From the Republican campaign trail to Occupy demonstrations around the nation and gridlock in Congress, 2011 was a volatile year in politics.
The year began on the heels of a midterm election cycle where Republicans won back the House of Representatives and gained ground in the Senate. The economy had not seen the kind of recovery the American people were looking for, and President Barack Obama's approval ratings reflected the disappointment. The 2012 GOP presidential contenders have provided some memorable stories but failed to bring a renewed sense of hope.
Here are 11 of the biggest political stories of 2011: