Well, folks, we finally have almost made it: It’s Dec. 31, and 2017 is nearly over.

Regardless of whether you were pleased, horrified or had a mixed view of the past year, it’s hard to argue that it was a tumultuous one. We began the year with a new president, Donald Trump, who immediately faced a serious investigation into his conduct during the campaign. If you loathe Trump, you probably already consider that there’s enough proof that he colluded with the Russian government to steal the election to begin impeachment proceedings. If you’re a fan of his, you might view the whole investigation as driven by fake news, or some sort of deep state conspiracy to undermine the new administration.

Either way, it’s hard to argue that it was a constant, never-ending story throughout the year that frequently overshadowed all other political news. It’s worth noting that although these kinds of major investigations of alleged misdeeds by a president are hardly unheard of, they don’t normally crop up so quickly. Usually, these sorts of allegations surface in a president’s second term, once he’s been in office long enough to actually do something nefarious — or when his political opponents are even more eager to thwart him. This was the case with the Watergate, Iran-Contra and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

In recent memory, the only other president who began his term under a serious scandal was Bill Clinton, who immediately faced the Whitewater investigation into his real estate dealings. Then, as now, the reactions to the scandal were fairly predictably partisan, with Democrats sticking by Clinton as Republicans denounced him. However, the poisonous atmosphere surrounding the new administration helped doom Clinton’s health-care reform proposal, just as Trump was unable to fulfill his promise to repeal Obamacare earlier this year — despite both new presidents enjoying majorities in Congress as well.

The ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election is likely to drag well into next year (if not longer), continuing to hamper the administration’s efforts to get things done. That’s not to say Trump isn’t without his first-year accomplishments: He not only managed to finally score a policy win by getting tax cuts passed, but also secured the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those were both major wins for the White House, but they seemed to placate his base rather than improve his approval ratings overall.

The Russia investigation, however, wasn’t the only source of tumult in 2017. Continuing turnover in the White House has been a major issue since the inauguration, with both senior staff and cabinet members departing. While it’s not unusual for a president to lose an early confirmation fight — just ask Tom Daschle — this many high-level departures early on is rare, if not unprecedented.

This turnover at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. helped lead to the stunning defeat of Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate race, as former White House adviser Steve Bannon’s meddling produced disastrous results. With the disturbing allegations against Moore in the midst of a national debate surrounding sexual misconduct, the result showed that even in the most partisan places, it’s unwise to go all-in for a deeply flawed candidate.

The question going forward is whether the topsy-turvy world of 2017 is about to become past or prologue. Traditionally, the party in the White House has lost ground in midterm elections, and current polls seem to reflect that, showing Democrats in a strong position to gain seats. If we return to the political norms, we can expect to see Democrats gain seats by picking off the more moderate Republicans in swing seats, possibly with moderates of their very own. Whether that’s just enough to win a majority or it turns into a major wave, Democrats may find themselves in a position to cut deals with Trump and get things done if they can constrain their own extremists.

If 2018 is also tumultuous, both parties may see a number of primaries. Democrats will have to deal with Bernie Sanders supporters, while the Republican Party continues to fight off renegades backed by Bannon. That could lead to unpredictable midterms, as both parties have to make do with flawed candidates. If Democrats regain the majority with a more liberal slate of candidates, they’re probably going to want to fight Trump — and he’s likely to dig in his heels, leading to more partisan battles and gridlock. Regardless of exactly how it turns out, 2018 should prove to be another fascinating year.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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