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These were our 10 most popular posts of 2020

Readers were very interested in elections, successions, and a virus we hadn’t heard of just a year ago.

- December 31, 2020

At long last, 2020 is crawling to an end. TMC presents an annual tradition: our 10 most popular posts of the year. This turbulent year, you, dear readers, were especially interested in upheaval, elections and the political effects of a pandemic that shook up everything.

10. The Floyd protests are the broadest in U.S. history — and are spreading to White, small-town America

Six months ago, after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, the nation erupted into its largest and most widespread protest movement ever. Lara Putnam, Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman showed us the scope of this social uprising, explaining, “The United States rarely has protests in this combination of size, intensity and frequency; it usually has big protests or sustained protests, but not both.” And they explained how the summer of Black Lives Matter will likely affect politics for generations.

9. Kuwait’s leader has died. The royals are now fighting over who will be crown prince.

Kuwait’s succession battle includes feuding princes, tremendous wealth, vast oil reserves, a disgruntled citizenry and volatility in the Middle East. No wonder so many people were interested in Sean Yom’s explainer about Kuwait’s political crisis and its potential consequences for the gulf.

8. Here’s the problem with mail-in ballots: They might not be counted.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a highly significant and hotly contested presidential election coincided with the deadliest and most contagious virus in a century. How were Americans to vote safely? In a post that kept drawing readers from its publication in May until the election, Enrijeta Shino, Mara Suttmann-Lea and Daniel A. Smith explained that while voting by mail might be safer for Americans’ health, such ballots were more likely to get lost or be rejected — especially for younger, minority and first-time voters.

7. Wuhan officials tried to cover up the coronavirus — and sent it careening outward.

In early March, when many Americans still imagined the United States could escape being hit hard by the coronavirus, many readers focused on whether China might have kept the virus contained. Dali L. Yang detailed the four early political stumbles that made that impossible to keep the virus within Wuhan.

6. Ireland and Britain aren’t part of Trump’s coronavirus travel ban. This is why.

In that same week, national leaders were shutting their countries’ doors to incoming travelers, hoping to keep the infection out. As part of that, President Trump banned Europeans — but not people from the United Kingdom — from the United States. TMC editor in chief Henry Farrell explained why that wasn’t as arbitrary as it seemed, outlining the politics of the “Schengen Area” and the idea of free travel within the European Union.

5. Here’s what Pelosi could do if Republicans tried to manipulate the presidential election’s outcome

By August, Trump was steadily (and with no evidence) predicting “massive voter fraud” during the November election. Many observers were concerned that Republicans might try to override a potential Biden win through “democratic hardball” moves. Daniel Carpenter examined some possible scenarios, and suggested how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could respond, in a piece that attracted readers steadily until after the election.

4. Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. Our research found no reason to suspect fraud.

After then-President Evo Morales declared victory in his fourth election in October 2019, despite a two-term constitutional limit, the opposition cried fraud. Massive protests erupted. An Organization of American States (OAS) report found irregularities and questioned the result. The military installed a new government, and Morales fled to Mexico. John Curiel and Jack R. Williams examined the OAS audit and found problems in its statistical analysis. Their post sparked heated discussion.

3. China is reporting big successes in the coronavirus fight. Should we trust the numbers?

By late March, when Americans were still focused on the pandemic elsewhere, China was reporting that it had slowed the virus’s spread. Jeremy Wallace explained the various reasons to be skeptical, including Chinese officials’ incentives to downplay the virus.

2. This is what was so unusual about the U.S. Navy making Captain Brett Crozier step down.

But Chinese officials weren’t the only ones trying to minimize the virus. By April, passengers on large ship were getting sick in vast numbers. When three covid-19 cases on his aircraft carrier swiftly became 100, Capt. Brett Crozier wrote asking his Navy superiors to evacuate and quarantine the sailors. The Navy relieved him of command, which Lindsay Cohn, Alice Friend and Jim Golby explained revealed a captain’s conflicting loyalties — and suggested conflict in the Navy’s upper echelons.

1. What happens if a U.S. presidential candidate withdraws or dies before the election is over?

But by far our biggest hit of the year was TMC editor Joshua Tucker’s interview with Richard Pildes explaining what would happen if either Trump or Biden were to die during the campaign. With two candidates in their 70s campaigning during a lethal pandemic, readers found this post every day, all summer and fall. When Trump was hospitalized with the virus, readership went through the roof.

May 2021 be a better year! Whatever gets tossed our way, TMC looks forward to answering your burning political questions all year long.