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The history of the United States from 2008 to present began with the collapse of the housing bubble, which led into the late-2000s recession, helped the Democrats gain the presidency in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama, the country's first African American president. The government enacted large loans and economic stimulus packages aimed at improving the economy. Obama's domestic initiatives also included the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which by means of large reforms to the American healthcare system, created a National Health Insurance program. President Obama eventually withdrew combat troops from Iraq, and shifted the country's efforts in the War on Terror to Afghanistan, where a troop surge was initiated in 2009. In 2010, due to continued public discontent with the economic situation, unemployment, and federal spending, Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives and reduced the Democratic majority in the Senate.
In 2011, Obama announced that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces during a covert operation in Pakistan while the Iraq War was declared formally over the same year. The following year Obama was re-elected president. In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which resulted in the recognition of legally performed same-sex marriages by the federal government. In 2015, the Court ruled that all states must grant same-sex marriages as well as recognize others performed in different states in Obergefell v. Hodges.
A series of deadly mass shootings, especially the Aurora movie theater massacre and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, sparked a heated debate over gun control and the causes of these events. After the killings of many African Americans such as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Philando Castille by policemen resulted in no prosecution, the Black Lives Matter movement led to discussions, protests, and riots against racial profiling, police brutality, and overall racism were sparked between white and black Americans in the United States. The 2016 Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub renewed discussions of violence and discrimination against the LGBT community as well as domestic terrorism by radicalized individuals.
After unprecedented media coverage and a hostile presidential campaign, businessman Donald Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election leading to Republicans gaining control of all branches of government. His first weeks in office have largely been characterized by a series of executive orders restricting abortion rights and the effects of the Affordable Care Act, the construction of the pipelines in North Dakota and a wall along the Mexican-American border, and the refusal to admit citizens of several Muslim majority countries as well as being opposed with a series of marches and protests, most notably Women's Marches that brought nearly five million marchers worldwide.
The War in Afghanistan continued. In September 2008, President Bush announced he would shift 4,500 U.S. troops from Iraq to the conflict in Afghanistan. This was followed with recently elected President Barack Obama announcing in February 2009 that the U.S. would deploy an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. The Obama administration also later announced a "troop surge" of an additional 30,000 U.S. military forces to be deployed in the summer of 2010, and to begin withdrawals of the 100,000 total U.S. troops in July 2011. With the surge in effect, ISAF launched Operation Moshtarak, an offensive determined to eliminate Taliban insurgents from Helmand Province. At 15,000 troops, it was the largest joint operation of the war.
After a 2010 profile on U.S. Army General and ISAF Commander Stanley McChrystal was published in Rolling Stone Magazine, McChrystal was forced to resign from his position after making controversial remarks about Obama administration officials. President Obama then announced ISAF to be commanded by General David Petraeus.
On May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. conducted an operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The announcement drew worldwide praise, with spontaneous celebrations at Ground Zero, Times Square and outside of the White House. The raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad led to a rise in diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan. With civilian deaths from the U.S.'s drone program in so called "signature strikes", the 2011 NATO attack in Pakistan, which led to the deaths of 24 Pakistani military officers, and the closure of NATO supply lines to neighboring Afghanistan, U.S.-Pakistan relations remain fractured as a result of the War on Terror.
In mid-2011 President Obama announced the start of the withdrawal of the additional 33,000 troops deployed from the 2010 troop surge. By December 2011, the first round of 10,000 troops were withdrawn, with the second round of 23,000 troops later withdrawn in September 2012.
As of February 2014, a total of 2,307 U.S. troops were killed and 19,656 injured due to the Afghanistan War. Estimates from the Brown University Watson Institute for International Studies also suggest that between 16,725–19,013 Afghan civilians died as a result of the war.
ISAF ceased combat operations and was disbanded in December 2014, with a small number of troops remaining behind in an advisory role as part of ISAF's successor organization, the Resolute Support Mission.
