Year in Review 2016
Every year since college, my best friend Dan and I have compiled our best observations on a wide range of topics that reflect on the year that has just expired. We follow the well-established template of The McLaughlin Group program. This year's submission is especially poignant as we lost John McLaughlin in 2016. Truly the end of an era, but we carry on in the host's name.
Here are my reflections on 2016:
Biggest Winner of the Year
The Republican Party. We haven't seen this level of domination in D.C. or this many state houses and governor's mansions since the Depression. There are currently 26 states with GOP control of the governor's office and both state houses. There are four such Democrat-controlled states.
Biggest Loser of the Year
Hillary Clinton, obviously. Honorable mention: The mainstream media, who STILL haven't figured out why Democrats lost so big this year.
Best Politician of the Year
Gerald Daugherty, Travis County (TX) commissioner. His reelection ad was easily the best thing that happened in 2016:
The Alison Lundergan Grimes Worst Politician of the Year Award
John Kerry, who continues to advance the most nonsensical explanations imaginable for his crazy policies. Global warming is responsible for ISIS? The Iran nuclear deal is worth the paper it's printed on? Opponents of international trade are acting "knee-jerkingly"? The attackers at Charlie Hebdo had a rationale for their violence? Good luck and get out.
Most Defining Moment of the Year
Ted Cruz at the RNC Convention. He faced down withering criticism, withstood endless vicious attacks on himself and his family, and stood like a rock for his constitutional principles. This singular moment of cacophonous boos defined in stark detail both the constitutional conservative movement and Trump supporters.
Best Spin of the Year
If by "Best" we can allow "Most Tiresome," then we can talk about the economic "recovery." Underemployment remains a vexing problem that the current administration refuses to address.
Most Boring Politician of the Year
Al Gore, who was inexplicably trotted out in Florida to stump for Hillary, pushing his embarrassing, thoroughly debunked climate change nonsense as a reason to vote for Hillary.
Most Charismatic Politician of the Year
Clearly, it's Donald Trump. He used his media stardom, his innate ability to use and manipulate the press, and his larger-than-life personality to overwhelm a highly qualified field of GOP candidates and win the nomination. After that, it was simply a matter of letting Hillary beat herself.
Bummest Rap of the Year
Mike Pence wants to electrocute gays! Seriously, way too many people believe this silliness.
Fairest Rap of the Year
The Democratic National Committee is full of corrupt elitists. The DNC was headed by two individuals, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile, who had to resign (DWS from the DNC, Brazile from CNN) due to significant corruption and lying. The elitism of the superdelegates stealing the nomination from Bernie Sanders, and the deep-seated lying and coverup culture, showed them to be as out of touch with American voters as it's possible to get.
Portland, Ore., Mayor Charlie Hales allowed anarchists to disrupt commerce in the city, destroy private property and terrorize citizens because he agreed with their intent to protest the election of Donald Trump.
The Chicago Cubs. The adversity they overcame to win their first World Series in 108 years still defies belief.
The Cleveland Cavaliers for winning the first title in any major sport in that town since 1961.
Most Original Thinker
Kellyanne Conway, who somehow convinced Donald Trump to shut up long enough to let Hillary Clinton lose the election. She's a miracle worker.
Most Stagnant Thinker
John Kasich, who still can't figure out why he wasn't granted the nomination. At least Jeb Bush understood why he lost.
Best Photo Op
Paul Ryan unable to stop laughing at Chuck Schumer as he tries and fails miserably to hammer the first ceremonial nail in the inaugural platform in Washington, D.C. A more effective indictment of out-of-touch politicians has rarely been witnessed.
Worst Photo Op
"You mean, like, with a towel? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!" Hillary Clinton in response to a question about whether she wiped her email server. It's hard to imagine a less charismatic candidate.
Enough, Already (also known as the "Shut Up and Get Out") Award
Bernie Sanders. The socialist senator from Vermont with no party affiliation and tired, old, disproven economic ideas fooled millions of people into believing he had original thoughts and was a worthy nominee for the Democrats. Well, at least that last part was correct, despite the collusion of superdelegates to deny him the nomination.
Worst Lie of the Year
Donald Trump mastered the art, so it's hard to choose just one. The one that stands out is his claim that he has a mandate after a landslide victory. It was a remarkable victory, and his election has sent shockwaves throughout the political class. But he hardly has a mandate from voters in an election where he underperformed most GOP politicians and won the 4th narrowest Electoral College victory since 1960. His victory in the Electoral College was decided by under 60,000 votes, and he lost the popular vote by over 2.5 million. Some landslide.
Capitalist of the Year
A repeat from 2015: Every single participant in the sharing economy, aka the gig economy, aka the side hustle. From Uber to Lyft to Postmates to Amazon Prime to AirBnb to Taskrabbit to dozens of others, a panoply of phone-based apps are liberating labor to work when they feel like making money, and stripping power from incumbents who prefer to keep labor tied up in traditional 9-5 jobs. The idea that anyone can monetize existing assets for residual income will fundamentally transform the nature of work—if unions and cronies don't get in the way.
Person of the Year
Donald Trump. He dominated the entire political landscape for well over a year, completely swamping any other effort to be heard.
Honorable Mention #1
Vladimir Putin, who has reestablished Russia as a major force in international affairs.
Honorable Mention #2
Dennis Richardson, who overcame all odds to end the 30-plus-year run of dominance by Democrats in Oregon state politics. His ability to audit state government and peel back the layers of corruption in Salem will be a political earthquake, the significance of which few people understand.
