2001: Terrorists attack World Trade Center, Pentagon
Democrats and Republicans came together to try to reassure the country after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the Democrat from South Dakota, called the attacks “an assault on our people and on our freedom.” A fourth plane, which went down in Pennsylvania, appears to have been headed for the White House or the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
[Pictured: From left, Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Trent Lott, Speaker Dennis Hastert, Rep. Dave Bonior, and Rep. Dick Gephardt, appear with members of the House and Senate on the East Front Steps of the Capitol on Sept. 11.]
2002: Carter receives peace prize
Former President Jimmy Carter, who in his retirement established the Carter Center, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was honored “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
2003: Blagojevich becomes Illinois governor
Rod Blagojevich took office as governor of Illinois, but later was accused of trying to trade or sell the U.S. Senate seat left open by Barack Obama’s election to the White House in 2008. After impeachment and trials, the former governor was sent to a federal prison in 2012 to serve a 14-year sentence, but in 2020 that sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump. Blagojevich continued to insist that he had not broken the law.
[Pictured: Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to members of the Illinois delegation for the Democratic National Convention during a meeting on July 26, 2004, in Boston.]
2004: Kerry loses presidential bid
Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election to incumbent Republican President George W. Bush, who gained a victory of 58.6 million votes to win re-election. Democrats also lost seats in the House and in the Senate. Among those defeated was the Senate majority leader, Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Kerry had threatened to contest votes in Ohio, but did not.
[Pictured: Sen. John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a rally at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania on Sept. 10, 2004.]
2005: Democrats challenge Ohio’s votes
A group of Democrats in Congress challenged Ohio’s 20 electoral votes when Congress met to certify the 2004 presidential election results. They said they did not expect to overturn the election, but to draw attention to voting problems in the state and the need to correct them.
2006: Democrats win back Congress
Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the midterm elections, for the first time in about 12 years. The president and top Democrats pledged to cooperate despite differences. “But we do agree that we love America equally, that we’re concerned about the future of this country, and that we will do our very best to address big problems,” Bush said.
[Pictured: From left, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, Speaker of the House-elect Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader-elect Steny Hoyer raise their hands in victory after the Democratic Caucus elections on Capitol Hill on Nov. 16, 2006, in Washington.]
2007: Virginia Tech massacre spurs call for gun control
Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech University, killed himself and 32 other students, in the deadliest mass shooting on a college campus, which sparked renewed calls for gun control. Although Democrats controlled Congress, positions for and against gun control fell on regional lines. Virginia finally got new laws at the state level in 2020, including ones that expand background checks and limit handgun purchases.
[Pictured: President George W. Bush makes a statement on the Virginia Tech University shootings on April 16, 2007, at the White House.]
2008: Obama elected president
The country elected its first Black president with the victory of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois over Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Obama ran on a message of hope in America. He was met with a “birther” campaign that disputed his birthplace in Hawaii and questions about whether he was a Muslim like his father. His administration immediately had to deal with a country in the worst recession since the Great Depression.
[Pictured: President-elect Barack Obama stands on stage along with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha during an election night gathering in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008, in Chicago.]
2009: Obama wins peace prize
President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize his first year in office. The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The committee noted his vision for a world without nuclear weapons and attention to the problems of climate change.
[Pictured: President Barack Obama poses with his diploma and medal next to the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, during the prize award ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo on Dec. 10, 2009.]
2010: Affordable health care becomes law
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Democrats’ signature health reform, was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March. ACA, as it is known, offers health insurance to millions of Americans who previously lacked it. It protects Americans who have pre-existing health conditions, requires insurers to offer coverage to those under 26 on their parents’ policies, and forbids lifetime caps on benefits. Republican efforts to rescind it have failed.