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US political history from the year you were born

  • 2001: Terrorists attack the U.S.

    On the morning of Sept. 11, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four U.S. airliners. They crashed one plane into each of Manhattan’s World Trade Center towers; one plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; and crashed another into the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to divert the plane from an unknown target, which was believed to be a government building in Washington D.C. The attack killed 2,977 people between the ages of 2 and 85. It was the worst domestic terrorist event in U.S. history since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

  • 2002: Homeland Security Act is enacted

    After 9/11 shook the country, President George W. Bush and Congress authorized the Homeland Security Act, which was the largest reorganization of federal security measures since the Department of Defense’s creation in 1947. The legislation made large changes to security measures.

  • 2003: The U.S. invades Iraq

    The United States invaded Iraq in hopes of destroying the country’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. With the help of allied forces like Britain, the country began the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign, but the weapons weren’t found.

  • 2004: Massachusetts legalizes same-sex marriage

    The landmark legalization of same-sex marriage came in May, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected the heterosexual-only restriction within the state’s marriage law. At the time, both presidential candidates—incumbent George Bush and John Kerry—opposed same-sex marriage, although Kerry said that he supported same-sex civil unions.

  • 2005: Hurricanes devastate the southern coastlines

    The year was marked by a number of devastating hurricanes on America’s southern coastlines, particularly Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 Americans and became the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Within four days of Katrina hitting, President George W. Bush signed a $10.4 billion aid package, and sent 7,200 National Guard troops to help victims.

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  • 2006: Democrats retake both houses of Congress

    The Democratic party achieved its biggest gains within the House of Representatives and Senate since the Watergate years, ending a 12-year Republican majority in the House. Many Democrats based their campaigns on the low public opinion of the Bush administration at the time, as well as Republican-majority Congress scandals.

  • 2007: First female becomes Speaker of the House

    Before becoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi had served as minority leader in the House since 2003. She later lost her speakership in 2011, but regained it in 2019 after Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives.

  • 2008: First African American is elected president

    The first African American to be elected president, Barack Obama defeated Republican Senator John McCain and was the third sitting U.S. Senator to be elected president. Until 2020, he held the record for the most votes received by a presidential candidate, amassing 69.5 million votes.

  • 2009: Multi-billion dollar stimulus package is approved

    During the recession, President Barack Obama received House approval for a $787 billion stimulus package in hopes of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs and helping the country’s struggling economy. It went on to win Senate approval by a vote of 60-38, with near-unanimous Republican opposition.

  • 2010: Republicans retake the House

    Although Republicans only needed to take 39 Democratic seats to regain the House, they ended up winning more than 60 seats. The party largely centered their campaigns in opposition to President Obama’s policies, from Wall Street regulation to his stimulus plan.

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