Drum roll please....I present to you OOP's Best and Worst of 2021 Political Awards.
Best Breakthrough Politician: Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.
--Republican Youngkin managed to distance himself from Donald Trump while not antagonizing his MAGA followers. Quite a feat. Helps when you don't have to run a contested primary.
Best Political Retirement News: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
--Nunes is one of the biggest clowns in the U.S. House, and that is saying something. Nunes is leaving Congress to run Trump's social media company. Does Nunes not know that Trump regularly stiffs his employees? Does Nunes not know that Trump's companies regularly end up in bankruptcy? Does Nunes not know that Trump is one of the worst businessmen this country has ever produced?
--The former NFL player and graduate of Stanford Business School had a bright future in elected politics. As a Republican, Gonzalez got crossways with the MAGA folks for demonstrating integrity in his vote on Trump's impeachment. (Trumpers hate things like honesty and integrity.) But leadership means doing what is right, even if it is not what the crowd wants. I expect that we will see Gonzalez back in politics when the MAGA-fever has subsided. And it will subside.
Best Political Article: "Trump's Next Coup Has Already Begun," The Atlantic by Barton Gellman.
Best Upset Victory: Republicans losing two U.S. Senate seats in January.
--Hate to cheer against my party, but it is good that the obstructionists are not in complete control of the Senate.
Best Political Message That Came Too Late: Former President Donald Trump praising the effectiveness of the vaccines and announcing he received a booster.
Worst Political Development: Increased Republican hostility to democracy and delusional belief in conspiracies to justify an insurrection.
--Thanks to the January 6th Select Committee, we are learning more and more about how close Trump and his allies came to stealing the 2020 election. More alarming is that we are witnessing how they are making changes so that, next time, they won't be foiled in their efforts to steal an election.
Worst Reported Story: Redistricting
--The reporting on redistricting has focused almost exclusively on how it will give Republicans a big boost in winning a majority in the U.S. House. In reality, redistricting's effect on party control in the House has been minor at best. The real story of redistricting this cycle is that it has been about entrenching incumbents in safe districts and eliminating competitive races that might produce more moderate candidates. Most politicians only have competition in primaries which races they win by being the most extreme. That's a huge problem that deserves more attention.
Best Politician Turned Statesman Story: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming)
--She was very late to oppose Trump, but she is now the leader in exposing his insurrection and is standing up for American democracy.
Worst Waffling Politician: Former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie
--Christie is looking for a lane to run for President. (No, I'm not going to make a joke about it having to be a wide lane.) He has decided that involves now being anti-Trump even though previously he was one of Trump's biggest supporters. Unlike Cheney though, Christie is still hedging his bets, hinting that he could become pro-Trump again. Depends on which way the wind is blowing. Congratulations though to Christie for beating out former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in this category. It was neck-and-neck before Christie pulled it out at the end of the year.
Best Republican Governor: Charlie Baker, Massachusetts, Larry Hogan, Connecticut, and Phil Scott (tie).
--For the record, Donald Trump received 32% of the vote in Massachusetts, 39% in Connecticut and 31% in Vermont. Republicans Baker, Hogan and Scott not only were able to get elected governor in these three very blue New England states, by some rankings they are the three most popular governors in America. Turns out being a non-MAGA Republican is popular with voters. Who knew?
Worst Republican Governor: Ron Desantis, Florida and Greg Abbott, Texas
--Both have managed to not only kill thousands of their constituents through lax Covid protocols, they are actively working to stop the private companies from protecting their employees. I remember back when the Republican Party believed in private companies being able to make decisions without government interference.
Best Democratic Governor: Jared Polis, Colorado
--Thanks to Governor Polis for putting the blame for the continued pandemic where it belongs - on the unvaccinated. Although I would point out that the failure to get vaccinated does affect all of us, including those who chose to get vaccinated. The pandemic would have been over a long time ago if 80% plus adult Americans had gotten vaccinated.
Worst Democratic Governor: Andrew Cuomo, New York
--I don't think I need to explain why.
Best Republican Member of U.S. House: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois
--A solid conservative who is pro-democracy. Can't ask for more these days. Like Cheney, he was late to oppose Trump's autocratic impulses, but better late than never. For the record, Cheney was ineligible in this category having already won another OOP's award.
Worst Republican Member of U.S House: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia
--Greene had extremely tough competition for this award. Runnerups include Paul Gosar (AZ), Jim Jordan (OH), Lauren Boebert (CO), Louie Gohmert (TX), Matt Gaetz (FL).
Worst Democratic Member of the U.S. House: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington
--As leader of the large Progressive Caucus in the House, Jayapal has been a gift to Republicans. She insisted that the popular infrastructure bill be tied to the much less popular Build Back Better social spending bill. The maneuver immersed the infrastructure bill, supported by strong, bipartisan majorities, into a standoff between liberal Democrats and even more liberal Democrats. As a result of the boneheaded strategy, Jayapal and her progressive allies prevented President Biden from getting credit for the passage of an historic infrastructure bill and sunk his poll numbers, perhaps irreversibly. While there are worse representatives in the Progressive Caucus (Cori Bush comes to mind), Jayapal is the caucus' leader and the buck stops with her.
Best Republican Senator: Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
--Not a long list of nominees, but Senator Cassidy narrowly beats out Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Worst Republican Senator: Ron Johnson, Wisconsin
--Johnson had steep competition in this category from Senators like Rand Paul (KY), Tom Cotton (AR), and Ted Cruz (TX). But unlike Paul, Cotton and Cruz, Johnson, who is up for re-election in 2022, is from a highly competitive state. One would think that would cause him to temper his comments and to act like a reasonable, thoughtful person. But, no. Johnson publicly embraces every nutjob conspiracy theory there is. That he might not actually believe those theories doesn't matter. Consider this, Wisconsin Democrats would rather face Johnson running for re-election than have him retire and Wisconsin Republicans nominate a new candidate.
Best Democratic Senator: Chris Coons, Delaware
--I'm so tempted to select West Virginia's Joe Manchin. The Democratic Party would be so much better off with thoughtful moderates like Manchin. I think though he could have handled the Build Back Better negotiations better. So, I'm going to instead select Sen. Coons who always comes across as reasonable, pragmatic and moderate in tone, if not always in policy.
Worst Democratic Senator: Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts
--Sen. Warren is not without strengths. When she is speaking out about ethics reform or challenging corporate monopolies, I am a fan. But too often she's spouting far left, dare I say "socialist," nonsense. She claims to be a capitalist, but I have never seen that side of her. At least Sen. Bernie Sanders is honest about who he is.
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That's the 2021 OOP's Best and Worst Awards. Next up, 2022 Predictions.