Saturday, December 23, 2017

Best of 2017


John Nichols put together The Nation's annual honor roll a couple of days ago. The video above, by Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples was the pick for Most Valuable Song, "I Give You Power." He wrote that "Protest music made a comeback in 2017. Fiona Apple wrote an anthem for the Women’s March ('We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants…'). Bruce Springsteen and former Iron City Houserockers leader Joe Grushecky ripped the new president on 'That’s What Makes Us Great' ('I never put my faith in a con man and his crooks…'). Joey Bada$$ spoke truth to power with 'Land of the Free' ('And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over…'). Eminem delivered a freestyle anti-Trump rap that declared: 'Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his / I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against.' But there was something epic-- and refreshingly optimistic-- about the collaboration between Mavis Staples, who’s been singing freedom songs since the civil-rights era, and indie rockers Arcade Fire on 'I Give You Power.' Released on the eve of Trump’s inauguration (with proceeds directed to the American Civil Liberties Union), the song asked, 'Who gives you power? Where do you think it all comes from?' It answered: 'I give you power. I can take it all away.'"

"Resistance." he declared "was the watchword for 2017. Resistance not just to Donald Trump, but to a status quo that gave our most powerful bully pulpit to an actual bully. Progressives not only refused to go backward in 2017; they demanded a new conversation that challenged old orthodoxies." And some of his picks, the ones, basically, I'm pretty much in agreement with:
Most Valuable Senator

When Steve Bannon declared last February that the Trump administration was working toward “the deconstruction of the administrative state,” Warren recognized precisely what was at stake. The senator from Massachusetts knew that while the Trump agenda might frequently be hobbled by GOP disarray in Congress and judicial pushback, it would be advanced by the president’s appointees to cabinet posts and regulatory panels. Warren made it her mission to challenge Trump’s picks. Her diligence (along with that of the unions) helped prevent one of Trump’s worst nominees, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, from becoming labor secretary. Her probing questions in confirmation hearings and searing speeches on the Senate floor so rattled Republicans that they tried to shut her down.

When Warren opposed Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general by reading, from the Senate floor, a 1986 statement by Coretta Scott King opposing Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Sessions to serve on the federal bench, majority leader Mitch McConnell rushed to silence her. Charging that she had “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,” the Republican got his colleagues to bar Warren from participating in the remainder of the debate. “She was warned,” McConnell announced. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” The majority leader had unwittingly created a meme; the “she persisted” line, which now adorns T-shirts, posters, and bumper stickers, became the preeminent rallying cry of 2017.

Warren plays defense brilliantly, as was evident when she shredded administration moves to derail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But she’s best on offense: making monopolization of the economy a political issue, working with Senator Bernie Sanders to get Democrats on board for single-payer health care, and successfully amending the National Defense Authorization Act to require an annual report detailing civilian casualties resulting from US military operations.

Most Valuable House Progressive

The Illinois Democrat finished 2017 by ripping GOP tax policies with seasonally appropriate verse (“’Twas the Night Before Tax Scam”) that concluded by warning Paul Ryan, “There’s nowhere to hide, / There’s no ‘cover your ass,’ / When you choose to take sides / Against the middle class.” A product of the Prairie State’s rough-and-tumble politics, Schakowsky knows how to fight—but she does so with a humor and humanity that’s often missing from congressional clashes. This has made her a leading figure in both the House Democratic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She kept her party united on votes to preserve the Affordable Care Act and to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But Schakowsky didn’t stop there; she waded into every debate, leading the charge to protect the Children’s Health Insurance Program, cut prescription-drug prices, preserve net neutrality, defend immigrants, and expand protections for women in the workplace.

Most Valuable House Newcomer

Capitol Hill’s steadiest champion of congressional oversight on war-making, Representative Barbara Lee always needs allies. She got a great one when Khanna arrived in January. Lee’s fellow California Democrat jumped into a leadership post with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (as did two other outstanding newcomers, Washington’s Pramila Jayapal and Maryland’s Jamie Raskin) and emerged as a savvy champion of net neutrality. But the law-school instructor made his boldest mark as an advocate for the restoration of constitutional checks and balances. Khanna decried the use of tax dollars to “bomb and starve civilians” in Yemen and-- working with CPC co-chair Mark Pocan and libertarian-leaning Republicans-- drafted legislation to block US support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal assault on that country. In November, Khanna and his allies forced a debate on the issue, getting the chamber to vote 366–30 for a nonbinding resolution stating that US military assistance for the Saudi war was not authorized by Congress. That was a small step. But with support growing for Lee’s effort to overturn the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which has served as an excuse for military adventurism, Khanna says the Yemen vote signals that the project of “re-orienting our foreign policy away from our Saudi alliance and away from neocon/neoliberal interventionism” is finally beginning.

Most Valuable Mayor

Puerto Rico is not allowed to send voting representatives to the US Congress. But after Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the Caribbean, San Juan’s mayor refused to allow the federal government to neglect the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Her objection to claims that bumbling recovery efforts were somehow going smoothly drew the ire of President Trump, but Cruz did not back down. “The Trump administration can’t handle the truth,” she declared. Addressing the president directly, Cruz said: “Mr. Trump, do your job. Lives are at stake. This is not about politics. This is not about your ego. This is about the people of Puerto Rico and the [Virgin Islands].” Her advocacy got national attention and helped secure vital aid, as officials recognized the truth of Cruz’s assertion that “survival cannot be our new way of life.”

Most Valuable Inside/Outside Progressive

Polls identify him as the nation’s most popular prominent political figure, and Sanders used that popularity to build movements in 2017. The Vermonter did plenty of work in the Senate: introducing Medicare for All legislation that drew unprecedented support, and grilling Trump cabinet picks like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whom he asked: “Do you think, if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?” Outside Washington, Sanders rallied red-state voters against Trump’s agenda, defending the Affordable Care Act at “Care Not Cuts” rallies in Kentucky and West Virginia; barnstormed across Pennsylvania and Ohio on a “Protect Working Families” tour sponsored by and Not One Penny to oppose the GOP tax bill; and helped Indiana steelworkers expose the administration’s failure to advance fair trade. Sanders also marched in favor of union rights in Mississippi with thousands of United Auto Workers activists, civil-rights campaigners, and members of the new Good Jobs Defenders coalition.

Most Valuable Union

If you want to see solidarity in action, consider the response of the union that represents more than 200,000 US Postal Service employees and retirees to last summer’s Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. APWU president Mark Dimondstein explained to his members that rallying “for equality and against the hate-mongers” is essential union work. “What does all this have to do with the APWU? Everything!” argued Dimondstein. “Fascists are bitter enemies of workers and our unions. Their race and religious bigotry, intimidation, and violence are a direct threat to our unity and ability to stand up and fight back to save the public Postal Service, win good contracts, gain better working conditions, enjoy a better life, and live in a more just society.”
There's lots more. I want to mention I have two runners-up with Ro Khanna for most valuable House freshman: Pramila Jayapal and Jamie Raskin. Next year I'll look forward to seeing Randy Bryce on the list.

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At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, however, could have given us a president Bernie last year.

She refused to endorse him and, instead, endorsed $hillbillary. Had she joined the Berniewagon, it might have given him the boost needed to go over the top. Instead, she jumped on the anti-Elizabeth moneywagon, debasing herself forever.

Bernie -- ditto.

Also, naming MV-democraps is like recognizing the best player on the Cleveland Browns or the smartest guy in the asylum. It's a 'nice try to no effect' prize.


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