December 30, 2017

2017’s Top Villains, Disappointments & Heroes.

2017 saw enough villains to last us all a few decades.

With them, though, came many heroic people that stood out for all the right reasons: courage, integrity, and commitment to the truth.

I’m sure I’ve missed dozens of names within each category, but the ones below stand out to me—they are offered in no particular order.

The Villains.

1. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Paul Ryan has successfully put behind him that one brief and fairly mild attempt to repudiate Donald Trump following the release of the “Access Hollywood” video. Since then, he has fulfilled his childhood dream of revamping the tax code, calling it a “game-changer for the country.” If the game is Monopoly and he just gifted millions of dollars to the current owners of Boardwalk and Park Place, then yes. Next up for Mr. Ryan? Rip up social safety nets like food stamps and Medicaid.

2. Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA)

After all that shady running to the White House with information last spring, which led to his seeming recusal from the Russia investigation (and then his non-recusal), I haven’t trusted this guy. There’s a reason #RemoveNunes is flying around Twitter.

3. Senator Roy Moore (R-AL)

For, you know, all that bad stuff he’s done over the years.

4. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

I’d almost feel pity for this man given all the hits he’s withstood from Donald Trump this year if he didn’t so badly want to strip healthcare away from the most vulnerable Americans.

5. Steve Bannon

For stirring up hatred, for taking advantage of people’s trust and vulnerabilities (and complacency), for pitting people against each other for political and personal gain, this guy is a villain through and through.

6. Harvey Weinstein

Maybe it’s not fair to name Harvey Weinstein without naming all the other men who’ve been outed this year for sexual misconduct. Then again, given the culture of fear, aggression, and forced or paid silence, along with the organized web of complicity he cultivated for decades, this man in particular embodies the arrogance, entitlement, and abuse that is toxic masculinity.

7. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Ms. Sanders has chosen to traffic in blatant lies in defense of the most indefensible acts. And she does it all while childishly belittling the press.

8. Chairman Aji Pai

Mr. Pai, the Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission, makes my list because not only did he scrap net neutrality despite over 80 percent of the population being against it, he also rubbed it in our faces with a celebratory dance.

9. President Donald Trump

Sigh. If only Trump voters had asked New Yorkers about the man who lived in their own backyard, rather than trusting a character from a reality TV show…we might not be here now.

10. Vice President Mike Pence

If Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the dystopia it depicts were to play out in modern day, Mr. Pence would be the natural pick to lead the charge against women. His voting record of subjugating women and stripping them of their reproductive rights (and trying to take away their professional rights as well) should make any of us who think he’d be better than Donald Trump think again. He may pretend he’s merely a quiet and supportive vice president, but beneath his mask lies a dangerous villain-in-waiting.

The Disappointments.

1. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

In October, Mr. Flake spoke out against Donald Trump, saying he would not be “silent or complicit.” He wanted to step up and be a hero, but since then, he’s been quietly complicit.

2. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AL)

These two seem to have spent all their political courage on the healthcare bill, because when it came to the tax bill, it only took a bribe for Ms. Murkowski and a broken promise for Ms. Collins to get them both on board.

3. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

Another senator, like Mr. Flake, who mobilized some courage from within to speak the truth as he sees it, pointing out that Trump “debases our country” with his rhetoric and actions. But also like Mr. Flake, he is retiring rather than fighting.

4. Senator Al Franken (D-MN)

I live in Minnesota. His resignation is disappointing to all of us. Yes, most of us believe the women. But we are split, 50/50, whether his behavior warranted him stepping down at a time when he was one of the few who was also calling out spades when he saw them.

5. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Going into this year, I expected her to be out front, out loud, and outspoken against Donald Trump’s policies. She’s not exactly laying low, like many others, but she’s not fighting as furiously as she could, either. I hope she’s just biding her time and energy.

6. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sorry, but his message sounds like it’s on an eternal loop from 2016. These days, time moves too fast. I like him, but if Mr. Sanders is going to make a difference, he needs to conjure up some new tricks—and fast.

7. Ivanka & Melania Trump

For those of us who hoped these women might be moderating forces to tame the brashness and impulsiveness of Donald Trump, they have both proven instead to be enablers at best. More likely, they are co-conspirators—if not in justifying the means, than at least by comfortably benefiting from the ends.

8. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Mr. Rubio humbly played the part of the would-be hero when he held off on the tax plan by demanding a higher child tax credit, ostensibly one to help working families. He got what he asked for, but the details show another story about whether this would truly help the people who need it. Looks like Mr. Rubio exchanged his superhero cape for cold cash in his lined pocket.

9. Christianity

Every virtue that Christianity professesaltruism, charity, tolerance, care of the poor and sick, goodwill toward men, kindness—has been bargained, sold, belittled, or simply forgotten in the greedy quest for power. Politically in the United States, the world’s largest religion has been a stronger force for stripping women and LGBTQ folks of civil rights than it has been for humble service to others.

10. Never Trumpers

Hello? Are you there? Where’d they all go?

11. Democratic Message

What is it? Where is it? Please give us something better than “Resist Trump.” We need something chant-able, repeatable, memorable, and most importantly, get-behind-able.

The Heroes.

1. Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz

If we want to learn how to resist Trump, we need only follow this woman’s example. The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, showed President Trump what it looks like when you truly fight for those left behind—and she did it with both strength and grace.

2. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

I don’t agree with many of his policies or positions, but this man is a brave truth-teller who lives under the star of his own true North. Mr. McCain is the kind of human being we need more of in Congress, and in the world. I wish him and his family well in these difficult times.

3. April Ryan

As a White House correspondent, Ms. Ryan has become the face that describes all of us when we listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Her tenacity and endurance is impressive, and it’s all for love of country.

4. Ana Navarro

A Republican and political strategist who has never wavered in her, uh, let’s just call it disappointment in this administration and that which surrounds it. Ms. Navarro fights for decency and morality, and with her, these things are not for sale.

5. Seth Abramson

If you’re on Twitter, and you’re interested in the progress of the Russia investigation, you might want to seek out Mr. Abramson’s well-sourced, well-considered, step-by-step feed. As an attorney and professor of journalism and legal advocacy, he’s been proven right many times before, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

6. Women’s March Participants

If this had just been a single march, it might have faded into the history books. But the pink hats aren’t going anywhere, and neither are the women.

7. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA)

Instead of just letting it happen and trying to fix it after the fact (which seems to often the Democratic approach), Mr. Schiff is speaking out about Republican efforts to discredit the results of the Russia investigation ahead of time. One way or another, we have all been warned.

8. Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Quietly forging ahead, my money is still on this man to bring some long-awaited justice and hopefully as a result, put integrity back where it belongs—in our elections and in the Oval Office. 

9. Dan Rather

Dan Rather’s eloquent writing is both insightful and courageous. Many times he’s helped me put together the pieces to see the bigger truth. He’s calm yet honest, a good mix in our hyped-up political culture.

10. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Under regular personal attack from Donal Trump, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman continues to work quietly and steadily, now having filed 100 legal or administrative actions against this administration.

11. Sally Yates

Sally Yates was fired after pushing back against Donald Trump’s travel ban, citing discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of birth. But he couldn’t silence her then, and he can’t silence her now, either.

12. Journalism

It can’t be easy working at CNN, The New York Times, or The Washington Post in this anti-truth, “fake news” environment. Hats off to any and all of the journalists who keep working to break stories, question everything, and try to get to the truth, no matter the resistance.

13. #MeToo Movement

Every woman or man who has come out and told their stories in an effort to change the norms of our patriarchal society are heroes.

14. Merriam-Webster

Whether trolling Donald Trump or not, Merriam Webster has been working to keep us all honest about words, and the meaning of words, at a time when words themselves are sometimes under attack. See: vulnerable, science-based, evidence-based, fetus, transgender, diversity, and entitlement.

15. Jimmy Kimmel

A reluctant but effective activist, Jimmy Kimmel has been able to do something that not all of us can do: reach through the rigidity of party lines to change minds and hearts of people everywhere. And he shows no signs of stopping.

16. The Truth

Yes, we haven’t seen much of it this year. But every now and then, it slips itself into the conversation and changes the narrative. To all those who have coaxed and teased it out, I offer my gratitude. I hope to see much more of this elusive yet potent hero in 2018.

So with that, I raise my glass and toast to the end of you, 2017. May you usher in a more peaceful, joyful, and sleep-abundant 2018.



Author: Keri Mangis
Image: zoomar/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron

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