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Fri Dec 28, 2018, 10:50 PM

My 2018 "McLaughlin Awards" (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second part of our year-end awards column! For those who may have missed it, check out Part 1 from last week to see the awards we've already handed out.

But since these columns are always not only monstrously but downright scroll-bar-defyingly long, let's just dive right back into the 2018 McLaughlin awards, shall we?



Destined For Political Stardom

This one is really, really easy to call. Last year, nobody knew her name. This year, she is the shining focal point of the incoming House Democratic freshman class. In other words, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already a rising star in the Democratic firmament.

Will she stumble? That remains to be seen. Will she have any legislative success, being but one of 435? That's an even tougher question, to be sure. But it seems almost guaranteed that she will retain her symbolic value -- for years to come -- of the youthful energy rising within the Democratic Party; that much seems certain at this point.

Consider this -- much of the next year in Democratic politics will be spent speculating about which Democrats will be running for president in 2020. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will not be among the list of possibilities, though. Why are we so certain of this? Because, by constitutional rules, she will still be too young to run. In fact, she would only barely qualify four years later, for the 2024 contest. That is a good measure of how much time she's got to make a name for herself, and how much further she could eventually rise. Ask yourself: did Nancy Pelosi make such a splash when she came to Washington? And look at her now....

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or, as we're sincerely hoping everyone soon starts calling her, if only to ease the typing, "AOC" ) is nothing short of a welcome breath of fresh air in Democratic politics. She is -- easily -- this year's winner of the Destined For Political Stardom award.



Destined For Political Oblivion

We considered giving this award to Paul Ryan, but then again we're not so sure. It's hard to move from being speaker of the House to any other political job, but then again stranger things have happened. Ryan is still relatively young (he was one of the famed GOP "young guns" only a few years back) and he has escaped Washington before Trump's comeuppance (if it ever arrives, that is). Ryan is scarred by his abject weakness at leading the House, but that'll likely be forgotten in a few years' time. He could easily make a run for Wisconsin governor or senator in the future, so we can't write the rest of his political career off quite as easily as we would like to. He'll surely spend 2019 in political oblivion, but perhaps this won't last forever.

We also considered another Wisconsin politician, because we sincerely want to see Scott Walker enter political oblivion. But we decided he wasn't high enough of a profile nationally, even though seeing him get beat was one of the highpoints for us personally in the midterms.

We also considered giving this award to President Donald Trump, but then we decided that was either premature or wishful thinking for the upcoming year. Maybe (hopefully) in 2020, though....

Instead, we're going to give this award out to the long list of people who have surrounded Trump since he took office. From John Kelly and James Mattis (and then working backwards in time), it's hard to see anyone closely associated with Trump -- in his cabinet, in a top White House aide job, and most especially in his communications department -- ever being seriously considered for any responsible position in politics ever again.

The touch of Trump will work the reverse of the Midas touch -- everyone around him will be forever tainted by his stench. All of the supposed "adults in the room" will be consigned to political oblivion just by their association with Trump. Fox News won't have enough money to hire them all as consultants, even.

This is the ultimate result of the old "lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas" adage. Every Republican who got very close to Trump in any way will be forever tarnished by his corrosive touch, and will be consigned to political oblivion -- even within the Republican Party. At least, we sincerely hope.



Best Political Theater

Well, to begin with, there was the unprecedented headline: "Porn Star Sues President." That has been pretty good political theater all year, in fact.

In the "funniest political theater" subcategory, we have Representative Brendan Boyle, who introduced a bill to force presidential candidates to get mental health tests. He named it the "Standardized Testing and Accountability Before Large Elections Giving Electors Necessary Information for Unobstructed Selection Act," or the STABLE GENIUS Act. Best acronym of the year, (tiny) hands down!

Also amusing was the time last winter when Senator Cory Booker and Senator Jeff Flake went outside the Capitol and had a snowball fight. No, really -- this actually happened. Booker apparently got his butt handed to him by Flake, and afterwards admitted: "I should have known this was a setup... lost this morning's snowball duel to a guy named Flake from Snowflake, Arizona!"

But we had so many excellent entries for this category that it was tough to decide. Our first runner-up was the meeting that Trump held in the Oval Office a few weeks ago with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Now, this could easily qualify for the Worst Political Theater, if you look at it from Trump's perspective, but from the perspective of the Democrats, it was more in line with Best Political Theater. But in the end, even this fell a little short.

So we actually have a three-way tie for Best Political Theater this year. One was for a bit of legislative political theater that worked, and two were for populist movements that resulted in huge protest rallies that wound up making a real difference.

Let's take the legislation first. Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna banded together to create the "Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act" (or, of course, the "Stop BEZOS Act" ) which was aimed directly at Amazon (headed by Jeff Bezos, who also now owns the Washington Post). The idea behind it was simple: giant corporations were ripping off the American taxpayers by paying their employees such a low wage that they still qualified for federal benefits such as food stamps. Sanders and Khanna felt that a full-time job should mean an income that was sufficient not to require federal (taxpayer) subsidies, so they used the bill to shame Bezos into doing the right thing, by requiring such companies to reimburse the federal government for every aid dollar spent on such workers. Makes all kinds of sense, right?

Most amazingly, it worked like a charm. Bezos announced that no Amazon worker would henceforth make less than $15 an hour -- the benchmark now considered a living wage by progressives. Such bold political moves -- especially political moves that have little-to-no chance of actually becoming law any time soon -- seldom work in the world of politics and big business, but this one did. For forcing such change, Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna both deserve a Best Political Theater award. Because that's all it ever was -- theater. It wasn't going to pass a Republican House or Senate, but it worked nonetheless. And that's the mark of downright excellent political theater.

The first of the two mass movements that also deserve Best Political Theater were the teachers who struck for better treatment and pay in red state after red state (West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma) because they were sick and tired of bearing the brunt of Republican budget-cutting and trickle-down economic nonsense. In frustration and rage, they walked out, and then they walked to their state capitals and demanded change. For the most part, they were successful, because what politician really wants to face down hordes of angry teachers (who actually know how to correctly spell and punctuate their protest signs)? Their movement was impressive as all get-out, and must be applauded. The people had had enough, they spoke, and changes were made. That is also political theater at its highest level.

Finally, another Best Political Theater award must be given to the brave students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, who were not just saddened by a school shooting they survived, but they were downright incensed at the political inaction which inevitably seems to happen as the aftermath to mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting. They were all supposed to give a few tearful media interviews, and then quietly go be traumatized somewhere so we could all forget about them until the next mass shooting captured our attention. That's the standard television media script, after all.

They absolutely refused to follow this model. Instead, they demanded change, and organized a monster rally in Washington.

Again: these kids for the most part were not even old enough to vote. They were teenagers still waiting to see if they got accepted to college. And they were the most inspiring and impressive people on the political stage all year long, hands down.