As the situation in Iraq became increasingly difficult, policymakers began looking for new options. This led to the formation of the Iraq Study Group, a nonpartisan commission chaired by James Baker and Lee H. Hamilton. This produced a variety of proposals; some of the more notable ones were to seek decreased US presence in Iraq, increased engagement with neighboring countries, and greater attention to resolving other local conflicts, such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The recommendations were generally ignored, and instead, President Bush ordered a surge of troops to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. Violence in the country declined in 2008 and 2009, and the U.S. combat role ended in August 2010. U.S. forces were withdrawn in large numbers in 2009 and 2010, and the war was declared formally over in December 2011.
On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, killing three people and injuring over 280. Three days later, suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev led Boston police on a high speed chase, after killing one officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police and a seriously injured Dzhokhar was taken into custody in nearby Watertown the following day.
A spate of school shootings rocked the country in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the deadliest of which were the Northern Illinois University shooting (2008), the Oikos University shooting (2012), and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (2012). Those shootings have led to an increasing debate over gun politics and media violence, and led to increased focus on mental health, school safety, and anti-bullying.
In November 2009, U.S. Army major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 fellow servicemen and injured 30 in the Fort Hood shooting in Killeen, Texas. While the act was called terrorism by some due to Hasan's Muslim heritage, the attack was ruled out by the FBI to have been perpetrated by a terrorist organization. On January 8, 2011, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was the target of an assassination attempt, when a gunman went on a shooting spree, critically injuring Giffords, killing federal judge John Roll and five other people, and wounding at least 14 others. In July 2012, a man shot 70 people (the highest number of victims of any mass shooting in American history) at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing twelve and injuring 58 others. In May 2014, a gunman inspired by a misogynistic vendetta stabbed and shot to death six students at the University of California, Santa Barbara before committing suicide. On October 1, 2015, nine students were shot and killed and seven were injured based on their religious beliefs at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. On June 12, 2016, a mass shooting in a Florida nightclub killed 50 people, including the man responsible for it. It surpassed 2007's Virginia Tech shooting as the deadliest mass shooting in American history, and was also classified as a terrorist attack and a hate crime against the LGBT community.
Even after the end of the crack epidemic, there remained a large disparity in crime rates between black people and whites, with black people accounting for 28% of arrests in 2013; over 50% of homicides and robberies where the race of the offender was known were committed by black suspects. As most crime is intraracial, most of their victims were black as well, and crime remained concentrated within black communities. Due to high crime rates, many inner city areas were heavily policed, often by police forces drawn from the population of the greater urban area rather than the local, primarily black, population, resulting in many black people feeling that they were being discriminated against by law enforcement. By 2009, black people accounted for 39.4% of the prison population in the United States. The incarceration rate of black males was over six times higher than that of white males, with a rate of 4,749 per 100,000 US residents.
In August 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer of Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man who had robbed a nearby convenience store fifteen minutes earlier. While a grand jury investigation found that Wilson had acted in self-defense after Brown attacked him on two separate occasions, locals hostile to the police claimed that Brown had been gunned down while surrendering. Racial tensions in Ferguson between the mainly black population and mainly white police force led to both peaceful protests and riots, and several buildings were looted and set on fire. In response, the Ferguson Police Department deployed military-grade riot gear and riot control weaponry to disperse crowds and maintain order. Further protests erupted after the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black resident of Staten Island, New York who died after being put in a nineteen-second long chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo while resisting arrest. Garner was being investigated by the NYPD under suspicion of illegally selling cigarettes. Pantaleo's acquittal by a grand jury in December led to nationwide protests by a movement which came to call itself Black Lives Matter.
On Super Tuesday in February 2008, in the midst of heated primary elections in multiple states, a destructive tornado outbreak hit the Mid-South region, spawning dangerous nighttime twisters across the region. A total of 87 tornadoes were reported. Over 60 people were killed across Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Alabama and hundreds were injured. Losses exceeded $1 billion. The outbreak was the deadliest outbreak in the U.S. in 23 years, and brought renewed attention to the dangers of nighttime tornadoes, winter tornadoes, and the vulnerability of populations in the Southern United States.
In September 2008, after two straight years of not being affected by a serious hurricane, Hurricane Gustav caused $18 billion in damage in Louisiana, and a few weeks later, the Galveston, Texas and Houston, Texas areas were devastated by Hurricane Ike with over $31 billion in damage, making Ike the third most destructive hurricane ever to hit the United States behind Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. Over 100 people were killed. The hurricanes also caused gas prices to spike to around $4 per gallon.
