For nine years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.
This may be the last of these. We’ll see. But this is the post I most look forward to every year.
We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:
2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez
2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden
2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.
2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.
2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.
2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC
2013: Healthcare.gov, the Platinum Coin, the Shutdown Caucus, the National Park Service, Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers.
2014: Jonathan Gruber, Lamenting Democrats, Barack Obama, Jim Ardis, Paul Krugman
2015: The Presidential Field, College Students, The Election Media, Rolling Stone, Barack Obama
For this year:
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Look, we all know the two Presidential candidates are going to finish 1-2. And I fully expected Trump to be #1. But Clinton managed to exceed even my lofty expectations for foolishness. She spent the election racking up big majorities in blue states instead of securing her flank in the Rust Belt. She made sure to get her celebrity endorsements while ignoring millions of Americans struggling every day. She managed to piss away the years of good will her husband and Obama had built up in the black community. She was so clueless, her campaign boasted that they wouldn’t have to set foot in Wisconsin.
She was given a popular outgoing President, a healthy economy (albeit, not healthy for everyone), a media that had her back at every turn, an FBI that rolled over and the candidate of her dreams (literally; the Podesta e-mails show they wanted Trump as their opponent). She won the popular vote. But she still managed to lose the election.
Her supporters are blaming Jill Stein, Russian hacking, the FBI, James Comey and Bernie Sanders. But even if those things were the difference, it should not have been anywhere near that close. This should have been the biggest electoral massacre in history, a 1984 or 1972-type landslide. That it wasn’t is on Clinton.
Donald Trump: He won. And he won by appealing to the blue collar voters the Democrats abandoned. Even though he lost the popular vote, he did way better than anyone expected.
That doesn’t mean he’s not a turkey. He knew next to nothing about the issues, frequently contradicted himself in mid-sentence and went for insults against Clinton when burying her on policy would have been better. He’s elevated dipshits of the Alt-Right to the mainstream. And he comes in as one of the most unpopular Presidential victors in history.
We’ll see how it goes. But the real winner of this election will the next four years of comedy.
Clinton Supporters: They acted as though this election were over in July. When HuffPo claimed Clinton was a 99% lock to win the election, they pilloried people who dared question that wisdom. And now that it’s all over, they’ve lost their damned minds. They are touting a conspiracy theory about the Russians hacking the election and writing articles slamming Trump’s cabinet picks while admitting they don’t actually know what those cabinet picks will do in office. At a time when the should be organizing a coherent resistance, they’re running around like chickens with their heads cut off, barking at the moon and, worst of all, making me mix metaphors.
The Clown Panic: This was one of the most bizarre stories of the year. All over the country, people started making frantic reports of people dressed in clown outfits … doing … stuff. It even got the point of police issuing warnings against people dressing up as clowns. It was like parts of the country starting dropping acid.
Dishonorable Mention: Samantha Bee, Vox, Clinton and Trump, Rolling Stone, the FBI, Trump and Clinton, trans bathroom panic mongers, Kamala Harris, Clinton and Trump, Ryan Lochte, Samsung.
Now the Golden Drumsticks, awarded to those who best exemplified what is right with the world. Here are the past awards, the first round from West Virginia Rebel.
2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks
2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama
2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush
2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers
2011: Seal Team Six, Mark Kelly, The Arab Spring, the Technicians at Fukushima
2012: Down Ballots, The Sandy Responders, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Mathew Inman
2013: Francis I, Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, The American Military, The Institute for Justice
2014: Ebola Responders, Francis I, Rand Paul, David Brat, The Supreme Court
2015: New Horizons and Dawn, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Amnesty International, Video and Body Cameras, The Non-Crazy Presidential Candidates.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Dr. Brian H. Williams: In the wake of the horrible shootings in Dallas, these two men emerged as the voices of reason. Brown has been one of the national leaders on reforming policing, frequently crossing his own union to reduce violent confrontations and take a more community-oriented approach to law enforcement. Before the Dallas shooting, his officers were taking photographs with protesters and listening to their concerns. After the shooting, he refused to back down from his view of policing and led a community shocked by tragedy to come together. Brown is retiring but he is everything right with policing in this country.
Williams is the trauma surgeon who worked to save the lives of the officers gunned down in Dallas. He then gave an emotional plea at the press conference asking for the killing to stop, perfectly combining the view that police brutality has to stop and that killing of cops has to stop.
There were way too many mass shootings this year. But in every instance, heroes stood out.
Disillusioned Democrats: Clinton failed, at least in part, because she couldn’t drum up enough support in traditional Democratic constituencies: minorities and blue collar voters. Both made their voices heard.
Blacks stills voted overwhelmingly for Clinton but her turnout was weak because some simply refused to vote for her. Trump, however awkwardly, tried to earn their votes. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, however awkwardly, are trying to earn their votes. If black people ever break from the Democrats, they could become one of the most powerful political block in the country. And I think we’re seeing the beginning of that.
Blue collar voters, particularly in rural areas, also broke with Clinton. While the economy is doing well on paper, that prosperity is not going everywhere and rural communities in particular are being hammered. There have been chilling comparisons of maps of heroin overdoses to areas that switched to Trump. Clinton was totally deaf to the concerns of millions of Americans. I guarantee you, the Democratic Party is listening now.
Kellyanne Conway: Before she took over Trump’s campaign, he looked dead in the water. She won it for him. Granted, it was mainly by keeping him from self-immolating. But she got the message out, she got the vote out and she kept the public focused on Clinton’s problems. She realized that the game was for the electoral college and was therefore willing to give up millions of votes in deep blue states to fight like hell for swing states. Whatever you think of Trump, she did her job and did it well.
Incidentally, Conway is the first woman to manage a successful Presidential campaign. You’d think that would get a bit more notice.
Nate Silver: What? Seriously? Yes. Of all the poll aggregators out there, Silver was the only one who didn’t get drunk on state polling numbers. HuffPo said Clinton had a 98% chance of winning and slagged Silver. Princeton said maybe 91%. But Silver not only said that Trump had a chance, he explained why: the national polls were off by about two points (a pretty normal error) and Clinton’s “firewall” had not been polled well. Silver is also doing some great work this week debunking crackpot theories that the election was stolen (just in case you though the Right Wing had a monopoly on stolen election theories).
Honorable Mention: Pope Francis, the LIGO team, Gary Johnson and William Weld, George W. Bush, Bernie Sanders, the Cubs, the US Olympic team, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul.
And a special honorable mention to many of the Republicans, like Mitt Romney, who opposed Trump all year but are now willing to work with him for the good of the country. And for that matter to Barack Obama, who is willing to work with Trump for the good of the country, and Hillary Clinton, who graciously conceded an election she thought she’d had won for eight years. This was arguably the most bitter election in American history. One of the few rays of hope, however, is that so many people who opposed Trump are willing to do what’s best for the country. In what has turned out to be an awful awful year, that’s something worth clinging to.
Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll.