Here are 5 events that made 2020 one of the most chaotic years in modern US history

2020 will go down in history as one of the most chaotic, disturbing years in United States history. The Trump era in general has been tumultuous; President Donald Trump thrives on chaos, and he was facing two articles of impeachment — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — when 2020 started. But Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, which ended when he was acquitted on both articles, accounted for only a small fraction of the chaos of 2020.

Here are five of the things that made 2020 so chaotic.

1. The COVID-19 pandemic

Trump's impeachment was a major story in January and early February 2020. On December 18, 2019, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives indicted Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with the Ukraine scandal. House Democrats argued that Trump needed to be removed from office for trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and making military aid to Ukraine a condition of such an investigation, and the two articles were submitted to the U.S. Senate on January 16. Senate Republicans acquitted Trump on both articles on February 5.

During Trump's impeachment trial, a novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was proving to be highly infectious in Mainland China — and after COVID-19 made its way to the U.S., Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world, it turned out to be the deadliest health crisis since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919. COVID-19 was first reported in Mainland China in December 2019, and no one in the U.S. had died from COVID-19 when 2020 started. But as of December 29, COVID-19 has killed more than 335,000 people in the U.S. (according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore) and over 1.7 million people worldwide.

The U.S. became the COVID-19 epicenter of the world thanks, in part, to Trump's mishandling of the crisis. Trump repeatedly downplayed the severity of COVID-19, discouraging social distancing measures and claiming that Democrats were exaggerating the crisis to hurt Republicans. And Trump was hardly the only Republican to make that claim. Countless other Republicans and coronavirus deniers politicized the pandemic and fought social distancing. GOP governors who promoted social distancing, including Maryland's Larry Hogan and Ohio's Mike DeWine, were slammed as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) by far-right Trump supporters.

2. The Killing of George Floyd

Police overreach, the Prison Industrial Complex and the militarization of police existed in the U.S. long before the brutal killing of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers on May 25. But the horrific way in which Floyd died was the straw that broke the camel's back, resulting in huge demonstrations not only all over the U.S., but all over the world. The demonstrations in the U.S. were mostly peaceful, but even if the vast majority of protestors at a demonstration are nonviolent, a minority of violent agitators can cause all hell to break loose. And the U.S. was rocked by severe unrest during the summer of 2020, from Seattle and Portland to Philadelphia to Atlanta. Philly suffered considerable looting in June only to suffer more looting in late October following the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.

3. Far-right violence and white nationalist terrorism

During the Summer of 2020, the U.S. suffered the worst social unrest it had seen since the chaotic Summer of 1968 — and adding to the tensions were far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois. The Proud Boys went out of their way to provoke and clash with Antifa demonstrators at protests all over the U.S., and the threat of violence from the far right was a never-ending concern. Far-right groups were not only angry because of the "Justice for George Floyd" and Black Lives Matter protests, but also, because of the social distancing measures enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the targets of white nationalists and militia members was Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the target of a kidnapping plot. Extremists, according to the FBI, planned to kidnap Whitmer, subject her to a fake "trial" and execute her if found guilty. As extremists and coronavirus deniers saw it, Whitmer was violating their civil liberties by imposing social distancing restrictions in her state — never mind the fact that COVID-19 had killed tens of thousands of people.

2020 was also a year in which the QAnon cult continued to make its presence felt. QAnon, which the FBI has identified as a source of potential violence, believes that the U.S. government has been infiltrated by an international cabal of pedophiles, child sex traffickers, Satanists and cannibals and that Trump was placed in the White House to fight the cabal. As wacky as QAnon's beliefs are, QAnon supporters are quite serious — and it wasn't hard to find them at Trump rallies this year.

Between the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, QAnon and militia members, the extremism of the far right was alive and well in 2020.

4. The 2020 presidential election and its chaotic aftermath

2020 saw the most intense presidential election since 1968, and Trump's inflammatory "law and order" rhetoric often recalled the divisive campaigns of Richard Nixon and segregationist George Wallace in 1968. But in many respects, Trump was much worse than Nixon in 1968 — angrier, more inflammatory, more likely to incite violence. And Trump's rhetoric was much more over-the-top than what Nixon had to say 52 years ago. Trump went beyond claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was wrong on the issues — he tried to paint Biden as a "socialist" who, if elected, would destroy American as we knew it. Of course, Biden has a very centrist record; it would be a stretch to call Biden a liberal or a progressive, let alone a socialist. But that didn't prevent Trump from doing everything he could to inflame his MAGA base in 2020. It's no wonder that violence was feared on Election Day.

Regardless, Biden was victorious, winning 306 electoral votes and defeating Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote. But Trump has yet to concede defeat, repeatedly making debunked voter fraud claims and trying to overturn the election results. Some pro-Trump extremists, including attorney Lin Wood, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, have gone all-out authoritarian and urged Trump to declare martial law.

5. A brutal recession

As if the deadliest health crisis in over 100 years, civil unrest, white supremacist and white nationalist terrorism and an exhausting presidential race weren't enough, the U.S. has suffered a painful recession because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When going out in public became potentially fatal, millions of Americans limited their activity away from home — and that meant that millions of bartenders, waiters, restaurant owners, hair stylists, caterers and others suffered a dramatic drop in income. And as economist and liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has stressed, those unemployed Americans and struggling business owners haven't had nearly as much help from the federal government as they should be receiving.

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