Divided Nation: 1992–2016



The era of Republican presidents ended in 1992 with the election of Bill Clinton. In cooperation with Congress, President Clinton's administration turned around a flagging economy and began addressing environmental concerns and social issues, such as gays in the military. However, Clinton's successors in the White House were unable to achieve the same level of interparty cooperation, and growing partisan politics in Washington, DC, resulted in frequent legislative gridlock. American citizens and their political representative were briefly united following the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil on September 11, 2001. This unity deteriorated as partisan politics reemerged and the United States became embroiled in two wars in the Middle East. Despite numerous successes shared as a nation, including the election of the first African American president, the United States remains divided along political, social, and economic lines.

At A Glance

  • In 1992 "New Democrat" Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush, the incumbent Republican president, on a platform of economic growth and social reform.
  • President Clinton's two terms in office were plagued by scandal, tying up his second term in a political struggle for survival that ended with impeachment in December 1998.
  • The most serious scandal to face the Clinton White House led to the second impeachment of a president in U.S. Senate history.
  • Numerous severe weather events during Clinton's presidency emphasized the need for environmental protection policies to reduce the potential threat of climate change.
  • In response to superstorms, floods, severe heat waves, and other climatic disasters, President Clinton and Vice President Gore encouraged innovation and green technologies.
  • The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy ended the military's explicit ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces, but it required gay service members to keep their sexual orientation a secret.
  • The repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in September 2011 paved the way for later changes in the status and rights of gay and lesbian couples.
  • Despite some negative side effects, international free trade agreements such as NAFTA generally boosted the American economy and decreased unemployment levels in the 1990s.
  • In 2000 George W. Bush was elected the 43rd president of the United States though challenged by five weeks of recounts and court petitions on behalf of his opponent Al Gore.
  • Partisan politics during George W. Bush's presidency reset the tone in the nation's capital, ultimately dividing not only Washington, DC, but the country as well.
  • The explosion of media channels in the early 2000s reinforced political divisions across the United States.
  • The American prosperity of the mid-to-late 1990s was marred by several terrorist attacks at home and abroad that targeted civilians and military personnel and were a prelude to September 11, 2001.
  • On September 11, 2001, four coordinated al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania changed life in America forever.
  • A rash of illnesses and five deaths caused by anthrax pushed an already tense nation into feverish panic in the weeks following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
  • On October 7, 2001, in response to the events of September 11, U.S. armed forces invaded Afghanistan, home to the al-Qaeda–harboring Taliban.
  • Two major steps taken to combat radical Islamic terrorism were the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act and the 2002 creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • On March 20, 2003, the United States led a coalition of allied forces into war with Iraq with the goal of disarming Iraq of its presumed chemical weapons and overthrowing its government.
  • After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, public support for a U.S. presence in Iraq dwindled.
  • A housing crisis caused by poor lending practices and a swell of unqualified buyers triggered the Great Recession of 2007–09.
  • The Great Recession caused a dramatic increase in the number of homeless families in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the nation.
  • During the Great Recession, more and more homeless were families, many of whom had once belonged to the middle class.
  • On January 20, 2009, Barack H. Obama, the first African American president, was inaugurated to the first of his two terms in the oval office.
  • In 2010 Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, and Barack Obama's promises of fundamental social change were hindered by congressional partisan politics.
  • The Affordable Care Act sparked an immediate backlash and solidified opposition elements, especially within the Republican Party, which became divided between centrists and the growing conservative wing.
  • In the contentious run-up to the 2016 presidential election, candidates Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican) fought hard to earn the trust of the American people.