Much to the relief of just about everyone, 2016 is finally — at long last — coming to an end. The year has been marked by moments of madness, despair, grief, and in what may run counter to the prevailing public consciousness, significant moments of hope and joy.
Yet not unlike every year, 2016 has brought us a preponderance of interesting numbers to look at. There were indeed many “firsts” this year, with records broken, memories created, and events that historians will be parsing for generations to come.
Here’s looking back four of the many numbers that will help define 2016 for future generations.
The percentage of votes received by Taiwanese presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen.
Her victory assured her a spot in history, as she became only the 79th women in the world to be elected head-of-state for any country and the first female leader of the embattled nation. Her election also makes Taiwan the 71st country to elect a female head of state in the modern age. There are currently 18 female world leaders holding elected office around the world, including the recently disgraced Park Geun-hye of South Korea.
Taiwan, which is officially known as the Republic of China or Chinese Taipei internationally, has struggled constantly with its own identity. Although the island operates as a sovereign nation, China maintains that is has ownership over the island, in a similar fashion to Hong Kong. Due to the Chinese stance with the country and current agreements with China, the United States has no formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan. Still, the U.S. has explicity agreed to defend Taiwan against any potential Chinese provocation, highlighting the tricky and sometimes contradictory maze of international politics that exist between super powers.
Taiwan’s demands for self-identity were made particularly public twice this year. During the summer Olympics in Rio, many Taiwanese took to Twitter and other social media platforms to argue over the fact that Taiwan was forced to appear as Chinese Taipei. And when President Tsai Ing-wen took to the phone to give U.S. president-elect Donald Trump a phone call, the first time such a call between an American and a Taiwanese president had occurred in over 30 years, many Chinese feathers were ruffled. China filed an official protest with the U.S. immediately following the phone call.
The number of years since the last time an American president (Calvin Coolidge) visited Cuba.
On February 18, President Obama announced the historic visit to Cuba, breaking 88 years of distance between the two countries. When the president made good on his announcement on May 22, this marked the historic moment that many see as beginning a new era with improving relations between the United States and its long-time communist Caribbean neighbor.
The United States has long held a a strong policy against Cuba and its recently-deceased dicator, Fidel Castro. Much of this is related to the island’s role in aiding Russia during the cold war. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the U.S. and Russia closer to the brink of nuclear war, an action that the U.S. has been slow to forgive.
Given the United States’ mostly-expired policy to stamp out communism across the world, Cuba has been a significant sore spot. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro survived more than 600 U.S. assassination attempts, some of which failed by what many might ascribe to pure luck.
Despite the sour relationship, embargos, travel bans and sanctions, some travel and business between Cuba and the United States have been allowed or practiced for decades. Many U.S. politicians and celebrities have used their positions and power to skirt past the boundaries put in place. Notably, rap moguls Beyonce’ and Jay-Z toured the country in 2013, and prior to the signing of the Cuban Embargo, former president John F. Kennedy snagged himself 1,200 Cuban cigars with full knowledge that they’d soon be illegal to purchase in the country.
The number of years it took the Chicago Cubs to break their World Series “curse.”
In what some say is the biggest and most important event in baseball history in a generation, the cubs ended a 108-year-old American tradition after winning the World Series championship for the first time since 1908.
There are many theories on why the Cubs did could not win the World Series for such a long time. The most prevailing, and perhaps most interesting ones, relate to “curses” placed on the team at different points that helped prevent their victory from ever occurring. This includes the theory that a curse was placed on the Cubs after their 1908 victory due to the way they managed to get to the world series. Others believe that a 1945 curse related to an angry bar owner and his goat were the reason for the loss streak.
The Cubs’ eventual victory was predicted several times. In the movie Back to the Future II, their victory was predicted to occur in 2015 (1 year shy of the actual date). And almost mysteriously, one man’s 1993 senior yearbook quote places their victory at 2016 — a prediction that turned out to be true.
The number of votes Hillary Clinton earned over her opponent and presidential election victor Donald Trump.
Much to the frustation of most of her supporters, Hillary Clinton’s vote lead grew ever wider weeks after the November election. This has resulted in many petitions and articles questioning the validity of the American electoral college system. Many others have rallied behind the system, faulting Clinton and the Democratic Party itself for the loss.
In many ways, Clinton’s loss is perhaps more attributable to the increasing political segregation occurring within the United States. While Clinton’s lead in the popular vote appears to indicate a broken election system, it more reveals the fact that more Americans than ever are choosing to live with and around those who share similar political ideologies. More than 12% of Clinton’s votes came from California, showing that the heavily populated state is not only over-represented in terms of the number of voters, but also that its concentration of Democratic voters lowers its overall voting power under an electoral college system. For perspective, if all states were of an equivalent size to California, there would only be around 9 states in the U.S. instead of 50.
Donald Trump is certainly not the first president to win the electoral college yet still lose the presidency. America wrangled with this discrepancy in 2000 when George W. Bush lost the popular vote by a small margin to then Democratic Candidate Al Gore. Prior to 2000, the electoral college had not determined the winner since the late 1800s, when it did so for Harrison in 1888, Hayes in 1876 and Adams in 1824.