Although the media has mostly given up on following their stories, their "March For Our Lives" continues, and they have chalked up some impressive and concrete victories. They helped Democratic candidates out who stood strongly for commonsense gun safety laws, many of whom wound up getting elected -- even in some deep red states. At the end of the year, the Trump administration finally moved to absolutely ban bump stocks, which were at the heart of another tragic mass shooting (the one in Las Vegas). This likely wouldn't have happened if the March For Our Lives hadn't also happened.

These kids are going to go far, after receiving a very harsh and sudden lesson in American politics and choosing to react in the most positive way imaginable. For now, they also deserve a Best Political Theater award. They didn't choose to launch this campaign, please remember -- they were the victims of a horrific act of violence beyond their control. And yet they took it and made something amazing out of it. And that's the highest political theater compliment we know how to give.



Worst Political Theater

Um, Kanye West in the Oval Office? That one was so bad, it even left Trump himself speechless, which is quite a feat indeed.

An intern trying to grab the microphone from CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who was only trying to do his damn job, fer cryin' out loud? That was pretty bad, too, we gotta admit.

The president of the {expletive deleted} United {expletive deleted} States of America calling other countries, quote, shithole countries, unquote, in a meeting? And thereby forcing every television network's censorship department ("standards and practices" ) to have a conniption fit because they can't see any way to block their news anchors from reporting verbatim what was after all reportedly a direct quote from the president on air? We certainly never thought we'd see Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour ever utter the word "shithole" on air, but Donald Trump proved us wrong in the end. Sigh.

All those "Nunes memo" moments that never delivered even a fraction of what they were billed to? Sheesh!

That military parade that never happened for Trump?

Alex Trebek (of Jeopardy! fame, of course) being asked to host a gubernatorial debate (the only one held, in fact) in Pennsylvania? And then blowing it badly? "Can I have 'Political Mismatch' for $1000, Alex?"

A Senate candidate in Mississippi spontaneously offering up the line: "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." While running against a black man.

"Be Best!" maybe? Or how about those blood-colored Christmas trees. Talk about a war on Christmas (shudder)!

Government shutdowns? Whether Democratic-instigated or Trump-led, let's all just agree that they suck and move on, OK?

Kidding aside, it was a banner year for bad political theater. One is reminded of the Saturday Night Live, PBS-spoofing "Bad Theater" sketch, in fact. They all deserve to be dropped ignominiously in the ashcan by a British-accent-spewing Dan Aykroyd.

But more seriously, there were really only three real nominees for Worst Political Theater. Two were either (optimistically) just photo-ops, or (pessimistically) our president selling our country's interests out on live television, on the world's stage, to the worst-of-the-worst dictators around. And the third was more domestic, in a rather violent way.

Let's take that last one first. A few decades ago, the Senate confirmed an accused sexual harasser to the highest legal court in the land. Clarence Thomas is still there.

Last year, the Senate confirmed a man accused of either attempted rape or actual rape by more than one woman. Brett Kavanaugh, whom we will be referring to in these pages from this point on as "Justice Fratboy," for painfully obvious reasons, will be on the court for decades to come (if his health holds out of course -- as we all now know, he still "likes beer... a lot," so who knows?).

The Kavanaugh hearings were one of the culminating points of the #MeToo movement. Seeing Susan Collins try to explain her betrayal of women was just cringeworthy. As was watching hour after hour of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony, and then the fratboy bluster which followed from Kavanaugh. It was, without any shadow of a doubt, a true low point in both American political and American judicial history. From beginning to end.

But with Donald Trump in the White House, even the Kavanaugh hearings were not the worst depths to be plumbed during the course of the year, in the category of Worst Political Theater. Because Trump staged not one but two bits of very bad political theater himself. The first was a meeting with Kim Jong Un, which Trump agreed to without any preconditions. This gave the North Korean leader a huge propaganda win, right off the bat. Then Trump actually saluted a North Korean general -- an act of subservience that no Democratic president would have been allowed to get away with in a million years, but which conservatives just shrugged off.

Kim Jong Un masterfully played Trump during the meeting, and they emerged with an agreement that didn't actually agree to much of anything. North Korean still hasn't tested any nukes since or launched any missile tests, but that hasn't stopped them from going right ahead and ramping up production of nukes behind the scenes. Trump infamously tweeted: "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea," which wasn't even close to the truth. Trump's team then screened a film for journalists that was actually mistaken for North Korean propaganda it was so bad. Trump got badly played, he still doesn't seem to even realize that he got played, and the whole thing was bad theater on a nuclear level.

But even that didn't qualify for Worst Political Theater. Because Trump didn't just meet with one dictatorial and murderous autocrat this year, he doubled down by meeting with Vladimir Putin in private. No aides were present, only a translator. Americans still have no earthly idea what took place in that meeting.

But it wasn't the meeting itself which won the Worst Political Theater award, but the press conference afterwards. Trump looked and sounded like a Russian puppet -- there just is no other way to say it. Trump assured everyone that -- all those intelligence reports to the contrary -- Putin had told him there was no Russian interference in the 2016 election, and that was good enough for Trump. "I don't see any reason why it would be Russia" who hacked the election, Trump rhetorically stated, and then the White House had to hastily claim he really mean to say "wouldn't" -- which precisely no one believed.

Trump kowtowing to a Russian leader on the world's stage was, without doubt, the Worst Political Theater of the year.



Worst Political Scandal

Once again, Donald Trump all but cleared this field. Consider: Missouri's governor was shamed in a scandalous affair and faced impeachment from the legislature. He was forced to resign. Does anyone remember his name? We didn't (it's Eric Greitens, for the record). That's a pretty salacious scandal that resulted in a disgraceful exit from office, and it didn't even register on people's radar because Trump is the king of scandals, these days.

Trump even outdoes himself. He wins not only the Worst Political Scandal, but also the runner-up for good measure. It was very tough to decide between these two, we should mention, and we went back and forth on it up until the very end.

Our runner-up won the Worst Political Scandal award last year, and will likely win the Worst Political Scandal award next year as well. The investigation by Robert Mueller into Trump's election and obstruction of justice since he's been in office is already enormous in size. It has spun off several tangential investigations as well. Crony after crony of Trump's has plead guilty or been found guilty by a jury. Several are now serving time behind bars. And Mueller is not done yet, so there will be more bombshells to come.

Trump can now be referred to as either "Individual 1" or (even better) an "unindicted co-conspirator." Not since the days of Richard Nixon has that been true about a president. But even taking all of this into account, there's still a scandal that we judged worse.

Her (stage) name is Stormy Daniels. She's a porn star and porn director and producer. Trump will forevermore be linked in the history books with a porn star. Just think about that for a moment in the context of "what presidents will be remembered for." Bill Clinton will always have Monica Lewinsky in the same section in the history books, and from now on Trump will always have Stormy Daniels.

Remember when Republicans used to be the great moralizers of American politics? Remember when they decried Democrats for being moral relativists? Remember when they tsk-tsk-ed at every shortcoming (especially those involving sex) by a Democrat? Those days weren't so long ago, but they are now forever dead. Republicans just cannot make a moral case for Trump, because it is impossible to do so. He's a liar, he's a racist, he's a philanderer and a adulterer, and he wouldn't recognize morality if it came up and bit him on his fat rear end.

