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2016: The Year of Disruption

By  |  December 28, 2016, 12:51am  |  @stevengberman

There was always something different about 2016. Not a good different, but a seismic, tectonic, continent-moving different. These years happen every century or two, and they show up in an especially strident fashion about once a millennium. This past year could be one of those millennial disruption years.

On January 17, 2016, I wrote that the key trend for 2016’s presidential cycle is “disruption.”

Donald Trump is a master disrupter, and Hillary is being disrupted. Hillary should know better–she had eight years to prepare for this run after getting blindsided by Barack Obama in 2008.

I compared 2016 to 1066, when the British were disrupted (prior to Brexit). It took over 700 years for the stirrup to make it from India to Europe, and another 200 years before William the Conqueror used it with his armored calvary at Hastings to destroy the Saxon army.

It took 30 years for television to make it from experiment to president-maker in 1960. It took 10 years for social media to go from college campuses to @RealDonaldTrump winning the White House.

It’s not just presidential politics that was disrupted in 2016. The entire U.S. media was disrupted and baited by Trump’s feints, outright lies, and random 4 a.m. tweetstorms. Fox News was disrupted as Roger Ailes was ousted in a hail of sexual harassment accusations. Breitbart was disrupted as Steve Bannon left to orchestrate the trolling of America.

The stock market was disrupted as everyone expected it to tank if Trump won, and then when he won, it soared. No expectation this year was left untouched.

The Russians disrupted American politics with a flood of “fake news” combined with some rather pubescent hacking jobs done well, and coordinated with Julian Assange. Before that, the Russians themselves were disrupted in Rio when most of their team was kept from the Olympics due to doping. By the way, the Russians lied about doping, and now admit they lied.

(Relatedly, Zika did not disrupt the Rio Olympics. But Ryan Lochte disrupted himself as a pantomime of the ugly American. And Rio itself was disrupted, sinking up to $20 billion to host the games, most of which disappeared like a pickpocket in the favelas, while the poor are still just as poor, no matter how much you hide them.)

(Double irony: Mitt Romney’s 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City generated a $56 million surplus, while most Olympic hosts lose their shirts, while Donald Trump took what’s normally a printing press for money–casinos–and ran them into the ground. Hmmm. I digress, so back to the Russians, who stole more cash in Sochi than Obama shipped in unmarked Euros to Iran.)

The Russians lie. We should not trust anything they say, no matter how much Brother Vladimir and Brother Donald are bro’s.

The FBI, CIA, DIA, and their overall boss the Director of National Intelligence were all disrupted by the Hillary emails, DNC hacks, political footballs, and continual leaks to the press. I cannot image a time since Vietnam when our intelligence spooks have walked on more eggshells and nitroglycerine cocktails on a sea of Bic lighters while carrying grenades with no pins. The whole thing could blow any second.

President Obama disrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, getting the final stab in their knife fight before Obama’s term ends. But Netanyahu will still be in power when Obama is a civilian left with history to judge him, and Israel will still build settlements in East Jerusalem, despite John Kerry’s final pain-inducing speech, which he will numbly speak and will fall on deaf ears.

The UN itself was disrupted. Maybe we owe Obama a round of Cinnamon Appletinis at Sotto for letting the Security Council finally pull the scab off the pus-filled Jew-haters club infecting the UN. Now everyone can see the disgusting green stuff run down the pinstripe-and-wingtip crowd’s pressed pant-legs who infest Turtle Bay.

Obama’s legacy will be one of abject failure, by any reasonably historical measure. The economy flagged along at 1.5 percent GDP growth. Unemployment finally dropped, but only because the workforce participation rate contracted with frustrated millennials going back to school and working class jobless shunted to the “gig economy” driving Uber and Lyft, renting their homes on AirBnb, or getting paid by the job on Fiverr.

(If you don’t think the “gig economy” is going to disrupt work as we know it in America, go back and read a few microeconomics textbooks. This will have a larger and faster effect than automation, robotics, and self-driving vehicles–those are coming too, but Uber will get there before Google.)

Obamacare is, as Trump campaigned on, a disaster. Healthcare was disrupted in 2016 by 20+ percent insurance premium increases. The Iran deal is a gangster’s paradise with enough secret exemptions to drive a few tons of enriched uranium through. If Obama had a discernible plan in Syria, no matter what it was, it failed. And with ISIS–oh I’m sorry, ISIL–folks “just don’t get it.”

Homegrown terrorism disrupted how America will handle immigration, visas, and refugees. Trump promises to do it differently. But honestly, it’s hard to not screw it up worse than Obama.

Around the world, disruption ruled. Thailand lost the second-longest serving monarch in the world. The EU lost Britain (but not Ireland). The Cubs won the freaking World Series (beating the Indians, no less)! The Patriots managed to only lose two games (so far) despite not having Tom Brady for their first four weeks.

Fidel Castro died and Hell barely noticed his arrival. No disruption there or in Cuba where it’s oppression as usual. David Bowie exited in style, like he lived. Prince followed Michael Jackson to an early grave by the same method. Muhammad Ali lost his biggest fight. John Glenn reached up and touched the face of God. Arnold Palmer hit one straight up Heaven’s fairway. Hockey star Gordie Howe died at 88, while Alan Thicke died playing hockey with his 19-year-old son.

We lost Antonin Scalia, whose death will be felt by more Americans for more generations than maybe any single individual who graced Heaven earlier than we’d like in 2016. Phyllis Schlafly, who perhaps foreshadowed Trump’s victory more than any of the conservative leaders who kneeled before him, without actually succumbing to Trump-worship, didn’t live to see his victory.

And to kick our butts one last time, just a few weeks after Rogue One disrupted Star Wars by being the first non-Skywalker story to make it to the screen, we lost Princess Leia IRL. That sucks.

But every year, people die. We can’t avoid it. It’s just that in 2016, more than people’s souls departed this earth. It seems that the souls of entire nations, political parties, and civilized modes of discourse shuffled off this mortal coil into the hereafter, never to return.

When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, we will finally be rid of this accursed year, and good riddance. But 2017 will be different in profound ways. Things never go back to normal after a disruption year. Just ask King Harold of the Saxons.