What to look for in 2016

By Dan Cooney

2015 is in the books and 2016 promises to be another eventful year in current events. What’s in store this year? Here are some of the stories to look out for in 2016:

Presidential election

In case you haven’t been reading the newspaper or watching TV lately, remember that Americans vote for their next leader in November. The run for the White House has been eventful thus far. Businessman Donald Trump, a newcomer to politics, has dominated the conversation in a crowded Republican field with a promise to “make America great again.” Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and other candidates seen as part of the Republican establishment struggled this year to get significant airtime or traction in early polls. They’re now attacking each other in an attempt to reduce the field. Once people start voting, will the script flip? Next month, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will help determine the course of the election.

Trump’s entrance to the GOP race leaves many wondering about the possibility of a brokered convention this July in Cleveland. Several party power brokers considered that scenario recently, which makes it something to watch for this year.

On the Democratic side, early polling indicates Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination in Philadelphia this July. But with the rise of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” Clinton faces a challenge of winning over liberal Democrats while not losing moderates. She also faces questions of trustworthiness, partly due to the private email account and server she maintained while serving as secretary of state. Will those questions get answered in 2016?

How the presidential election shakes out may determine how several key Senate races are decided. Elections in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Nevada, Illinois and New Hampshire (to name a few) will determine whether the Senate stays in Republican hands or flips to the Democrats.

The ISIS threat

Iraqi troops ended 2015 on a high note, freeing the city of Ramadi from the control of the Islamic State terrorist group. The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, created chaos throughout the world in the past year through their online propaganda and capture of territory in the Middle East. ISIS-inspired terrorists and sympathizers made headlines with attacks in Paris, California and Lebanon.

While airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition continue to attack ISIS territory, there are many questions about the effectiveness of efforts to fight ISIS. A panel of outside experts recently concluded that the State Department is ill-equipped to credibly counter ISIS’ highly effective online propaganda.

After the attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama – in an address to the nation from the Oval Office – promised a more intense effort in the fight against ISIS. Is the president’s current policy working? Will allies step up their effort in the coalition? We will find out more in the new year.

President Obama’s final year in office

After the 2014 midterm election, President Obama declared he was entering the “fourth quarter” of his presidency. Now that the calendar has turned to 2016, it might be fair to say he and his team are beginning their two-minute drill.

The president announced new proposals Tuesday to tighten gun laws without involvement from Congress. Among the new executive orders: The president plans to close what is commonly referred to as the “gun show loophole,” by requiring more firearms dealers to register with the federal government.

Other topics on the president’s desk include several foreign policy goals, such as implementing the Iranian nuclear deal and brokering a potential South American peace deal between the Colombian government and an insurgent group.

Immigration, migration and refugees

Several issues related to immigration, migration and refugees made headlines in 2015. All three will more than likely play a role in shaping the events of 2016.

In November 2014, President Obama announced executive action on immigration that created a new program to protect the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and expand the program allowing children of undocumented immigrants to defer deportation. Shortly after, twenty-six states, led by Texas, sued the federal government in an attempt to halt the executive actions. Before the end of 2015, a federal court halted the executive action. Now, the big question is whether the Supreme Court will take the case before the end of its term this summer. 

Another kind of immigration debate engulfed the world during 2015. Over a million migrants and refugees – many of them Syrians fleeing from their war-torn country – made their way across Europe. The crisis overwhelmed European governments, some of whom instituted border checks or closed their borders completely. More migrants are expected to make their way to Greece, a key destination for those beginning their trek across Europe, this year.

The entire crisis, coupled with the recent terror attacks at home and abroad, sparked a political firestorm in the United States. While the White House agreed to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, several Democratic senators called on President Obama to take in more. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, many of the nation’s governors vowed to close their state borders to Syrian refugees. Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings.

With the Syrian civil war continuing on for the foreseeable future, how will the world’s leaders address the migrant and refugee crisis moving forward? How will this year’s presidential election affect the conversation? Can a world nation accept refugees and migrants while appropriately keeping its citizens safe from the threat of terror? These questions and others will drive the debate in 2016.