Nothing proves all of this more than all the "Porn Star Sues President" headlines. Which is why we're giving the Stormy affair the Worst Political Scandal of the year award.



Most Underreported Story

There was a whole slew of nominations for this category.

Early in the year, Trump continued stonewalling the press, refusing to give a formal press conference at all. He's marginally improved in this regard since, but his White House is becoming more and more hostile to the press as time goes by. The daily press briefing barely even exists anymore. Trump's spokespeople lie their faces off and refuse to admit to factual evidence.

The rate at which Trump is burning through cabinet members and aides was also a story that never got the big-picture attention it really deserves. His burn rate is so much higher than any other modern president, but the media doesn't seem to want to focus on it.

The deficit is exploding, once again, due to Republican tax cuts. The media hasn't reported on this much, if at all. The trade war is heating up, due to Trump's tariffs. The media only sporadically reports on this, when factory closure announcements are made. Our trade deficit -- the one Trump hates, but doesn't really understand -- is actually going up, but you don't hear about it on the news. Trump using $12 billion of taxpayer money to bail out farmers harmed by his tariffs also didn't get much media attention.

Trump, after promising that he'd "make Mexico pay for the wall in trade agreements" forged a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico (which was really nothing more than a few minor tweaks to NAFTA), and there was no wall money in it at all. The press (and, for some reason, Democrats) have largely allowed Trump to get away with this without forcefully pointing it out.

Led by Trump, the GOP ran the most racist campaign in at least the past generation in American politics, but the media was very quiet about overtly pointing it out. It wasn't just Trump's fearmongering over the caravan and the border, either -- some outright white supremacists ran Republican campaigns this time around, and this didn't get nearly the exposure it demanded.

Democrats ran a very positive campaign on Obamacare and healthcare in general, but the media refused to ever admit it. But we've covered this one adequately elsewhere.

Trump loves to rail about "chain migration" and how bad it is, but Melania very quietly used it to bring her parents to America and get them their own citizenship. This naked hypocrisy went mostly unmentioned in the press.

There were reports of migrant children in custody being forcibly drugged to keep them docile and quiet, which should have been an enormous scandal, but somehow wasn't. This was probably the worst underreported story all year, in fact.

Trump was accused of using an unsecured smart phone to call his buddies up in private, and it was reported that China and Russia had likely already hacked it. After all the hoopla over Hillary Clinton's phone and emails, you'd think this would have been big news, but you would have been wrong -- it barely caused a ripple.

But the real Most Underreported Story of the year were all the other legal challenges Trump is facing. First and foremost is the Summer Zervos defamation case against Trump, which is moving forward under the media's radar. This one may explode onto the national stage very soon, because the judge in the case has ordered that Trump has to sit down for a deposition before the end of January. So there's that to look forward to in the new year. And during such a deposition, all sorts of questions can get asked (remember Bill Clinton's deposition?).

There are also many other court cases against Trump, like the emoluments case that is also in the discovery phase. Trump business records could soon be made public, but all the media is able to focus on is writing yet another: "We really think Mueller's investigation is about to wrap up!" story (they've been writing these stories all year long, in fact).

Sure, the Mueller investigation is big news. It may provide the biggest evidence of Trump's wrongdoing. But it certainly isn't the only legal action against him, and the others could provide evidence of wrongdoing a lot sooner than Mueller. If-and-when they do, the media will be forced to pay attention, but to date they have largely ignored the bigger picture, which is why "all the other legal problems Trump faces" is our Most Underreported Story of the year.



Most Overreported Story

Last year, we gave this award to "Trump's Twitter feed." We could easily have repeated this again, since anything Trump tweets (no matter how false, no matter how vicious, no matter how inane, and no matter how insane) was still big Big BIG news on the teevee.

Sigh.

But instead, we decided to give this award to a story that did not, in fact, exist. We could easily have put it in the Most Underreported Story category, but that one was stuffed full of nominees, so we decided to put it here instead.

The Most Overreported Story of 2018 was: "Democrats are running their midterm campaign on impeaching Trump!"

This simply was not true. Not even close. Not even slightly. Indeed, there was not a shred of evidence of this actually happening, all year long, and yet the media devoted hour after hour of coverage to it. Pundits endlessly discussed a dichotomy that simply did not exist: "Should Democrats run on impeaching Trump, or do they need to run on something positive?" Gallons of ink (well, pixels, we suppose) were spilled over such speculation, with absolutely no evidence of it being real at all. Democratic politicians and candidates for office were always asked this question in live interviews, and they all -- every single one, every single time -- refused to take the bait. Instead, they would calmly list the positive campaign agenda items they were running on, which would then wind up on the cutting room floor, while their answer to the impeachment question got picked as the sound bite that ran instead.

"Journalists" would gleefully score themselves a win and all but high-five each other if they even got a Democrat to use the word impeachment on the air. It didn't even matter that almost every one of these answers was: "Nobody's talking about impeachment on the campaign trail, why do you keep asking about it?" They simply paid no attention at all. To the punditocracy, this was supposed to be the impeachment midterm, period.

In reality, Democrats ran on protecting Obamacare and healthcare in general -- that was the big issue the media missed, over and over again (this is how this would have qualified for the previous award as well). It was what the actual voters cared about, it was what the actual candidates were talking about, and it was the number one issue during the campaign for Democrats. Republicans had shown their true colors in their final attempt (hopefully) at killing Obamacare in Congress, and Democrats were now making them pay for this political blunder in a big way, from coast to coast. And the media completely ignored it, even though it turned out to be the most potent issue in the election.

"Oh, sure, Obamacare, blah blah blah... but seriously, how soon will you start impeachment hearings if you win?" It was the story that would not die, even without ever showing a shred of existence beyond the Beltway, in the actual campaigns Democrats were running. Far and away the Most Overreported Story of the year. In fact, if Trump hadn't completely bastardized the term, we might even be tempted to call it "fake news" of the worst sort.



Biggest Government Waste

Trump's family separation policy at the southern border was a gigantic waste of government resources, but it was more a tragedy than a waste, really. Other than all the millions wasted to send the troops to do, essentially, nothing -- the president used the military as political props, and Republicans didn't utter a peep of protest.

But the Biggest Government Waste of the year was, in fact, the Trump tax cut. As with all Republican tax cuts, it was sold with: "It'll pay for itself!" It didn't. Instead, it blew a giant hole in the deficit and will increase our national debt for years to come.

It was also supposed to be the magic bullet for the Republican Party to coast to victory in the midterm elections. On this, it also fell far short. At the start of the year, Republicans were going to center their entire re-election campaign around: "Haven't the tax cuts been wonderful?!?"

Problem was, this time around the public noticed ahead of the fact that over 80 cents of every dollar in tax cuts went straight to gigantic corporations and the ultra-ultra-wealthy. The middle class got screwed, once again, by the GOP -- but this time they realized it in record time.

The tax cut issue had always polled terribly. GOP ads touting the tax cuts ran at the start of the campaign, and then soon disappeared when the data came in showing that they were actually making it worse for Republican candidates.

A few Republicans realized that the tax cuts weren't exactly the magic answer it had been sold as, very early on, but they were lone voices crying in the wilderness. Here is the best quote we came across when perusing the year's headlines for our year-end columns. It came from Senator Marco Rubio, in April (very early on in the cycle, in other words), in an interview with The Economist magazine:

There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker.


And guess what? The American worker noticed, this time around. So, to recap: the tax cuts didn't work the way they were supposed to on Wall Street, they didn't shower wealth on the middle class (to say nothing of blue-collar workers), it turned out to be a stinker of a political issue for Republicans to run on, and generally was about as popular as post-nasal drip with the public.

Or, to put it another way, the Biggest Government Waste of the year.



Best Government Dollar Spent

This one was an easy one, after we read an amusing story a few weeks ago. Even though Donald Trump loves to weep and wail about how much the Mueller investigation is costing the government, in the end the Mueller investigation may wind up making money for the government!

How is this possible? Well, please consider that in and amongst all the myriad guilty pleas and guilty verdicts, quite a few of the charges have to do with tax fraud or tax evasion. These aren't minor offenses, either, and run to millions of dollars per felon. When you add them all up (including all the penalties, fines, and interest), it comes to a whoppingly huge amount of money. Which could, in the end, exceed Mueller's entire budget.

So not only is Mueller protecting American democracy, he's likely going to wind up turning a profit for the Treasury while doing so. If that isn't the Best Government Dollar Spent last year, we don't know what is.



Boldest Political Tactic

Democrats deciding to run candidates everywhere this year was certainly a bold political tactic that paid off in a big way, that's for sure.

Allowing Progressives to be Progressives was also a bold move that worked (in some very blue districts and states).

Nancy Pelosi used what is called "leader time" in the house to launch what would be called a "filibuster" over in the Senate. Afterwards, The Onion ran a hilarious headline: "Woman Speaks For Record-Breaking Eight Hours Without Being Interrupted By Man." Heh.

Elizabeth Warren decided to head Trump off at the pass and underwent a DNA test to prove her family lore was true. Whether this was a smart move or a giant blunder still remains to be seen, of course, but it was indeed a bold move on her part.

Our first runner-up, though, was to put a measure on the Florida ballot to enfranchise former felons once again. Florida had a notoriously difficult and partisan system to give former prisoners the right to vote back, and it was abused shamelessly by the Republican governor (who got caught deciding to give back the right to vote only to Republican felons). But the people voted to do away with this hangover from the Jim Crow era entirely, which could shift Florida politics significantly in the years to come (depending on how many felons actually take the time to register and vote, of course). So introducing the ballot measure was not just a bold political tactic -- it actually worked.

But the Boldest Political Tactic of the year, sadly, was when Donald Trump decided -- singlehandedly, from all reports -- to rewrite the entire Republican Party's midterm campaign strategy book, from:

Let's run on those swell tax cuts! Maybe this time your boss will give you a raise rather than pocket the money! Hey, it could happen!


to:

America is being invaded by evil and dangerous brown people who will steal your jobs, hook your sons on drugs, seduce your daughters, and then probably rape and murder you in your beds! Be afraid -- be VERY afraid!!! The Democrats are obviously wusses, so elect manly Republicans who will take on this invading horde with the death and destruction they deserve!


Anyone who thinks that is any sort of hyperbole on our part must have been in a coma for the entire midterm campaign cycle. Because that's exactly the message Trump was sending, at full volume, for the entire election -- especially the last few months of it.

Consider, just for a moment, that Trump cut a last-minute (and last-ditch) campaign ad in the closing days of the campaign that multiple television networks deemed was too racist to run -- even including the Fox network. The ad, described quite accurately as "Willie Horton on steroids," was a real lowpoint in American politics that will doubtless be studied far into the future as a prime example of the depths to which American politicians can sink when they have absolutely no moral compass of their own. That's what Trump did to the Republican campaign. The freakin' president of the United States tried to get the television networks to run an ad that they decided was too racist to run, as the closing argument for an American midterm election.

It was a vile and stupid tactic, but it certainly was bold, you've got to admit that.

Donald Trump completed (for the moment, at least) his complete and utter takeover of the Republican Party this year. It is now the Party of Trump, plain and simple. What Our Dear Leader determines is best for the party is best for the party, and you better not say otherwise or else he'll unleash a tweetstorm on your sorry ass. Trump charted the bold course, and Republicans had to follow him. Which they mostly did.

Now, the strategy may have had some positive effects for Republicans, at least in the short term. Many were predicting over the summer that Republican voters were getting dispirited and would likely stay home in droves for the midterm elections. But after both the Kavanaugh hearings and Trump's on-steroids xenophobia and racism took over, the base did indeed get a bit energized.

Republicans won some Senate victories, even during a blue wave election. And even in many of the House districts and governors' races that Democrats ultimately won, the vote was very close -- so close, in fact, that we didn't find out for days who had won. The GOP base did not stay home, they voted. But in the end more Democrats voted against them.

Trump's bold strategy of free-floating racism did not work. It failed. The blue wave arrived. It may have even been boosted in size due to Trump's bold move. Trump's boldness backfired, in other words.

But that doesn't detract from how bold a move it was in the first place. The entire Republican Party begged Trump to stay on subject and not whip up resentment and fear. Trump ignored them all and did what he thought was best. For doing so -- and for it failing so spectacularly -- Trump wins Boldest Political Tactic.



Best Idea

We've got two from Maine this year, surprisingly enough. The first is the "ranked-choice voting" system that Maine adopted for House races this year. Rather than having to "throw your vote away" on a third-party candidate, this allows you to rank your choices: Green, Democratic, Libertarian, Republican (or whatever -- it depends who is on the ballot). That way, if the Green candidate doesn't get enough votes, your vote gets shifted to the Democrat. This worked exactly the way it was designed, and it resulted in an upset win in one of the two House districts in Maine. It's been challenged in court, and survived, so this could be the start of a new trend which could spread to other states. Ranked-choice voting was a real contender for Best Idea last year.

What else? Paul Ryan and a whole passel of other Republicans deciding not to run for re-election turned out to be a real good idea (for them).

Passing a law to protect the Mueller investigation was a great idea, but didn't actually happen.

Giving Florida felons their vote back was also a great idea, and one that did pass.

Banning bump stocks was (to give Trump a tiny shred of credit) a really good idea -- one that we never actually thought he'd follow through on.

Fighting gerrymandering tooth and nail was a great idea over on the Democratic side, but we addressed that one last week.

"Medicare for all who want it," or "bringing back the public option" is an idea that's only going to get stronger as time goes on.

Democratic candidates forswearing PAC money and relying on small donations instead is also an idea that is gaining more and more traction as time goes by.

The Democratic National Committee's changes to the superdelegate problem were a fantastically good idea, and a very elegant solution, so this deserves some sort of mention here.

Democrats deciding -- finally -- to run a positive campaign in strong favor of protecting and expanding Obamacare turned out to be a wildly successful idea. But please remember that this was the first election cycle in which this was done -- from when Obamacare passed up until this year, Republicans have used it to beat up Democrats in campaign ads, while Democrats were mostly silent. This time, the shoe was on the other foot. After the Republican "repeal and replace with nothing" fiasco, the Republicans had to play defense on the whole question of protecting people with pre-existing conditions, while Democrats went on the offensive with their pro-Obamacare campaign. That's a sea-change, folks.

But even though there were plenty of valid candidates, there was one idea which was so startlingly unique that it rose far above the rest. Because this could have been the dawning of an entirely new political tactic which could -- very soon now -- become a major political tool, wielded by a spontaneous mass of likeminded citizens rather than a special interest group or a PAC or a lobbyist. It could even eventually shift the foundations of politics as we know it in America. It truly has that potential, although we cannot foresee if it will ever actually reach such heights.

To explain the possibly-momentous nature of this new tactic, a bit of background is necessary. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, one fence-sitting senator in particular was targeted by women: Maine's Susan Collins. Collins has bucked her party in the past on certain women's issues, and therefore was considered a swing vote in the Kavanaugh drama. She is now perhaps the most-vulnerable Republican in the entire Senate, since (1) she is up for re-election in 2020, and (2) she is the only remaining Republican in either house of Congress from all of New England. She's got a big ol' Democratic target on her back, in other words, politically.

But a few bright and forward-thinking activists in Maine got a great idea, and they ran with it. What if -- before the Kavanaugh vote even happened -- they began raising campaign money for a hypothetical and unnamed Democratic opponent to Collins? Which would be contingent upon her vote -- if she voted against Kavanaugh, all the money collected would disappear like the morning dew, returned to the donors. But if she voted for Kavanaugh, then the money would be collected and would sit as a campaign war chest just waiting for a Democratic challenger to emerge?

Now, many indignantly cried: "This is bribery! It is buying a vote, plain and simple!" But it wasn't, exactly. It was merely a promise to spend against a politician, if she voted a certain way. Call it reverse-bribery, maybe. What's more, this is already a common tactic lobbyists from big donors use against sitting politicians: "I'll fund a {primary challenger/general election challenger} against you, unless you vote this way on this bill." It happens all the time in Washington, right now.

So how can it be "bribery" when a whole bunch of small-donor citizens band together to do exactly the same thing lobbyists routinely threaten in Washington?

That is the beauty of the new idea, and that is precisely why it wins the Best Idea award. It's all well and good to fund candidates by small donations (as opposed to corporate and super PAC funding), but why not use this as actual leverage, the same way the big boys do? Threaten to fund an opponent, and a politician -- even an incumbent senator -- might eventually listen to you.

This will all be put to the test, two years hence. Before the vote was held, the hypothetical Democratic opponent to Susan Collins raised a cool million bucks. That may not sound like a lot for a Senate race, but this is Maine we're talking about -- a fairly cheap media market, when compared to other states. After she voted for Kavanaugh, the fund shot up to two million bucks so fast the website crashed because it couldn't keep up with the flood of donations.

This may be a big part of the future of American politics, folks. Few in the media noticed it at the time, but this may be a tectonic event. For that possibility, the folks who raised money for Susan Collins's hypothetical opponent surely deserve the Best Idea of the year award, don't you think?



Worst Idea

Be Best!

Heh.

There were some phenomenally bad ideas kicked around last year: Space Force. Holding a military parade for Trump. Tariffs and the Trump trade war. Announcing that somehow the military was going to pay for and build Trump's wall. Trump's wall, in the first place. Republicans running on overt racism. Republicans running on an unpopular tax cut. Trump's transgender ban in the military. Trump hiring Rudy Giuliani as his personal lawyer -- that was a particularly bad idea (and one that just keeps on giving).

Trump made an announcement in the midst of the trade war that Congress should pass a law with one of his favorite phrases as the title: "United States Fair And Reciprocal Trade Act." This, as you can see by the acronym, was a real stinkeroo of an idea (the "US FART Act"?).

On the world stage, Trump had two truly bad ideas: pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal with nothing in place to replace it, and pulling all our troops precipitously out of Syria. The repercussions of both are still yet to be known, but could be quite bad indeed.

Chuck Schumer apparently agreed to fully fund Trump's wall earlier in the year, in a bid to get the DACA kids protected. The deal blew up hours after it was struck, but giving in to all of Trump's wall money at once was a pretty bad idea for a Democratic leader to agree to.

Trump announcing that anyone disrespecting him was guilty of treason -- like the Democrats who didn't applaud his State Of The Union speech, or the anonymous author of the "I Am Part Of The Resistance Inside The Trump Administration" op-ed article. Neither one was anywhere close to "treason" but that didn't stop Trump from lashing out. No wonder he liked meeting with dictators so much....

But all of that pales in comparison to the Worst Idea of the year, which was Trump deciding on his "family separation policy" at the border. This needlessly cruel policy was a throwback to earlier times in American history -- darker times, when immigrants were scapegoated mercilessly.

Trump turning a caravan of helpless refugees into an "invasion" and sending the military to the southern border were just extensions of his original family separation cruelty. Traumatizing infants and small children for no real reason, and separating them from their parents just to make a political point with your base is not really who America should be, plain and simple.

Our only real hope is that when Trump exits the national stage that we can get back to our high ideals without too much problem. But for now, we've got the most xenophobic president in probably the last 100 years in the White House. We've just got to fight back in the courts and hope that he doesn't come up with too many other truly evil and cruel ideas. But for 2018, Trump's Worst Idea was the child separation policy at the border.



Sorry To See You Go

Outside of politics, we're certainly sorry to see the passing of many icons: Aretha Franklin. Neil Simon. Ursula K. Le Guin. Stephen Hawking. And many more.

From the political world, we had mixed feelings about the passing of both John McCain and George H. W. Bush, but we do recognize that many are indeed sorry to see them go.

In less literal terms (sorry to see you exit the stage, in other words), we were indeed sorry to see Anthony Kennedy step down from the Supreme Court. Never our favorite justice, but a whole lot better than the fratboy who replaced him, that's for sure.

We're really sorry to see all the moderate Republicans exit politics who kept at least some sort of check on Trump. People like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker (and, to a certain degree, John McCain) couldn't survive in Trump's new Republican Party, which is a shame. The only one entering Congress who has a shot at replacing this dynamic is Mitt Romney, but somehow we don't expect much from him in the Senate.

This category really needs a "NOT Sorry To See You Go" counterpart, where we could list all the people who have exited Trump's White House, for starters. The Onion ran a waggish headline this year: "White House Now Just Holding Continuous Going-Away Party For Departing Staffers," which wasn't all that far off from the truth.

We're certainly not sorry to see the likes of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan leave the stage, that's for sure.

And we're really glad to see the Cleveland Indians finally retire their racist and demeaning "Chief Wahoo" logo.



15 Minutes Of Fame

We're just going to list these, since more than one person qualified. For better or for worse, the following have to enter the Andy Warhol "15 Minutes Of Fame" category:

  • Cynthia Nixon

  • Randy "Iron 'Stache" Bryce

  • Michael Avenatti

  • Roseanne Barr

  • Christine Blasey Ford

  • Brett Kavanaugh's buddy who wrote Wasted: Tales Of A Gen-X Drunk

  • John Kelly




Best Spin

We tried to nominate ourselves for this award, but the nominating committee decided that was too self-serving and disqualified us on general principles. Our entry was deciding at some point during the year to stop using the term "Hastert Rule" for the concept (among Republicans) of only allowing House floor votes on bills that had a "majority of the majority" (which was first instituted by Denny Hastert when he was speaker), and instead rebranding it as the "Child Molester's Rule." Hey, we thought that was pretty snappy, right?

But that wasn't even the most amusing entry this year. At the very dawn of 2018, Jeff Sessions tried to turn back the tide on marijuana legalization. Apparently miffed that California opened what was at the time the world's largest legal recreational marijuana marketplace, Sessions made an attempt to revive the failed federal War On Weed with a vengeance. Thankfully, this went nowhere fast. But the pushback was tremendous, from both sides of the aisle (check out Friday Talking Points, volume (466), for all the reactions). As we are wont to do, we saved the funniest reaction for last, in the final talking point. The Twitter feed for the Colorado Democrats had the best reaction possible, which easily qualified for a finalist spot in the Best Spin category:

We'll give Jeff Sessions our legal pot when he pries it from our warm, extremely interesting to look at hands.


Heh. Far out, man.

Seriously, though, this year's Best Spin award is for some very harmful spin indeed. This is one of those awards that is neutral -- it can be given for good spin or bad, if the spin is effective. And the most effective (and insidious) spin for all of last year (and a goodly portion of 2017, when it really began) was that all the Russians were guilty of was "meddling" in the 2016 election.

Really? Meddling? Seriously? A direct attack on American democracy was reduced to a word most people my age would recognize most from Scooby-Doo? ("Those darn meddling kids!" the bad guy would always say, when being hauled away.) Rob Lowe (as Shaggy) spoofed this brilliantly, years ago, on Saturday Night Live, in fact (which is still hilariously worth watching, if you haven't seen it before).

This spin job started with Trump trying to convince everyone nothing had happened. When this became so unbelievable as to be politically untenable, it somehow turned into merely "Russians meddling in our election." Just like, you know, those pirate ghosts.

Sigh.

The media went along for this ride, and they still have yet to adequately correct their mistake. This is serious business after all, but it simply is not being taken seriously. A few months before the midterm elections, even though Congress was informed that the Russians did not stop in 2016 but were still attacking American elections in 2018, the Republicans voted down a bill which would have sent money to the states to help them prevent cyberattacks on their election systems. And the media barely even noticed. This is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, plain and simple, and yet nobody even noticed. Because, after all, the Russians were only "meddling" in our elections.

While used for shameless purposes, that is some pretty good spin, we have to begrudgingly admit. So Best Spin of the year has to go to the word "meddling" whenever it appears with the words "Russian" and "election."



Most Honest Person

Our runner-up in this category is George Conway, husband of Kellyanne. He's been speaking truth not only to power but to his own spouse all year long.

But for our main award, perhaps it is not strictly "honesty" but rather "willingness to tell the truth," but we are dismissing the difference as splitting semantic hairs.

The Most Honest Person of the year was, without a shadow of a doubt, the anonymous author of the New York Times opinion piece entitled: "I Am Part Of The Resistance Inside The Trump Administration." The story this article told wasn't all that surprising, because it was exactly the same story as all the other tell-all books about the Trump White House had already told: Trump is erratic, impulsive, infantile, and he simply does not have the capacity to learn much of anything about much of any subject. The details in the article meshed perfectly with the details from books like Bob Woodward's and Omarosa's, without any doubt. When the same story is told over and over again by different people, eventually you have to believe that it is indeed what is going on behind the scenes.

The impact was amazing, though, because (as the old horror movie cliché put it) it was coming from inside the house! Trump called the article "treason" (it was not) and vowed to track down the anonymous author. To date, he has not done so. The author's anonymity has not been breached.

Sooner or later we'll all find out who penned this article, but for now we'll just anonymously award the Most Honest Person to whomever it was.



Biggest Liar
We're going to make this a permanent category, even though it wasn't in the original McLaughlin Group list, because we feel that Most Honest Person really requires a counterpoint, in these troubling times.

Of course, the obvious candidate for the Biggest Liar award is none other than Donald Trump, especially when you consider the sheer and unimaginable volume of Trump's lies. The Washington Post has a page they update every so often to track all of Trump's lies, and the last time we checked it was over 6,400 lies since he took office. His rate of lying ramped up considerably this year, as he went out to rally after rally -- where he routinely topped lying in 75 percent of all the statements he made. On one notable day, he lied almost 100 times. So for volume alone, Trump is impossible to beat. The Post fact-checker even introduced a new category for Trump -- "Bottomless Pinocchios" -- for lies told a total of more than 20 times.

There were also Trump's sycophants, who lied for him regularly in the press. Kellyanne Conway. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Rudy Giuliani, who had trouble keeping all his lies consistent more than once, and who infamously tried to convince us all that "Truth isn't truth," in defense of Trump's lies.

All of those are contenders, to be sure. But the Biggest Liar of the year this year was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who lied like a rug about ordering both the murder and dismemberment of a journalist employed by the Washington Post. Trump lapped up these lies, against the solid proof offered up by the intelligence service, and decided that M.B.S. was his buddy, and his buddy would never lie to him, so that was that.

There was no more despicable lie in 2018 than the story -- which changed daily, as Turkey released more and more proof -- that the Saudi Crown Prince had nothing to do with this planned hit job on a journalist he didn't like. Which makes him the Biggest Liar of the year.



Most Overrated

For these next two awards, we're going to hand out one for domestic politics and one on the international stage.

Most Overrated in world politics was Emmanuel Macron of France. He was supposed to be, depending on which media storyline you bought into, either a kinder, gentler Trump, or perhaps a more-savvy Barack Obama. He was new, fresh, interesting, and he seemed to be able to stand toe-to-toe (or "handshake-to-handshake," at the very least) with Trump himself. But by the end of the year, rampant street protests and violence shook France's politics to the core, and Macron was no longer in favor with much of anybody. He was easily the Most Overrated on the world's stage.

Domestically, we had a lot to choose from: Brett Kavanaugh. John Kelly, supposedly the "adult in the room" who could control Trump. James Mattis (ditto). On the Democratic side, and speaking in more electorally-minded terms, we had Stacey Abrams and Beto O'Rourke. They (and the two guys down in Florida) were supposed to be the success stories of the blue wave election. They weren't. They were the biggest disappointments of the blue wave election, in fact.

But one man stood out from the rest when it came to being Most Overrated. Retiring Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was easily the Most Overrated guy of the past year. In fact, you could make a very cogent argument that he was the Most Overrated guy of the past decade. Ryan, as mentioned elsewhere within this tome, was initially sold as a Republican "young gun" (there was even a book of that name), an uber-wonk that had all the details and would set the GOP budgetary course for the future.

In actual reality, his budget numbers were the product of smoke and mirrors, and they never added up without "magic asterisks" or fantastical mathematics or just large gaps in the data. Ryan, a devotee of Ayn Rand, could just never sell the American public (much less his own party) on the fact that slashing all aid to everyone vulnerable would be the best political move for Republicans to make. After attempting to "voucherize" Medicare and slash Social Security to the bone, Ryan eventually had to retreat politically.

Then he was essentially Shanghaied into becoming speaker, after John Boehner decided he had had enough and retired to sip whiskey on his porch and mow his lawn (hopefully, not in that particular order). Ryan never really wanted the job, but he was the only obvious choice after fellow "young gun" Eric Cantor was successfully primaried by a rabid Tea Partier, and the third "young gun" Kevin McCarthy took himself out of the running with a monstrous Kinsley gaffe. (Defined as "accidentally speaking the truth in politics," this consisted of a video of McCarthy outright admitting that the entire Benghazi hearing nonsense was nothing short of a political hit job on Hillary Clinton by the House Republicans.)

Ryan now steps down after losing to a blue wave election, and after achieving only one of his big political goals in life: a gigantic tax giveaway to Wall Street and the ultra-rich. He slinks back to Janesville, Wisconsin to spend more time with his family after: legislatively failing to achieve all else; utterly failing to corral his own fractious caucus; and utterly failing to ride any sort of rein on Donald Trump, as was his constitutional duty.

He leaves behind McCarthy as the Minority Leader of House Republicans (who will maybe have better luck than both Ryan and Boehner at herding the Tea Party cats, who knows?), and after losing control of the chamber to the hated Nancy Pelosi. Paul Ryan is -- quite obviously -- the Most Overrated politician of 2018.



Most Underrated

First, our international award in this category. British Prime Minister Teresa May is without doubt the Most Underrated. She wasn't for Brexit in the first place, but has done the almost-impossible job of reaching some sort of agreement that the rest of Europe can live with to facilitate Britain exiting the European Union. The agreement is not well-loved in Britain, and has been attacked from both sides of the political aisle, but it is better than nothing.

May just survived a "vote of no confidence" in Parliament, which is also an impressive feat in British politics. She very well may not survive the next one, though. She may steer Brexit to conclusion, and then again things could all fall apart. She could have to preside over a "hard Brexit" (which would likely be disastrous to the British economy), or she could manage to get another referendum put before British voters where they come to their senses and decide to vote "Remain" this time around.

It's all still very much up in the air, in other words, and the clock is ticking quickly. She's only got a few months before the deadline, so this could all happen very fast indeed. But so far -- to this point in time, at least -- Teresa May has been the Most Underrated politician on the world's stage, for getting Britain this far along the Brexit path without being thrown under the double-decker bus of British politics.

In America, our Most Underrated also goes to a very impressive woman. Nancy Pelosi is about to become the first person (never mind "first woman" ) to ever reclaim the speaker's gavel after an eight-year absence in the House minority party wilderness. That is damn impressive.

Pelosi has been impressive as all get-out in holding her party's own fractiousness together in the House Democratic caucus -- with the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove. When Pelosi was last speaker, she passed an incredible amount of very good legislation, most of which went over to Harry Reid's Senate to die. When Pelosi was sent to the minority wilderness -- astonishingly -- she still held Democrats together as a voting bloc. This might not sound all that impressive in today's very polarized politics, but it wasn't always this way with Democrats. The House Democrats (and to a lesser extent, the Senate Democrats) were more known for their squishiness when spending time in the minority. Dozens of them would cross the aisle to vote with Republicans to give Republicans big political victories, in fact. On a regular basis. That, however, was pre-Pelosi.

Pelosi's leadership is now being spoken of in relation to some giants of Congress. She's being compared to Tip O'Neill and Sam Rayburn these days, and Pelosi often is spoken of as being more effective than either one. That is not just impressive, that is downright stunning. Nancy Pelosi is going to enter the Congressional Hall of Fame, in other words, when she eventually does step down. She's a lock for one of the best speakers of the past 100 years. And -- on top of all these achievements as a person -- she is also the first woman speaker in all of American history. But that is now just an afterthought in her record. That is how impressive Nancy Pelosi is, plain and simple. She didn't just shatter the glass ceiling, she left behind a brand-new ceiling that her male successors will have to break through. That's pretty good for a girl from Baltimore, we have to say!

Pelosi shone brighter during the 2018 midterms than she ever has, in fact. There were over 100,000 anti-Pelosi ads run by Republican candidates all across the country, and they didn't work. The voters cast their lot with Democrats, whether Republicans wanted to call them "pawns of Pelosi" or "Pelosi stooges" or whatever other vile terms they could think up. Even with this headwind, the blue wave still gave Nancy Pelosi an incredible 40 more House seats in the election -- the best showing Democrats have had in the House since the election held three months after Richard Nixon resigned.

We can think of several superlative terms to call this superlative woman, but for now Most Underrated will do just fine. You go, Nancy -- and we are waiting with bated breath to see you wield that big gavel next year. That day can't come soon enough, as far as we're concerned.



Predictions

Before making 2019 predictions, we always review our own record to see how we did last time around. The following is the full list of our predictions for 2018, from last year's column:

The list of men revealed to be sexual predators will continue to grow, for at least the first few months of the year. The #MeToo movement has not yet come to an end, methinks.

The U.K. will come up with many creative ways to put off the invitation for Donald Trump to have a state visit. The idea is wildly unpopular in Britain, and it will not happen next year at all (for whatever stated reason, such as perhaps: "Oh, terribly sorry, Her Majesty is booked solid through 2021" ).

Bob Mueller's investigation will not be over any time soon. More indictments will be handed down, but the cloud hanging over the White House will still be present all the way through the midterms.

Trump will seethe, but will not in the end fire Mueller. During an election year, the fallout would be too disastrous for even Trump to contemplate.

The Supreme Court will rule that House districts in both Maryland and Wisconsin have so much bias to their boundaries that they are unconstitutional. This will have major consequences in the reapportionment after the 2020 Census.

John McCain will die while still a sitting U.S. senator. His interim replacement (if one is named) will not be Kelli Ward.

(This one is really me doubling down, since I already got it wrong for this year, I should mention.) The rumors turn out to be true, and Paul Ryan will announce he is not only stepping down from being speaker of the House, but also that he will not be seeking re-election to spend more time with his family. To the astonishment of all in Washington, he then does spend more quality time with his family. In November, Democratic candidate Randy "Iron 'Stache" Bryce wins Ryan's seat.

November is not just a wave election for Democrats, but a downright blue tsunami. Democrats pick up over 40 seats in the House. Pelosi will be challenged by a younger Democrat for the speaker's post in the leadership vote, but will easily beat back such a challenge and will reclaim the gavel in January of 2019.

