The 2016 word of the year: And the winner is...
The Merriam-Webster 2016 word of the year (WOTY) is "surreal." The Oxford English Dictionary 2016 WOTY is "post-truth." "Xenophobia" is the top word on dictionary.com.
If these words are recognized because they're meant to capture important trends in our society, or reflect central themes in in our cultural zeitgeist, then the word of the year should be "shellacking."
There's some quantitative analysis involved in choosing a WOTY, such as how often the words are looked up, but there's also discretion applied by elitist sociolinguists who can design filters and artifice to accommodate their political predilections. For example, Oxford Dictionaries states: "After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."
As for their "research," having occasionally used web analytics to monitor website performance, I discovered that applying the correct server- versus client-side tools can at times be more art than science. But let's presume that their metrics are accurate, that they correctly distinguish between hits and views, pdf versus html downloads, between bots and humans...still, I suspect that their choice is embedded in post-truth absurdism, hinging more on their subjective discussions than proper research.
Dictionary.com aims to "pick a Word of the Year that embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness[.]" Politics pervaded every aspect of our culture in 2016. Obama's legacy was unraveling; Hillary was supposed to be anointed the first female president; Democrats were projected to take control of Congress. Yet, taking into account federal, state, and local offices, Democrats were shellacked up one side of the ballot and down the other. If there was a WOTY during the last time the Democrats were in worse electoral shape, it would likely be "Reconstruction."
Despite their senses being besieged with the obvious evidence of a political upheaval, the best they can conjure up is "xenophobia." The connotations betray their prejudice – it's not necessarily xenophobic to put America first or to expect immigrants or refugees to be thoroughly vetted. I came to America, eventually serving in the military, because I love the place; unfortunately, many today would come to wreak havoc because they hate us. If the wordsmiths must choose a phobia, then Trump-phobia, as enmeshed in our brainwashed cultural and intellectual elites, is more pervasive and palpable than exaggerated xenophobia.
"Shellacking" may be too severe for their linguistic sensibilities, but it deserves to be the WOTY just for the indelible imprint it has left on the psyches of disoriented Democrats in 2016. Going back farther, it also deserves special recognition for its utter persistence in expressing the ignominy of Democrats' electoral performances in 2010, 2014, and 2016.
Perhaps the liberal lexicographers will consider a word of the decade for 2010-2019. "Shellacking" ought to make that list even in a "post-truth" milieu; after all, Democrats are poised to lose more Senate seats in red states in 2018. Now, that would be surreal.