2022: The year of elections, Omicron, and a new outlook

Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… This week, we dive into expectations for the new year. 2022 is predicted to be a huge year for politics as Democrats and Republicans work to win majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Uncertainties in the economy and the future of the pandemic are creating even more concerns for the American public. Plus—with one year having passed since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, America is reflecting on the state of our nation. Read about these stories and more in the first 2022 edition of The Weekender. As always, thanks for joining us.

THE BIG FIVE

2022: A year of elections, inflation, and uncertainty

After a politically charged 2021, America is expected to see another heated and competitive election year in 2022. Last year brought a new wave of political turmoil, redistricting, and further division, creating increased partisan pressure to win this election cycle. The midterm elections will indicate the strength of Democrats under U.S. President Joe Biden and the legacy of former President Donald Trump. Vox predicts that there is a 95% chance that Democrats will lose their Congressional majority. However, Republicans shouldn’t celebrate a red wave too quickly. The Washington Post reports that the battle for the majority within the U.S. Senate will be a challenge for both parties. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Americans have major concerns regarding both inflation and the health of the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, as omicron continues to spread at record rates, labor shortages are becoming tighter. These concerns will follow Americans into the voting booth. While the Biden administration is working to turn the pandemic and its impact, Democrats may pay the price for voter frustrations come November. 2022 will be a jam-packed year of political uncertainties, and we’ll be here to dissect it all.  Read more in Vox.

Will corporate America see a cultural shift?

Conversations about the future of work dominated the corporate space in 2021. Specific discussions regarding mental health, diversity, equity, and inclusion indicate a major cultural shift in the workplace. Much in the workplace has shifted in some way due to the pandemic. Last year, in-person events made a return, but virtual events remained in use and were smoother than the year before. The integration of in-person and digital work indicates a hybrid collaboration increasing among coworkers to create a new norm that replaces the typical corporate 9-to-5. Fortune Magazine reports that nearly 40% of employers expanded their mental health benefits during the pandemic, noting that 31% of employers expanded how workers can get access to mental health and substance abuse programs, such as through telemedicine. In addition, diversity, equity and inclusion education efforts have become a critical part of the corporate culture. Major changes to corporate norms began during the pandemic and will not stop any time soon. Read more in Forbes

Omicron: Why it feels like we are reliving 2020

With hospitals hitting capacity, soaring COVID-19 cases, and the never-ending mask debate, 2022 has started feeling like 2020, too. Monday, January 3rd, the U.S. reported more than 1 million COVID-19 cases. The statistic is one of the largest any nation has seen in a single day. Experts indicate that the numbers are from an increase in tests from the holiday and the weekend. The highly transmissible omicron variant has led to classroom concerns among parents, students, and officials. This week, school systems across the nation extended holiday breaks or have chosen to opt back into virtual instruction due to the new variant. From San Diego to Austin, various university administrators are asking faculty to return to remote instruction. However, in-person instruction remains in some COVID-19 hotspots, such as New York City. While omicron is known to infect both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, the heated discussion around vaccine mandates continue. A recent Axios-Ipsos poll found that 54% of respondents think that employers should require workers to be vaccinated; however, that total hides a sharp partisan divide with 78% of Democrats in favor with only 30% of Republicans agreeing. With much of the vaccine mandate discussion taking place in state legislatures – 30 of 50 of which are controlled by Republicans – divisions on the best approach will remain. One thing is for certain: you can always catch up on the latest pandemic updates in The Weekender. Read more in AP News

Reflecting on a year since the attack on the U.S. Capitol  

This week marks the anniversary of the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol. A year ago, Congress was forced to stop the count of the 2020 Electoral College votes as a mob made its way into the nation’s Capitol building. The news came as a shock to elected officials, their staff, and the nation at large. While the day will live on as a dark moment in our history, the event’s repercussions are still unfolding. Since that day, more than 700 people have been charged with crimes tied to the attack. While participants are facing charges, it is still unclear how much responsibility for the events of January 6th is held by former President Trump. The riot is still being investigated by a select U.S. House committee. Fox News reports that three Republican leaders (Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Representatives Jim Jordan and Scott Perry) refused to comment on the anniversary of the attack. On Thursday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took to the U.S. Capitol building to speak on the “historical significance” of the events that took place a year ago. President Biden spoke to a nation healing from a jarring event with lasting consequences. Have the events of January 6, 2021, affected people’s views of Donald Trump? A 2021 Wall Street Journal poll shows that 81% of Republicans had a favorable view of former President Donald Trump, and 57% of those respondents believe that the election was stolen through “widespread election fraud.” It remains to be seen if the continuing investigation uncovers anything that will change his popularity with the GOP base. Read more in CBS News. 

Guilty girls: The early 2022 convictions of Elizabeth Holmes and Ghislaine Maxwell

From the nation’s first female vice president to a record number of women holding elected office, the spotlight was dominated by women last year. However, early into the new year, the heat is on for both Elizabeth Holmes and Ghislaine Maxwell, the former businesswomen and socialites. Maxwell was found guilty on five counts of sex trafficking in early 2022. She was known for her close relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein. Maxwell’s connections with celebrities have led to other suspicions about the involvement of other high-profile individuals in criminal affairs. Speaking of high-profile and wealthy criminals, former CEO Elizabeth Holmes was also found guilty of four counts of fraud earlier this week after her company, Theranos, was investigated. She was known as one of the youngest and wealthiest female self-made billionaires in Silicon Valley. High-profile women charged with high-profile crimes are not necessarily an anomaly, but they are a lot less common. Perhaps the rise in “guilty girls” stems from recent antiheroine movies? Harpers Bazaar takes a deeper look. Read more in the Washington Post.

INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

Russia’s international relations: Nuclear weapons and political instability

Tensions among the United States, China, Britain, France, and Russia are only growing. As the fragile future of nuclear conflict comes to the forefront, these five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council consider preventive measures for nuclear conflict a primary responsibility. This prioritization comes after the United States reached a relatively low point in relations with both Russia and China. Tensions are partly due to Russia’s political involvement in Ukraine and the increased suspicion from the U.S. regarding China’s recent expansion of nuclear weapons. While the diplomats from each nation are playing nice, heads of state are not following suit. Reuters reports that U.S. President Joe Biden has communicated the risk of sanctions and increased troop numbers in Europe to Russian President Vladimir Putin if Russia continues to impede on Ukraine’s domestic affairs – or worse. On Thursday, Russian-led troops entered Kazakhstan after days of violent protests. The U.S. and the European Union have since condemned the violence and called for restraint from all parties. NPR reports that Russia’s involvement comes from the request of Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The conflict adds tension to Russia’s relations with the United States and European Union. Read more in Reuters. 

DATA POINTS

450,000: The number of children who moved back to remote learning this week following the holiday as outbreaks of the Omicron variant are blazing through the United States.
 

797: The number of recorded homicides in Chicago in 2021; 25 more than were recorded in 2020, 299 more than in 2019, and the most since 1996. Cities across the country are reporting record highs of homicides, the majority are gun deaths.

10 degrees: The temperature the Packers and the Vikings played in at Lambeau Field in Green Bay last Sunday. With a wind chill at 1 degree, it was the season’s coldest NFL game.

$210 billion: The amount of revenue the chip shortage is estimated to have cost the auto industry in 2021 leaving some companies to shift to an order-based system like they use in Europe.

3%: The amount of U.S. adults who identify as Hispanic or Latino who use the term “Latinx” to describe themselves. In recent months, the Latino community has begun encouraging the disuse of the gender-neutral term.

28: The number of days until the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 Opening Ceremony. The Games kick off with curling, held in Beijing’s National Aquatics Center known as the Ice Cube.

-65%: The percentage change in social media interactions with news articles from 2020 to 2021. There is an ongoing decline in interest in news about COVID-19 and politics, leading experts to predict that 2022 likely won’t trend positive.

4.5 million: The number of workers who quit their jobs in November 2021 with the most coming from the accommodation and food services industry. These numbers are the latest sign that the job market is red hot for workers, particularly in lower-wage industries.

23 years: The duration of time BlackBerry has been putting phones on the market. The cellphone-turned-status symbol will no longer be in use as of Tuesday; a casualty of the rise of the touch screen.

FEATURED TWEET

Credit: Josh Kraushaar on Twitter.  

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