new generation of DEM leadership like Gretchen, Andy Beshear, etc. so that The Duck and minions will STEAL our democracy. The people want real change from outside DC and the coasts. Too many will stay home on election day, in despair.

  11. Thank you Sheila for your daily blogs. They always give me something to think about. I was born in 1943 and turned….80 in July. I honestly took a lot for granted back in the early 60s. I was an only child and never was hungry or without a roof over my head. My mother was a homemaker and never had a job outside our home until I was in high school. My father went to work in Indianapolis at the GM Plant. He drove 50 miles to work and 50 miles home. He didn’t finish 8th grade but ended his working career as a supervisor. My parents purchased a small one and a half acre farm. We had a large garden, beef cattle, pigs, chickens and for recreation for my father a horse. It came with an outhouse and it was several years before it was not used daily. We had a coal furnace in the basement and hot water in the winter from the tank attached. I am sure you get the picture. I was married at 18 and had my first child before I was 19. I went to work at 18 years old and I realized at that time that our world wasn’t so rosy. I was a widow with a 12 year old child shortly before my 31st birthday. My life changed and I was totally in charge for the first time. So much has changed since 1974. It wasn’t until I retired nearly 10 years ago that I became concerned that a problem was developing in our country. I was scared to death, walked the floor and cried the night Trump was elected our president in 2016. I now see what I was missing when I remarried a couple of times, had another child in 1977, returned to college and graduated in 1987 and then worked for 26 1/2 years retiring at 70 1/2. There are too many people like I was that I see today. I hope we can save our country and our democracy. I will do what I can to make it happen and damn I wish I was younger and had not trusted others with our wellbeing and our country. God Bless America the Land that I Love! And I wonder when these people will be stopped? The more I read the more I wonder how so many of these people are still not in prison. Trump is not the only one that was part of the insurrection…and they have yet to be indicted for the part they played. I have recently read: Fever in the Heartland, Prequel, Enough and now Liz Cheney’s Oath and Honor. I recommend all of these books. I never cared for History when I was in school. Somehow more than memorizing dates needs taught to our children! We never got to WW2 in our History books before I graduated in 1961.

  12. I only set foot on this blog, intelligent and a wide opinion base. since i wont app for profit,to media sites that sell privacy without consent, or to simple minds that dont care. The deep red state of NoDak is trumpian hunting grounds. Im swimming upcurrent to few and making a point. living here in a land of 4 walls that surround a state, that sees pox news as the real world of affairs.
    I talk with direction and,face to face. seems they listen, they dont make retraction to my facts,and leave them thinking about,what they didnt see coming. I hope all here help fight the red wave of propaganda and a political party bought and sold by the rich. I ask the question,what do they really want? if all they say is kicking someone to the curb,then obviously,whos next..best wishes,help some one vote..

    Best wishes Sheila and family..

  13. Happy New Year, Sheila and to all here.

    I don’t make resolutions, but if I did, it would be to continue my small efforts to heal the world, which since I was 16, has often been through the political activism. I hope that I am surprised in a positive direction before 2024 ends.

  14. There is so much good news at this time – very low unemployment, inflation cut in half, Wall Street is skyrocketing, yet I’m so disappointed in so many of our people who have been taken in by a con man who mocks them. So sad and scary. My wish for 2024 is that more folks wake up to the reality that Joe Biden’s actions to rebuild our economy and our relationships around the world are the actions which speak much louder than words.

  15. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find any way to disagree with Vernon today, the views of a fellow realist.

  16. Cynicism often masquerades as wisdom. There are problems. Possibly even historic problems. But, most of history has been worse. It’s good to recognize progress because pessimism can lead to nihilism. “Look at all we’ve tried and the world is horrible. Can’t win, why try?” But the world isn’t horrible — at least not compared to other times and places. It might become horrible if we do the wrong things or don’t do the right things. But it’s not horrible yet. There is a great deal of good in the world.

    Happy New Years!

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