In the spring of 2011, several major tornado outbreaks affected the Central and Southern United States. 43 people were killed in a tornado outbreak from April 14–16. Approximately 350+ people were killed in a tornado outbreak from April 25–28, the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak in 75 years (since the 1936 Tupelo-Gainesville tornado outbreak). States particularly hit hard by the outbreaks included Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and most especially, Alabama, which sustained over 250 fatalities alone. The latter outbreak produced $10 billion in damage, making it the costliest tornado outbreak in history. On May 22, an EF5 tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, killing 154, injuring over 1,000 people, and causing $1–3 billion in damage, making it the deadliest single U.S. tornado in 64 years and the costliest single tornado of all time.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall since Ike in 2008, striking the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, making landfalls in North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York. The storm killed at least 45 people and caused $10 billion in damage. The storm was particularly notable for its extensive flooding in the Northeast, and a couple days later, Tropical Storm Lee made landfall in Louisiana, its remnants tracking to the Northeast for even more devastating floods.
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States, making landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm knocked out power to millions of people and caused flooding in parts of New York City along with devastation to the Jersey Shore and portions of Long Island and Staten Island. The storm has been blamed for 121 fatalities and is estimated to have caused at least $50 billion in damage.
In May 2013, at least 24 people were killed, 377 people were injured, and $1.5 to $3 billion in damage was caused when an EF5 tornado struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, which was hit by a deadly and destructive F5 tornado only 14 years prior.
On April 20, 2010, an off shore oil drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded and burned off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Dozens of workers fled the flames and were rescued by lifeboats and helicopters, however 11 were killed and 17 were injured in the incident. The rig burned for 36 hours before sinking. On April 24, it was discovered that a damaged wellhead was leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rapid rate. For approximately 90 days, tens of thousands of barrels of oil leaked into the ocean every day, resulting in the largest oil spill in United States history. The wellhead was successfully contained in mid-July, stopping the flow, and efforts are ongoing to cap the wellhead and create a replacement well. Despite significant efforts to protect coastlines, the spill has had devastating impacts on the environment and the economies of the Gulf Coast states. The Obama administration has ordered well operator BP responsible for all cleanup costs, which are expected to run in the tens of billions of dollars. The spill has resulted in negative public approval ratings of the U.S. government, the Obama administration, and BP, for their handling of the spill, with BP suffering the worst ratings.
A 2014 Religious Landscape Study conducted by Pew Research Center from June 4-September 30, 2014 found Christianity declined 7.8% from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014, unaffiliated rose 6.7% from 16.1% in 2007 to 22.8% in 2014, and non-Christian religions rose 1.2% from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014.
In 2007, while U.S. unemployment dropped to its lowest level since the year 2000, the housing bubble reached its peak and economic growth slowed down, and by December 2007, the United States entered a severe long-lasting recession. By mid-2008, property values and the values of other assets plummeted, and the stock market crashed in October 2008, spurred by a lack of investor confidence as the liquidity of assets began to evaporate. With the decline in wealth and the lack of investor and consumer confidence, growth and economic activity came to a screeching halt and the job growth of previous years was soon wiped out, with mass layoffs and unemployment rising rapidly in late 2008, and continuing into 2009.
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told a federal commission in November 2009, "As a scholar of the Great Depression, I honestly believe that September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression." Of the 13 most important U.S. financial institutions, "12 were at risk of failure within a period of a week or two".
The Federal Reserve and the Treasury cooperated by pouring trillions into a financial system that had frozen up worldwide. They rescued many of the large financial corporations from bankruptcy – with the exception of Lehman Brothers, which went bankrupt – and took government control of insurance giant AIG, mortgage banks Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and both General Motors and Chrysler.
In October 2008, Bush sought, and Congress passed, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (commonly referred to as the "bank bailout") with the goal of protecting the U.S. financial system from complete collapse in the wake of the late-2000s recession, which brought significant declines in the stock market. The bill provided federal government guarantees of up to $700 billion to troubled financial institutions through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). By 2010, only a fraction of that money was ever spent, as banks were able to quickly repay loans from the federal government or ended up never needing the money.