Destined for Political Stardom
Not original or new, but Ted Cruz. He declined any administration appointments and will remain the conservative lynchpin in the U.S. Senate. He very well could be the frontrunner going into the 2020 presidential field, regardless of whether Trump runs again.
Destined for Political Oblivion
Barack Hussein Obama, who stands to see his entire political legacy reversed by a revitalized opposition party.
Best Political Theater
Watching confident premature celebration turn to crestfallen shock and depression at Hillary HQ.
Watching WikiLeaks and James Comey pick key pieces out of the foundation of the Clinton campaign. WikiLeaks by revealing that which Clinton didn't want reported, and Comey by doing his job.
Worst Political Theater
Literally, in a theater—Mike Pence takes his family to see the Broadway production of Hamilton to celebrate after the election, only to be subjected to a classless harangue by special snowflakes who couldn't be put upon to shut up and do their jobs.
Most Underreported Story
The EPA ruled that fracking—hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas—is safe and has no effect on groundwater. To the extent that it was reported, it was in the context of it being "controversial" and "protested."
Most Overreported Story
Pokemon Go. Augmented reality can Go. Away.
Biggest Government Waste
The $400 billion in foreign currency delivered to Iran on pallets, supposedly not for ransom for four captured U.S. sailors. Yeah, it was about a failed 60-year-old arms deal. Sure. And terrorists burned down our embassy and murdered an ambassador over a YouTube video.
Best Dollar Spent
Maine's welfare system, which has been so positively reformed that it has reduced dependency on food stamps by almost 75% and has helped able-bodied adults to return to meaningful employment in droves.
Boldest Political Tactic
Brexit. A giant repudiation of globalism, and a clear trend toward reestablishing national sovereignty.
Best Idea of 2016
Mitch McConnell renting a spine long enough to put his foot down and flatly refuse to consider Obama's nominee for SCOTUS after the untimely death of the greatest jurist of our time, Antonin Scalia.
Worst Idea of 2016
Believing any political poll on any subject or candidate. Offenders include political pundits and talking heads, but the worst offenders inhabit the halls of Congress and GOP leadership. They refuse to lead, citing poll numbers instead of principles. Here's a hint: When you show leadership, poll numbers follow.
Sorry to See You Go
A titan of jurisprudence, and a one-man bulwark against advancing statism, Antonin Scalia. His loss was staggering.
Honorable mention: An unimaginable parade of beloved entertainers, thinkers, and contributors to humanity. 2016 was marked by shocking deaths that left a void every time. The list is devastating, including: Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, John Glenn, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Garry Shandling, Sir George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson, Anton Yelchin, Alan Thicke, John McLaughlin, Abe Vigoda (yes, really, this time), Nancy Reagan, Garry Marshall, Arnold Palmer, Ron Glass, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Harper Lee, Paul Kantner, George Kennedy, Mayor Rob Ford, Joe Garagiola, Patty Duke, Morley Safer, Gordie Howe, Buddy Ryan, Michael Cimino, Elie Wiesel, Shimon Peres, Kevin Meaney, Janet Reno, Gwen Ifill, Craig Sager, Carrie Fisher. The hits just kept on coming this year.
The Kim Jong-il Not Even A Little Bit Sorry to See You Go Award
To be renamed in perpetuity after Fidel Castro.
15 Minutes of Fame
Brad Avakian, the head of Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries, who hoped to parlay his persecution of Christian cake bakers into a stepping stone to higher office. His visions of grandeur failed, he lost the race for secretary of State, and his political career is, mercifully, over.
Turncoat of the Year
Barack Obama, who just sold out the state of Israel at the United Nations. Republicans are right to pounce on this issue. Democrats across the nation should be ashamed.
Most Honest Person of the Year
Suspended until further notice. In a year in which lying took every spotlight available, the concept of honesty has been in hiding.
Most Overrated Person, Event, or Story of the Year
The Keystone XL protests. The proposed pipeline runs along existing pipelines under the Missouri River, doesn't touch an inch of reservation land, and doesn't threaten water supplies. Moreover, pipelines are several orders of magnitude safer than transporting petroleum via rail. We should be building more pipelines, not protesting them.
Ben Carson whining about the Cruz campaign's actions in Iowa. I still haven't figured out what they did that was dishonorable.
Most Underrated Person, Event, or Story of the Year
Trump won both the GOP primary and the general election with well under 50% of the vote. Trump's primary win was the result of a diluted field of GOP candidates who failed to recognize that Ted Cruz was the only candidate who could defeat him in the primary. Establishment Republicans found Cruz so impossible to like—for having the temerity to stand up for his principles at every turn—that they refused to coalesce around him. The Establishment GOP and their candidates—Bush, Rubio, and Kasich, in particular—waited so long to recognize how the race was shaping up that it was far too late to do anything about Trump being nominated. Establishment Republicans deserved the whooping they got.
Grade the Planet (A through F, pluses and minuses accepted)
B. With Brexit, the rejection of the Bush and Clinton political dynasties in America, and the desire to reestablish national sovereignty and reject globalism, voters have sent a clear message that it's time to rethink the inexorable march toward progressivism. And yet, a dedication to constitutional principles is left wanting.
Donald Trump will serve only one term, by his choice.
New Year's Resolution
To carry on this tradition to honor the memory of John McLaughlin, and to be a better example to my children.