US winners and losers in 2022

Another eventful year comes to a dramatic close in America

President Joe Biden celebrates signing the Respect for Marriage Act,, a landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage. Reuters
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With 2022 quickly drawing to a close, The National's Washington bureau takes a look back at an unscientific selection of some of the biggest winners and losers from this year's US headlines.

Winner: Ron DeSantis

The man who in 2018 ran a campaign advertisement pledging fealty to Donald Trump as a “pitbull Trump defender” found his own teeth in 2022 and appears well positioned for a presidential run in 2024, as the political star dims for his one-time role model.

Mr DeSantis, 44, won his re-election to the Florida governorship in a landslide, securing 59.4 per cent of the vote compared to 40 per cent for his Democratic challenger.

It was one of the few examples of the much-predicted Republican “red wave” materialising.

The conservative US press soon feted Florida’s leader as the future of the Republican Party, much to the fury of former president Trump.

Loser: Donald Trump

The former president and his hardcore followers were thrust into the spotlight this year as a special House of Representatives committee investigated the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

Calling events of that day a brazen coup attempt, the panel wasted no time in highlighting Mr Trump’s pivotal role in the lead-up to the riots and on the day itself, when he waited hours before telling his rampaging supporters to “Go home, we love you.”

The panel has recommended four criminal charges against Mr Trump and other investigators have opened several cases that could derail his hopes to become the Republican nominee for president in 2024.

Former president Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on November 15. AP

Surprise winner: Joe Biden

To steal a phrase from Mr Trump, President Joe Biden was a “winner” in 2022. The Democratic leader turned 80, becoming the first octogenarian to sit behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.

Despite battling low approval ratings all year, he pushed through much of his legislative agenda including the Inflation Reduction Act that aims to tackle climate change and reduce the country’s deficit.

On top of that, his Democratic colleagues performed surprisingly well in November’s midterm elections.

The Democrats gained a seat in the Senate and only narrowly lost control of Congress, meaning the President will have a better chance to continue carrying out his agenda in the last two years of his term than many expected.

Courtroom loser: Amber Heard

Aquaman actress Amber Heard’s court battle with former husband Johnny Depp captivated millions around the world, but the trial left him feeling vindicated.

The six-week trial showed two celebrities at their worst, but it was Depp who emerged the victor.

A Virginia jury ordered Heard to pay him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages — the punitive amount was knocked down to $350,000 — after a defamation case the Pirates of the Caribbean star brought against her.

Supporters saw her defeat as a setback for the #MeToo movement. Heard settled with Depp this week.

Depp v Heard, closing arguments - in pictures

Loser: Kanye West

Has any celebrity's star diminished this year quite like that of Kanye West, now known as Ye?

The US rapper finalised his separation from Kim Kardashian after the reality-TV star filed for divorce last year, claiming irreconcilable differences.

Ye’s downward spiral lasted for much of the past six months as he made anti-Semitic remarks on social media and elsewhere, resulting in him losing his social media accounts and coveted business partnerships.

Such is the antipathy towards Ye that even his appearance with Mr Trump (along with a Holocaust denier) at Mar-A-Lago resulted in Republicans calling on the former president to denounce the meeting.

Multibillion-dollar loser: Elon Musk

Where once the Tesla co-founder could do no wrong in the eyes of investors, the opposite seemed to be true in 2022.

At the start of the year, Tesla stock was at $400. Less than 12 months later, that value has plummeted about 65 per cent to $137 and there is no end in sight for the sell-off.

The reason in one word? Twitter.

At $44 billion, Mr Musk paid far more for the social media company than analysts said it was worth. He tried to renege on the deal but paid up as the matter was being litigated.

Ever since, he has tweeted insights into his combative management style and whimsical decision making, and pushed right-wing political views that alienated the liberal customers whose former loyalty saw him rise to become the world’s richest man, a crown he no longer holds.

Elon Musk over the years - in pictures

Loser: Cryptocurrency

With glitzy advertisements dancing across hundreds of millions of screens around the US during Super Bowl LVI in February, the cryptocurrency craze appeared unstoppable.

Instead, Bitcoin is set to close the year with its value down 64 per cent after peaking at $64,000 in 2021. Ethereum experienced a similar tumble at more than 68 per cent of value lost.

Perhaps nothing signifies cryptocurrency's turbulent year like the arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried and collapse of FTX, a crypto company he founded.

And now US politicians have cryptocurrency in their sights. After Mr Bankman-Fried’s arrest, some Congress members are calling for digital currencies to be supervised.

Cryptocurrencies - in pictures

Winner for now: US democracy

At critical midterm elections in November, Republicans narrowly took back control of the House, but the party underperformed on expectations of a “red wave.”

Along the campaign trail, Mr Trump and other Republicans pushed baseless 2020 election fraud conspiracies and supported election-denying candidates, leading to a perception that anti-democracy attitudes were a strong force in the Republican Party.

But voters largely rejected Trump-affiliated candidates.

“Threats to democracy also operate outside of the electoral system or election cycle,” Amanda Klasing, director of the US democracy initiative for Human Rights Watch, told The National.

"But a big takeaway from the midterms is that, despite unprecedented threats against election workers in the past two years, elections were administered freely and fairly, and the election results widely accepted."

Loser: Women’s rights

The conservative-majority Supreme Court in June overturned the federal right to an abortion, ending a half-century of legal protection for the procedure.

This turned abortion protection over to the US states. Some had “trigger-laws” in place that almost immediately banned all abortion access.

Almost half of the states are likely to enact new laws as restrictive as possible or seek to enforce current, unconstitutional laws prohibiting abortion.

“We are seeing states divide into abortion deserts, where it is illegal to access care, and abortion havens, where care continues to be available,” said the US-based Centre for Reproductive Rights, which tracks reproductive health access across the US and abroad.

Millions of women no longer have the right to an abortion, mainly in the country’s southern and mid-western regions, and are forced to travel for legal care.

But there were some state-level moves to protect access to abortion.

In August, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have said there was no right to the procedure.

Winner: Ketanji Brown Jackson

American history was made this year when Ketanji Brown Jackson took her place as the first black woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.

Ms Jackson, 52, was nominated by Mr Biden in February and subsequently confirmed by the Senate. Her confirmation fulfilled a campaign promise made by Mr Biden to appoint a black woman to the nation's top court.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stands for a photo in front of the Supreme Court following her investiture ceremony on September 30, 2022 in Washington. Getty Images / AFP
Updated: December 21, 2022, 4:00 AM