Meanwhile, unemployment doubled to nearly 10%, with states such as California and Michigan especially hard hit. While the stock market rebounded by 2011, and corporate profits had recovered, unemployment remained over 9% into 2011. The recession was worldwide, with Europe and Japan hard hit, while China, India and Canada fared much better.
The nation went into the 2008 election cycle having a Republican president and Democratic congress both with extremely low approval ratings. New York Senator Hillary Clinton had the inside track for the nomination but faced an unexpected challenge from Barack Obama, the nearly unknown junior Senator from Illinois. The GOP nominated Arizona Senator John McCain. During the general election, Obama's youthfulness, charisma, and widespread media support proved effective against McCain, seen as a stodgy Washington insider. In addition, his relatively advanced age (72) and injuries from captivity in the Vietnam War drew doubts over his health and stamina. Overall disillusionment with the Republican Party and George Bush's administration did not help McCain's cause, and his choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate also drew some controversy. Obama also drew some doubts over his inexperience and controversial associations with Weather Underground founder William Ayers and Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of an African-American church Obama had attended for years who was discovered to have made anti-white sermons. The decisive event was the collapse of the national financial system over the summer, launching a severe worldwide depression On November 4, 2008, Obama defeated McCain 365 to 173 in the electoral vote and 52.9% to 45.7% in the popular vote to become the 44th President of the United States, making history in becoming the first African-American to be elected to the highest executive office. Part of the strong showing came from a surge of support from younger voters, African Americans, Hispanics and independents. Democrats made further gains in Congress, adding to the majorities they had won in 2006.
Obama's early policy decisions addressed a continuing global financial crisis and have included changes in tax policies, foreign policy initiatives and the phasing out of detention of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.Within a few weeks of taking office, the new president and Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was ostensibly aimed at recovering from the economic collapse. This entailed a $700 billion stimulus package for the economy, although there were considerable questions over the amount of money spent or its actual effectiveness.
In March 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, a bill colloquially known as "Obamacare", and ostensibly aimed at establishing national health care in the US, a cherished goal of liberal Democrats since the New Deal era. The ACA went through a series of revisions and in its early forms had included proposals for single payer health care. However, the widespread backlash from conservative groups caused many Democratic Congressmen in moderate districts of the country to fear losing their seats, and so the end result was a convoluted 700 page document that even many Democrats admitted to having no idea about its exact contents. Although Obamacare did not establish SPHC as many on the right dreaded, it nonetheless contained an assortment of controversial measures, such as the ability for Americans 25 and under to continue being covered by their parents' health plan. In addition, the ACA included the stipulation that Americans must buy health insurance in a manner similar to automobile insurance, with the possibility of being fined for noncompliance. Many Americans, especially those under 35, the age group with the lowest risk of major health concerns, simply chose to pay a fine rather than unwillingly purchase health insurance. The ACA would end up being widely used as fodder by the GOP against Obama and the Democratic Party.
In foreign policy, President Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in large numbers, bringing the Iraq War to an end in December 2011. At the same time, he also increased troop levels in the Afghanistan War. Early in his presidency, he successfully negotiated the New START treaty with Russia, which made significant reductions in their nuclear arsenals. The U.S. also maintains ongoing talks, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, as well as with Israel and the Palestinian Authority over a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In May 2011, President Obama announced in a televised speech to the nation that al-Qaeda leader and culprit behind many deadly acts of terrorism (including the September 11 attacks) Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Although the recession reached its bottom in June 2009 and began to move up again, voters remained frustrated with the slow pace of the economic recovery. In the spring of 2009, large protests erupted in Washington DC from conservative groups who began calling themselves the "Tea Party" and who were particularly opposed to the controversial stimulus act. The Tea Party would end up in a few years as a springboard for a large-scale Republican revival. In the 2010 midterms, the GOP retook control of the House, although the Senate remained in Democratic hands.
