Though it is quite common to view 2016 as a particularly bad year, I found that it contained a number of very high moments. Of course, my list of what was good about it matches other people's list of what was bad about it in part. Still, overall there are some things about the year that were unexpected and good.
I'll list them in chronological order, where the chronology is 'as I remember it' rather than me looking it up to confirm I have the dates right.
1) The end of the Bush family dynasty in Republican politics: nothing against the Bush family, but everything against family dynasties in our Republic.
2) Brexit, which offers many reasons for hope.
3) The discovery that the Republican party was not really controlled by the elite that tried to run it, but that it was a genuinely small-d democratic party that would live with the will of its voters. That was quite surprising and unexpected.
4) The absence of violence at the RNC in spite of predictions.
5) The revelation of the corruption of the DNC, not because it was good that it was corrupt, but in the hope that it might be a corrective in the future. There is a minority element of the party, centered around Bernie Sanders' supporters, that is committed to such reforms because they are still young enough to genuinely believe in democracy. Maybe they'll win. Even if they don't, maybe they'll break some of their chains. Their naivety may finally fail, and their starry-eyed leaders become corrupted by power -- but on the other hand there's little power left, outside California, so there's a chance that their idealism may succeed. Who would want to corrupt them, outside California, where they have nothing to offer in return?
6) The end of the Clinton family dynasty, which is an unalloyed good for America.
7) The survival of the United States Constitution as a document that might possibly limit government powers, rather than as a document that licenses the government 'to do good things.' The conservative view of the Constitution would have passed away forever with a 5th progressive vote on the Supreme Court.
8) Suddenly it became important to be concerned about the health of our democratic forms, and limits on executive power, and other things that some of us have been talking about this whole time.
9) A revival of interest in Federalism, although nascent, as a means of controlling a Federal power that is suddenly frightening to the American left.
10) Some of these potential cabinet appointments look good -- especially Mattis, but not only Mattis.
11) A chance to revisit and reform numerous Federal policies and agencies. So far it's just a chance, and it may be squandered or it may fail in spite of diligent effort. Nevertheless, there would have been no chance at all otherwise.
There's a lot to do now, but these things were good things from my perspective.