Was 2004 the worst year in the history of the United States? Unlikely. All the years of slavery go into the Worst Year Hall of Fame, and there were some pretty bad years during the Civil War.
What about the worst year in the last 100? 1963 and 1968 were bad, as were all the late years of the Vietnam War. The difference was that there was hope in all those years, and at least the illusion that, despite everything, the United States was still a democracy with a government that believed that public policy could improve the lives of its citizens. The year 2004 saw the second crooked Presidential election in a row, with the degree - tens of thousands of recorded incidents - and systematic nature - by computers which intentionally lack evidence which could be used to judge the fairness of the voting - of the fraud unprecedented in American, and probably world, history. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that it has become fashionable, even amongst those who call themselves liberals, not to complain, and even to belittle those people who are concerned by calling them conspiracy theorists. If it wasn't for the yeoman work of John Conyers, this whole sordid incident would have been swept under the rug (I wonder if there is a racial aspect to the attitude of white liberals). The Republicans are now so expert in perpetrating this kind of massive fraud, and there is so little opposition to it, that it is probably fair to say that democracy in the United States has been permanently destroyed in the year 2004.
Oh, and what about the war? In the late years of the Vietnam War, if you can believe it, there were actually large protests against the war. That sort of thing is unimaginable now, as progressives appear to have completely given up (or maybe there are no more progressives in the United States). The utter hopelessness of opposition may turn out to be the main reason that 2004 is a real stinker. When you think of the hundred thousand or so dead Iraqis, the hundreds of billions of dollars gone down the drain, the permanent destruction of the image of the United States in the world, the thousands of dead or effectively dead American soldiers, and the fact that this sort of thing is going to go on and on and on, getting ever worse, for years and years and years, hopelessness may be the only sane approach. I almost forgot . . . Iraq is just the first war. By 'electing' Bush in 2004, the American people, in their wisdom, chose wars against Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba, and probably a few others that have slipped my mind. If you think Iraq was easy, just wait for Iran, much, much more heavily armed with more modern weapons, with about three times the population of Iraq. That's going to be fun.
Guantanamo Bay? Abu Ghraib? All the domestic errors of the Bush Administration? The fact that the United States is now officially run by religious fruitcakes? Continuing assaults on the environment (which nobody seems to notice)? The ongoing process of ensuring that every American judge is a neanderthal? The lack of any opposition to any of this? The fact that Americans seem to accept and even approve of an immoral war? The fact that many of them think Bush is a good man? You don't even want to think about the economy, and the amazing size and rate of growth of the two deficits. The only thing that 2004 has going for it is that Bush now has four more years to create another worst year in the last hundred. The draft of poor people to fight Bush's wars, the destruction of social security, and the complete rejigging of the tax system to impoverish the vast majority of the population to benefit a few of Bush's friends will probably make 2004 look good in comparison, although the seeds of all future destruction were planted in 2004. The reign of 2004 as the worst year in the last hundred years of American history is likely to be short.