Under the new Congress, which had a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, President Obama and Congress clashed for months over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling and whether or not to extend the payroll tax cuts for middle-income citizens that Obama signed into law. After months of heated debate, the debt ceiling was ultimately raised and the tax cuts extended. However, Obama's approval ratings continued to hover at around 46%, while Congress had an even lower approval rating of 11%.
In the 2012 presidential election, the GOP nominated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Much like John McCain four years earlier, Romney was largely seen as a tepid moderate and a Beltway insider who did not inspire the conservative base of the Republican Party, nor independents. He also drew controversy for his stand on socialized medicine, which he had implemented in Massachusetts. Obama defeated his opponent to win a second term, with a tally in the Electoral College by 332 to 206 and in the popular vote by 51.06% to 47.21%. The electoral map remained the same as 2008, with the exception of North Carolina and Indiana flipping back as red states, and the party balance in Congress remained largely unchanged.
In the November 2014 midterm elections, the Republican Party took control of the U.S. Senate and expanded its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, an event that portended an ill omen for the Democrats.
On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961. A deal between the United States and Cuba was brokered during 18 months of secret talks hosted by Canada, with a final meeting hosted by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Although the US embargo remains in effect and ordinary tourism by Americans is still prohibited, the United States will ease travel and remittance restrictions, release three Cuban spies, and open an embassy in Havana.
The New York Times reported in January 2015:
In short: The state of union, while far stronger than when Mr. Obama took office, remains troubled. The financial crisis has ended, with job growth picking up and the American economy among the world's strongest right now. Yet the great 21st-century wage slowdown continues, with pay raises for most workers still meager. In other positive news, the deficit has fallen sharply, thanks to a combination of slower health-cost growth and budget cuts (the latter championed by Republicans). Many more people have health insurance, thanks to Mr. Obama's health law. More people are graduating from college—although Mr. Obama is likely to fall short of his vow to have the United States lead the world in college graduates by 2020.
On the negative side, climate change appears to be accelerating, creating serious health and economic risks. The fall in gasoline prices, though welcome for many struggling families, won't help the climate. And with Mr. Obama delivering his address the day after Martin Luther King's Birthday, it's also worth remembering that the country's racial divides remain deep, with African-Americans still far behind other Americans by many measures.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled, 5–4, in the case of Obergefell vs. Hodges that homosexual marriage was a constitutionally protected right under the 14th Amendment. The ruling was celebrated by liberal and gay rights groups, and President Obama advertised his support for the ruling by coloring the White House in gay pride colors. This ruling was not achieved without controversy, as the dissenting opinion on the Court, including Chief Justice John Roberts, argued that it was based on a "gross" misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment and its original purpose.
In regards to the Supreme Court, President Obama faced three vacancies during his administration. Justice David Souter retired in June 2009 and the president nominated as his replacement Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice in US history. Justice John Paul Stevens retired exactly one year later and Obama replaced him with Elena Kagan. Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016. As of March 2017, his seat is still vacant. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was pressured by liberal groups to retire while the Democrats remained in control of the White House, but declined to do so.
On September 25, 2015, John Boehner announced that he would step down as Speaker and resign from Congress at the end of October 2015. Boehner's resignation took place after Pope Francis' address to Congress the day before, an event considered by Boehner as a high point in his legislative career. Boehner was replaced by Republican Paul Ryan, the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district and former candidate for Vice President along with Mitt Romney. Sources in Boehner's office indicated he was stepping aside in the face of increasing discord while trying to manage passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government. Conservative opposition to funding Planned Parenthood as part of the resolution, and stronger threats to Boehner's leadership on account of the controversy, prompted the abrupt announcement. Members of the caucus indicated that the resignation opened the way for a "clean bill" for government funding to pass, and "a commitment [was] made that there [would] be no shutdown." 
In the 2016 presidential election, the GOP had a wide open field with numerous promising young candidates, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Congressman Marco Rubio. An early contender was Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, son of former president George H.W. Bush, and brother of former president George W. Bush. The uninspired Bush attracted little interest from an electorate tired of political dynasties, and he dropped out of the race early in the year. Ted Cruz enjoyed widespread popularity among Christian fundamentalists and many on the right, although his marketability to moderate voters was questionable.
