It’s the time of year when we deck the halls, don our gay apparel, and kiss under the mistletoe. Yes, from carol singing to your one drunk relative getting a little out of hand, Christmas is a time rife with tradition. One of my favourite traditions is my annual naughty and nice list. After a year away, I’m back, ready to judge the fuck out of people, which is what Christmas is all about.
It’s really hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment Lindsay Graham sold his soul to the devil, but it was sometime in 2017. Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, used to deride Donald Trump as someone who “lacked the temperament or judgment to be commander in chief,” but now he’s besties with the mango Mussolini. “I have made up my mind on impeachment,” he recently said, adding “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror” in the president’s soon-to-come Senate trial. From principled leader to spineless Trump acolyte, Lindsay Graham’s descent into the hell that is Trumpism has been remarkably sad to watch.
Named Time Person of the Year in 2001 for his response to the 9/11 attacks, it has likewise been a swift fall from grace for the man once hailed as “America’s Mayor.” Whether going on Fox News and spreading what can only be called state-supported propaganda for Donald Trump or running a shadow State Department in which he conducts the president’s nefarious business dealings with foreign governments—including, yes, Ukraine—Rudy Giuliani has cemented his place in history as exactly what Saturday Night Live portrays him as: a vampiric villain willing to suck dry the lifeblood of American democracy.
An unlawful proroguing of parliament. Having the police called following an angry and allegedly violent row with his girlfriend. The fact that he has a girlfriend yet is still married. Hiding in a fridge to escape journalists. A refusal to sit down for an interview with that notorious lefty… Andrew Neal. You’d think Boris Johnson had a bad year, yet the man just won the biggest Conservative majority in parliament since Maggie Thatcher. He’s going to singlehandedly drag the UK out of the European Union next year, which is what he’s wanted forever since he discovered he could hitch his wagon to racism and xenophobia and end up in Number 10. Bully for him, I guess.
Much like a Tinder date, Jo Swinson started out promisingly but quickly fizzled to the point I was asking why I even bothered. Elected leader of the Liberal Democrats in July, she started by positioning herself as a prospective Prime Minister and finished the year as not even a Member of Parliament when the voters of East Dunbartonshire sent her packing—for the second time. Lots of things led to Swinson’s swift downfall, including her promise to rescind Article 50 and end Brexit which most voters found patently undemocratic. She will be most remembered, though, as a woman who was pathologically incapable of explaining what a woman even is.
No one deserves more credit for the Tories’ recent electoral victory than, ironically, the Leader of the Labour Party. Whether it was watching gleefully as his acolytes vilified and purged the party of anyone to the right of Marx, turning a blind eye to antisemitism within the Labour membership and party apparatus, failing to articulate a coherent Brexit policy, or ignoring warning after warning that he was going to lose yet another election, Jeremy Corbyn has consigned the United Kingdom to five more years—at least—of Conservative rule. Well done, Jez. You royally screwed us all.
Dishonourable mentions: Justin Trudeau, Kanye West, Matt Gaetz
There are few public figures on either side of the Atlantic as tenacious as Gina Miller. Once again dragging the Government to the Supreme Court—this time to make sure Boris Johnson couldn’t unlawfully prorogue Parliament to force through his Brexit deal—Gina Miller has continued to be the most vocal and effective champion for parliamentary democracy. It’s ironic, really, that an arch-Europhile has become Parliament’s biggest cheerleader considering parliamentary supremacy is supposedly what Brexit is all about. But then, this entire decade has been an experiment in horrifying irony.
She dropped a banger of an album—her best since 2014’s 1989—including the instant classic “You Need to Calm Down,” which has become the newest LGBT anthem. It is her fight for artistic control and women’s rights, though, which has landed Taylor Swift on this year’s nice list. Taking on Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, who have control of the master recordings for her first six albums, took some serious guts. Swift didn’t even blink. A true role model and trailblazer, T-Swift has steadfastly stood up for the rights of artists, especially female artists, to control their careers and the work they produce. I look forward to hearing her new masters when she re-records her back catalogue in 2020.
Jess Phillips has been one of the most sensible voices in Labour since she was first elected to Parliament in 2015. Her blunt analysis of Labour’s defeat, written for the Guardian, is essential reading for anyone wondering just what went wrong with Corbynism. “I can’t help but think that the fact we saw only a tiny swing away from Labour in my seat was because of our ability to disagree well, with good humour and a shared vernacular,” she wrote earlier this month, adding that “you don’t have to agree with every word someone says if you have good faith in their intentions.” Phillips’ calls for Labour to stop talking down to the working class and her call for civility in political discourse—especially on social media—is a breath of fresh air and one that should be heeded by all sides of every debate on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Dr. Fiona Hill
There were a lot of heroes to arise from the Ukraine scandal, including the as-of-now anonymous whistleblower and former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Vindman and Hill share one trait in common, though, that makes them both unique among those who testified about Donald Trump’s abuse of power—they’re both immigrants. Lt. Col. Vindman immigrated from Ukraine to the United States as a child, while Dr. Hill, originally from the North of England, became an American citizen in 2002. Listening to these principled national security experts and erstwhile presidential advisers detail the corruption within the Trump Administration while espousing their own patriotism was inspiring, especially at a time when the President and his supporters demonize immigrants.
The Hong Kong Protesters
At a time when democracy is under threat around the world, it is inspiring to see a movement for freedom accomplish so much and sustain itself so well. It started back in June over objections to a bill allowing extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China, but it has mushroomed into a movement for democracy, including universal suffrage and an end to police brutality. China, an authoritarian state which does not tolerate dissent, has responded by gassing protestors and labelling them terrorists, but these freedom fighters are not backing down. Obviously the issues at play here are far more complicated than I can explain in one blog, let alone one paragraph, and I encourage you to check out Lausan, a website dedicated to bringing the voices and perspectives of protestors to the wider world—and support them any way you can in 2020 and beyond.
Honourable mentions: Wes Streeting, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Cuomo
Who made your naughty and nice list this year? Tell me in the comments below! And from my blog to yours, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2020!
Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer focusing on UK and US politics. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee.