This year was a soul-crushing hellscape of a dumpster fire. For sanity’s sake, large chunks of it should be repressed as soon as possible.
The rolling crises did, however, have a clarifying effect on the political scene. Some players rose to meet the moment. Others sank, and there was no bottom. This sorting should be remembered, especially as many of these public eminences begin scurrying to rehabilitate their brands. Their 2020 achievements, such as they were, should be memorialized with superlatives that capture who they revealed themselves to be. Think high school yearbook distinctions, only with real-world implications.
Don’t look for President Donald Trump on this list. In a class by himself, he was deemed ineligible for consideration. The competition would have been grossly unfair with such a dominant force. As for the rest of the swamp …
Most Committed Bootlicker
Sen. Lindsey Graham
This was a hotly contested category, but at the end of the day, no one could outdo the South Carolina Republican.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler
Talk about a total makeover: The Georgia Republican, appointed to her seat last December, morphed from posh, moderate, mainstream suburban-mom bait to bomb-throwing, ball-cap-wearing, right-wing culture warrior faster than you can say “political opportunism.”
The early Trump years had already shifted Rudy’s identity from America’s Mayor to the president’s unhinged apparatchik. But 2020 was when he totally lost the thread, devolving into numerous cautionary tales and internet memes. There was his runny hair dye. (Or was it mascara?) The time he “tucked in his shirt” for Borat’s daughter. The Four Seasons Total Landscaping news conference held near a porn shop and a crematory. The fart. (Go on. Google it.) 2021 can’t come soon enough.
Dr. Anthony Fauci
Back in January, who could have predicted that one of the year’s biggest heartthrobs would be an 80-year-old government immunologist?
Sen. Susan Collins
Whatever the occasion, the Maine Republican can be counted on to express her deep yet meaningless concern.
Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin
The House speaker and the Treasury secretary spent so much time and energy hammering out COVID-19 relief deals. Most marriages don’t require that much work.
Rep. Elise Stefanik
Since her 2014 election, the New York Republican had pitched herself as the sane, moderate future of her party, with a special focus on improving its reputation with women. So it’s been particularly galling to watch her carry water for the most anti-democratic, misogynistic president in memory.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
After so much promise and so many plans, the Massachusetts Democrat didn’t win even the progressive wing of her party, which went for Uncle Bernie.
Basically the entire Senate Republican conference
Most Likely to Sell His Soul for More Power
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell
Kidding, of course. He made that transaction ages ago.
John Bolton, former national security adviser
All that bragging about insider secrets just to hawk a book. He should have testified in the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Most Likely to Succeed
If anyone can make Infrastructure Week really happen, it will be President-elect Joe Biden’s overachieving, wonk-chic pick to head the Transportation Department.
Most Likely to Stage a Failed Coup Attempt
Rep. Louie Gohmert
Suing Vice President Mike Pence in a convoluted, last-ditch effort to overturn the election results and keep Trump in office? That’s some next-level sycophancy.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
Most Likely to End Up on ‘Dancing With the Stars’
Warning: Might not be suitable for children.
Most Clutch Player
Rep. Jim Clyburn
It is barely an exaggeration to say that Biden owes his presidency to the well-timed endorsement from the dean of South Carolina Democratic politics.
Most Likely to Be the Next ‘Tiger King’
Rep. Matt Gaetz
With or without his gas mask, the Trump wannabe is the ultimate Florida Man.
It took a once-in-a-century pandemic and the most appalling incumbent in history, but he finally won the office he’d been eyeing for more than three decades.
Most Obviously Auditioning to Be a Fox News Host
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, has the edge when it comes to execution, but Jenna Ellis, one of the president’s lawyers, gets points for trying so hard.
Most Likely to Be a Character on ‘Succession’
This hopefully will not conflict with his true calling as the next Bond villain.
A 20-to-30-way tie
With this administration, the category was impossible to whittle down.
Best Team Player
Sen. Bernie Sanders
The Vermont lefty may be shouty and crabby, but he recognized that unifying Democratic voters swiftly and with minimal squabbling was key to saving the nation from a second Trump term.
It was bad enough when he was on track to be remembered for his dead-on imitation of flypaper. But now, after four years of thankless obsequiousness, he’s being dragged into Trumpworld’s crackpot crusade to overturn the election results. The Constitution tasks the vice president with presiding over Congress’ counting of the Electoral College votes. MAGA types are pressuring him to hand Trump the win. The VP is looking at a rough January.
Biggest Threat to American Democracy
Attorney General Bill Barr
This is what happens when the nation’s top law enforcement official puts his boss’ individual interests above the rule of law.
In for the Rudest Awakening
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have had loads of fun playing at government and diplomacy while shielded from any real accountability. Post-presidency, their lives will likely get more complicated — socially, politically and perhaps even legally.
Michelle Cottle is a member of The New York Times editorial board.