2018 saw a blue wave that swept through the House of Representatives, a historic number of women elected to Congress, end-of-the-year stock market volatility, a government shutdown and a controversial detention policy at the U.S.-Mexico border that erupted in an international scandal, among other milestones and unforgettable images, quotes and events.
In perhaps the financial news of the year, NASDAQ hit a 15-month low on Dec. 21, falling as much as 21.5 percent from its Aug. 29 high. The S&P 500 index, which was already on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression, hit its lowest level since August 2017.
Against this backdrop, President Donald Trump — who has been quick to give himself credit when the market was reaching all-time highs — reportedly asked his advisers if he could fire Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, whom Trump appointed earlier this year. Some observers thought that might have caused an even deeper stock decline, which plummeted again after a historic rally on Dec. 26 that saw the Dow Jones shoot up more than 1,000 points in a single day.
Powell’s transgression: agreeing to raise interest rates in 2019.
In other economic news, earlier estimates point to a very good shopping season. Holiday shoppers spent an estimated $850 billion this year, providing a needed jolt to an economy that is still doing well, although some economists fear it may slow down in 2019.
Another sexual abuse case rocked the Catholic Church, resulting in the resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick on July 28. Reports about McCarrick’s alleged inappropriate touching of seminarians during his tenure as the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and the discovery of financial settlements to priests who claimed McCarrick sexually abused them led to his resignation.
On the trade front with China, aluminum producers and traders were set to receive early Christmas presents after the Trump administration imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum. But farmers in some parts of the country have not fared as well. More than 80 farms that grow corn, soybeans and beef in the Midwest filed for bankruptcy between July 2017 and July 2018, and many cited the trade war with China, according to Vox.
Trump’s troubles will increase now that Democrats are taking over the House — the House of Representatives, that is. The blue wave rolled over Orange County and knocked out longtime Republican officeholders there, including Reps. Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher. The open seats after the retirements of Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) also were won by Democrats.
Democrats won 42 seats in the midterms and have vowed to simultaneously work on policy matters while investigating several aspects of the Trump administration. Some investigations could lead to revelations of the Trump family or business financial statements and tax returns, Democratic leaders say. When the 116th Congress convenes on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 121 women will be serving in the House.
Democrats lost two female senators — Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) —but picked up two in senators-elect Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.
Trump was left alone to rage and tweet after Republicans and Democrats left Washington, D.C., for the holidays when the federal government shut down officially on Dec. 22 after Democrats refused to budge on giving the president $5 billion for a southern border wall, leaving thousands of federal workers without pay during the December holiday season.
It was not an especially good year for Trump, particularly the second half of 2018. Prior to the disastrous midterms, a border-detention policy that yanked immigrant children away from their families and held them in detention centers for weeks on end was decried internationally, forcing the administration to temporally halt the policy.
In November, Trump faced a bipartisan backlash after he disputed the findings by U.S. intelligence services and the Turkish government that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
In December, a 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, both from Guatemala, died in the custody of U.S immigration officials.
Among the year’s most unforgettable quotes, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani had one for the ages. Now one of Trump’s lawyers, Giuliani told Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, “Truth isn’t truth.”