The Democratic Party had fewer potential candidates to choose from, and the campaign early on centered on Hillary Clinton despite her controversial tenure as Secretary of State. A surprise challenger to Clinton appeared in 74-year old Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist and the only independent in the Senate. Sanders attracted a large, enthusiastic following among voters under 35, however the Democratic establishment, committed to Clinton, did not favor him. When the primary season finished in the spring, Clinton easily secured the Democratic nomination, and there was widespread allegations by Sanders supporters that the primaries were rigged and the Vermont Senator had been "robbed".
Meanwhile, in July 2015, real estate mogul Donald Trump announced that he was seeking the presidency. Although Trump's announcement received little attention at first (he had mounted a short-lived third party presidential run in 2000), he quickly bounded out of the gate with an aggressively populist message about the perceived decline of American economic and geopolitical prestige under the previous two administrations. By the start of the primary season in early 2016, Trump was polling well ahead of the other GOP candidates despite his complete lack of political experience and attracting a considerable following among the conservative base.
By the spring of 2016, most GOP candidates had dropped out of the running and Trump had no remaining challengers other than Ted Cruz. Some right wing conservatives and Christian groups continued to support Cruz, especially as there was controversy over Trump's personal life and relatively libertarian attitude on social issues. However, Trump's economic message had massive populist appeal and on May 3, Ted Cruz officially terminated his presidential campaign after a resounding primary defeat.
As the primaries gave way to the general election, Hillary Clinton faced numerous controversies over her tenure as Secretary of State and more distant events such as the 1990s Whitewater scandal. In addition, it came out that Clinton as a young attorney in the 1970s had defended a violent child rapist in court, who had left his victim sterilized from the attack. Polls and surveys showed that Clinton had an overall negative image among voters and struggled with her lack of personal charisma, disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters who believed their candidate had had the Democratic nomination stolen from him, and perceived status as a Beltway insider. Meanwhile, Donald Trump chose as his running mate Indiana governor Mike Pence. Pence, a staunch conservative Christian, was seen as a way of winning over heartland conservatives, many of whom were Ted Cruz supporters wary of Trump's attitude on social issues. Clinton chose as her running mate former Virginia governor Tim Kaine.
During the general election, controversies over remarks Donald Trump had made over the years seen as demeaning to women came up, including a beauty pageant he had been a judge on in the 1990s where he had criticized the appearance of a contestant, as well as a leaked 2005 audio tape in which he talks about using his celebrity status to, as characterized by his opponents, sexually assault women. However, these accusations did not stick very long while Hillary Clinton continued to be embroiled in serious controversies, the biggest being the revelation that she had compromised classified documents as Secretary of State by storing them on her unsecured private email account. Her alleged negligence in the deaths of several US ambassadors in the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks also became a major GOP attack line.
Although Donald Trump continued to attract huge crowds at campaign rallies with his Reagan-like message, Hillary Clinton commanded more than twice the campaign funds as well as near-unanimous support from major media outlets and the entertainment industry. All four living former US presidents endorsed her campaign as well.
On Election Day, November 8, Trump carried 306 electoral votes against Clinton's 232. He made considerable inroads into the old Rust Belt, carrying states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that had been safe Democratic territory since the 1980s. The GOP also established a large majority in the House of Representatives and a small majority in the Senate, and combining state and local elections, the Democratic Party overall experienced a defeat on an unprecedented scale, being reduced to their weakest strength since the 1920s. Ultimately, Hillary Clinton's electoral defeat was attributed to her lack of personal charisma, an appealing, marketable message outside of liberal Democratic strongholds, and numerous controversies, as well as being seen as an "insider" in an election that saw a general rejection of incumbent candidates.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump took the oath of office as the 45th US president in the face of large scale demonstrations from liberal-aligned protesters. On his first day in office, he undertook a series of executive orders aimed at dismantling the unpopular Affordable Care Act and Trans-Pacific Partnership, and also moved to pass a temporary ban on refugees from several unstable, war-wracked Middle Eastern states. This action met with considerable criticism from liberal and Islamic groups, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed it as unconstitutional. Trump also promised repeal of excessive Federal regulations seen as harmful to economic growth, and increased defense spending and modernization of aging military hardware.
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