Unfortunately, while Democrats defy all odds and actually pick up one seat in the Senate, this still leaves the Republicans just barely in control of the chamber, with a 50-50 tie. In other words, Mike Pence will be extra busy being the tiebreaker, from that point on.


OK, let's see how we did, one by one. The first one was pretty generic, but sadly enough came true. The #MeToo era is certainly not over yet -- not by a long shot -- and harassers and predators everywhere continue to be taken down from high places, in both politics and show business. The aftermath continues, in other words, just as we predicted.

Trump did visit the United Kingdom, but because the idea was so wildly unpopular there, it was eventually downgraded from a "state visit" to a "working visit." Trump did meet the Queen, but was not offered the full pomp and circumstance of a state visit. So, at most, we're awarding ourselves a quarter-point for this one, since we got the main prediction wrong.

However, we do get a full point for the next one, since Bob Mueller's investigation -- exactly as we predicted -- is still going strong at the end of 2018. Indictments continue, convictions and guilty pleas galore have come to pass, and lots and lots of people have flipped on Trump. Of course, the big news is yet to come, but for the year Mueller's team did exactly what we predicted they'd do.

A full point is deserved for the next prediction as well, as Trump was indeed too cowed by the political fallout to fire Mueller at any time during the year. He couldn't even bring himself to fire Jeff Sessions until immediately after the midterms.

We over-predicted what the Supreme Court would do on gerrymandering, however, so no points for that one at all. They totally punted on the issue.

Our McCain prediction was completely correct. McCain did die while still in office, and his replacement was not named Kelli Ward. Jon Kyl finished out the year in McCain's seat in the Senate. After the election, the governor named Martha McSally to McCain's seat to replace Kyl's temporary stint in office. McSally lost to Democrat Kirsten Sinema in the midterm Senate race in the state, so she may still be beatable in two years' time when she has to run for a full term.

After getting this one wrong in 2018's predictions, it finally came true in 2019. Paul Ryan took a good look at the blue wave rising, and decided to step down from his speakership and from his House seat. However, Randy "Iron 'Stache" Bryce failed to win his seat, so we only get a half-point for this one.

Thankfully, we nailed this next one, though. We predicted Democrats would pick up "over 40 seats" in the House, and currently they are at 40 pickups and still (hopefully) counting (there's still one North Carolina district up in the air). That's pretty close to perfectly calling the election in the House, you've got to admit. Nancy Pelosi was indeed challenged by some Democratic upstarts, but nobody was ever brave enough to throw his or her name into the actual ring to replace her. Pelosi worked the votes behind the scenes and secured enough Democrats to return as speaker early next year. So this one was a solid win for us, in more ways than one.

However, we have to admit that we blew it in the Senate. The Democrats did not pick up a seat -- in fact, they lost two seats. So zero points for our final prediction. Add them all up, and our final score for the year was five-and-three-quarters predictions right, out of a total of nine. That's an overall 64 percent correct, which is a lot better prognostication rate than we have managed in some years!

OK, with last year's business out of the way, let's take a look ahead and try to predict what 2019 will bring on the political scene.

The current government shutdown will end with Trump getting zero money for his wall. It will go on for longer than anyone now expects, but in the end either Trump will just cave or the Republicans in Congress will get tired of getting beaten up over the issue and join with Democrats to override a Trump veto of a budget bill. Either way, Trump gets no wall money at all. Democrats chalk the whole thing up as a big political win.

Brexit does not happen. Teresa May fails to get a deal that Parliament and the Europeans can live with, and so when faced with the daunting prospect of a "hard Brexit," May will call another referendum at the last minute. This time "Remain" will win over "Leave," and the whole sorry exercise will come to a screeching halt. This will roil British politics, but the U.K. will stay in the European Union, and there will be no border checks in Ireland.

Under Nancy Pelosi, the House will investigate Trump within an inch of his political life. So many scandals will be uncovered that it'll be tough to count them all. At least a few of them will shock Trump's base to their core, as the Emperor's new clothes are finally revealed to all.

Trump's tax returns will be made public, one way or another. This may even launch a second independent counsel's investigation when his financial ties to Russia (including possible Russian mob money laundering) are exposed for all to see.

Bob Mueller will wrap up his investigation by questioning all of Trump's immediate family under oath. At least one of them will wind up being indicted (best guess: Donald Trump Jr.). State-level indictments of Trump's family will also be handed down in New York state. Trump will not be able to issue any pardons for state-level crimes, of course.

Trump will not wind up being impeached in 2019, but the ceaseless news of his scandals will drive his public opinion approval rating below 35 percent. Trump will refuse to believe these numbers, insisting that they are nothing more than "fake polls." But congressional Republicans contemplating running for re-election will become increasingly willing to buck the president politically (in an effort to save their own political hides).

The economy will slow considerably, but not fall into an official recession. Growth will slow, however, and the deficit will explode, as the full impact of the Trump tax cuts are made evident to all. This will rob Trump of his most favorite talking point, heading into the 2020 presidential contest.

Trump's tweets will (finally!) begin to be largely ignored by the mainstream media. Trump will fly off the handle one time too many, and people will just give up caring what idiocies he tweets in the early morning hours. OK, we realize that we're going out on a limb with this one, we admit; but sometimes you just have to give in to wishful thinking, right?

Trump will be challenged by at least two major GOP contenders in the Republican primary. This will drive him crazy, of course. Or "crazier," we should say.

The political world will become increasingly centered on the 2020 presidential race, and over 20 (!) major Democrats will decide to make a run for it. Winnowing this field will be particularly brutal, and will not be complete by this time next year.

Our predictions for the Democratic frontrunners next December: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, and Kamala Harris. Bernie Sanders will run but will be eclipsed by the other progressives in the race (who are less one-dimensional, politically, and more youthful in appearance). Beto O'Rourke will astonish many by deciding to sit the race out. Joe Biden will run, and will be the initial frontrunner (on name recognition alone), but eventually will fade as Democrats decide to pick someone new.



OK, that's enough for this year. Have a happy new year, everyone! And to end in true McLaughlin fashion, we say to all of you:

"Bye-bye!"



If you're interested in traveling down Memory Lane, here are all the previous years of this awards column:

2018 -- (Part 1)
2017 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2016 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2015 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2014 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2013 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2012 -- (Part 1) )Part 2)
2011 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2010 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2009 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2008 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2007 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2006 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)






[center]Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Reply My 2018 "McLaughlin Awards" (Part 2) (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Dec 2018 OP
lunasun Dec 2018 #1

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Sat Dec 29, 2018, 12:40 AM

1. Thank you Chris . My prediction

The slowing economy and Middle class Americans filling out their 2018 tax returns in ‘19 will cause some Trumpers to reconsider his greatness thus lowering his approval ratings
Will they move to the left?? now that is a question not in anyway a prediction becuz those same people could double down extreme right of Trump by the end of 2019 !
Buh Bye!

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