Here’s my summary of 2020 as seen from The Conversation’s politics desk: It was like trying to stuff a screaming toddler into a snowsuit three sizes too small.

The year was unruly and exhausting. It included a pandemic and an election campaign, and one profoundly affected the other. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, leaving a vacuum on the Supreme Court as well as a show of strong-arm politics in the Senate over her successor’s confirmation. Protests over racial injustice and police abuse broke out all over the country. And did I mention the presidential campaign? That featured barrier-breaking – Kamala Harris – and the shattering of rules, from the mayhem of Trump’s interruptions to Biden’s “Shut up, man” in their first debate.

Throughout the year, the editors on the politics desk avoided responding to the “outrage of the day” and instead gave you stories that provided context, history and analysis. We did so by relying on an ever-expanding list of scholars in many disciplines, from political science to history to anthropology and law. And every once in a while, we pulled in a classics scholar to explain what was really going on and how this thing that a leader/senator/citizen had just done actually happened during the decline of the Roman Empire as well. There’s context for you.

Below, each of the three politics editors tells you about his or her favorite story this year. It’s like picking your favorite children. When my kids asked who my favorite was, I answered, “I love each of you more than the other.” So this list, I warn you, is a partial one.

Jeff Inglis: I have two separate nominations, and you’ll see why.

First, the pandemic has meant disconnection from friends and family, and has also been a topic of rampant misinformation – some well-meaning, but much of it intended to confuse and divide Americans. As we seek to maintain, and restore, our social connections, communications scholar Emma Frances Bloomfield at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, offered suggestions for how to engage with people who view the coronavirus differently from how you do. Her article is a reminder that it is both possible and useful to talk to people with differing views, and that doing so need not become an argument but rather a mutual exploration of topics of shared concern.

Second is my “WE DID IT!” nomination, on our collective behalf. This vast compendium is an excellent look at all the work the whole desk did throughout 2020 to help readers understand how American elections work, why they work that way and what the effects are of those systems. Rather than endorsements or condemnations of various controversial issues, like voter identification laws or the Electoral College, taken together these articles are an explanation of how all those dynamics come together to form a U.S. presidential election.

Catesby Holmes: In a dismal year, it was nice to find the occasional happy story. One bright spot during the pandemic was Uruguay, a small South American country that effectively stamped out COVID-19 by June. “Political trust and support for democracy encourage people to follow public health recommendations, and a strong welfare state provides income support and reliable health care to help slow infection,” wrote Jennifer Pribble on June 15, as Uruguay was reopening schools while the pandemic raged in neighboring Brazil and Argentina. Today, though COVID-19 cases increased somewhat when vacationers let down their guard over the South American summer, Uruguay continues to buck regional and global trends. The coronavirus has killed about one in every 29,000 people in Uruguay; in the United States, it has killed about one in 1,000.

Naomi Schalit: My favorite story appeared midyear, after the huge blowup by staff members and readers of The New York Times over publication of a controversial opinion essay by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton. Cotton advocated using the military to put down protests in U.S. cities. The opinion page editor ultimately resigned over the incident.

I asked journalism scholar Kevin M. Lerner to lay out the difference between news stories and opinion essays published on opinion pages, because understanding that difference is crucial to journalism’s credibility. “It is a tenet of American journalism,” wrote Lerner, “that reporters working for the news sections of newspapers remain entirely independent of the opinion sections. But the divide between news and opinion is not as clear to many readers as journalists believe that it is.” The news industry is in large part responsible for that lack of clarity, Lerner wrote, especially because “While the move online allows the New York Times op-ed page to vastly increase its output, it also creates a problem: Opinion stories no longer look clearly different from news stories.”

We had a lot of great stories this year. Thanks for reading your share of them.

Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Society

Don’t shout or lecture – just talk. fizkes/

How to talk to someone you believe is misinformed about the coronavirus

Emma Frances Bloomfield, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

It's common to encounter people who are misinformed, but don't know it yet. What's the best way to talk to someone else about what they think is true?

Readers' picks

A police officer pushes an antifa demonstrator out of the way during a 2019 protest in Washington, D.C. Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

What – or who – is antifa?

Stanislav Vysotsky, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

The anti-fascist movement is a decentralized collection of individual activists who mostly use nonviolent methods to achieve their ends.