Dem 51
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GOP 49
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March... Sadness, Part XXI: We Have a Winner (a Loser?)

Readers will recall that, back in March, we commenced an effort to identify the worst political figure in America. Here are all the previous entries in that series, should you care to review:

It was very difficult to remain in sync with the actual NCAA March Madness tournament, which inspired the whole thing. And once that particular pressure was no longer in operation, it was easy for more pressing news to get in the way. We have to write the serious stuff up first, and between that and our real-life responsibilities, the "bonus" stuff sometimes gets pushed aside... for a long time.

But now it's time to finally bring this baby home. Recall that we determined the final winner (loser?) with a championship matchup, but we also created a "consolation round" for those who did not make the championship, just to make sure that serious venality did not go unrecognized. And with that reminder out of the way, here are the dozen worst political figures in America, as voted on by you folks, with thoughts from us and comments from readers:

  1. Legislative Branch #12 Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

    Our Take: The worst showing for a Democratic politician. It presumably says something about both the readership and the Republican Party that it's nearly all Republicans in the Top 10 (along with a few whose politics are not known, or who are not American).

    M.S. in Westchester County, NY: I voted for Manchin, not because of the temper tantrum over Build Back Better and his corruption, which is bad enough, but for his treachery regarding Freedom to Vote/John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It was his bill!

    D.R.J. in Oberlin, OH: I voted Joe Manchin for placing his ego and greed ahead of progress that would benefit all Americans.

  2. Others #7 Trump adviser and lawyer Rudy Giuliani

    Our Take: Giuliani is already fading quickly into irrelevance. Would he make the Top 12 if the voting was next year?

    D.B. in Keedysville, MD: Giuliani is just rather pathetic, at this point. He needs to be put away somewhere, where his wild ravings can't hurt anyone anymore. Sad!

  3. Legislative Branch "Last Four Out" Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)

    Our Take: Whereas Giuliani might drop in the rankings a year from now, Jordan is set to rise due to the platform he's likely to get as chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

    M.B. in Pittsboro, NC: I very much appreciate the chance to acknowledge the wickedness of two sorry excuses for human beings in Jordan and Stephen Miller. At least Jordan is an elected official, somewhat exposed to public scrutiny... although apparently his lack of concern about the sex abuse visited upon the young wrestlers that were his responsibility is not a sufficient reason for the voters of Ohio's 4th district to unelect him. But Stephen Miller is even more dangerous. Most Americans don't know he exists and continues to function at the highest levels of government, whispering in Trump's ear and encouraging the most cruel and draconian opinions and policies, especially on immigration. I keep waiting for some oppo-research to uncover the truth about him, but because he's barely in the public's awareness, even something utterly reprehensible in his life would probably not get much coverage. He is a horror, and deserves to be shown publicly as the villain he is.

  4. Facebook/Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg

    Our Take: And remember, this voting took place before he unceremoniously laid off 10,000 employees. Zuckerberg is going to play the same role in history books as the robber barons of the 19th century.

    L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA: When considering all of the choices, I had to rank both Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg in the top five, over Vladamir Putin and Xi Jinping. Why? Because I have always expected foreign, hostile nations (and even some "friendly" ones) to muck around in our politics and lives. However, without Murdoch and Zuckerberg amplifying and enabling the mucking over the past several years, these hostile nations never would have had the impact and successes that they have had and are having.

  5. Executive Branch #9 Former vice president Dick Cheney

    Our Take: We got dozens of e-mails explaining why Cheney deserves to be in the Top 5 (Bottom 5?), and more than half of them specifically referred to him as Darth Cheney. Interesting.

    T.T. in Minden, LA: Can there be any doubt that Donald Trump is the winner? I'm boldly predicting it. But as to the consolation round, I pick Darth Cheney. Would you ever have believed, ten years ago, that this man would so soon be a distant also-ran for the most damaging political figure? The guy who masterminded the U.S. launching of an unprovoked invasion? The architect of an overarching state security apparatus (the DHS) that sucks in billions of dollars per annum with limited oversight and control but almost unlimited reach? The arch-villain who not only made torture a U.S. policy, but helped popularize euphemisms referring to it (black ops, extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation methods)? Donald Trump truly deserves the "prize" for this contest, if for nothing else than for helping Cheney's crimes disappear down the memory hole, and making George Bush, who was nominally Cheney's boss, seem so normal in retrospect.

    D.B. in Keedysville, MD: I still consider Dick Cheney to be the Lex Luthor of American politics, although I recognize that folks younger than I might just call him Darth Cheney. More than any other single person, he is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost and the trillions of dollars (that's a "T," as in a million dollars, taken several million times!) wasted on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Working with his ignominious partners, Paul Wolfowitz and, in particular, Douglas Feith, head of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, whose mission was to propagandize the American people into buying the Iraq War (which is, just by the way, against the, um, law an' stuff), they misrepresented or lied about every bit of cherry-picked information they could find to convince us to go to war.

  6. Fox media mogul Rupert Murdoch

    Our Take: Murdoch might be the only person here who is hated even more in the U.K. than he is in the U.S.

    M.B. in Melrose, MA: Fox News fuels anger and hatred, using Democrats as the scapegoat, dividing our country. While Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are horrible humans, they would not have a platform without Murdoch.

    F.L. in Denton, TX: Radix malorum est Murdoch.

  7. Executive Branch #16 Former White House senior advisor Stephen Miller

    Our Take: Miller is someone who would have gone far, if not for the fact that he ended up in a first-round matchup against Trump. We'll do another tournament next year, albeit with a different subject, and we'll find a better way to do the seeding.

    S.G. in Newark, NJ: He's an utter embarrassment, a disgrace to his people and an insult to the human race.

    S.H. in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: By most reports wielded significant influence on Trump, and along with Bannon when he was present, was responsible for deliberately ensuring that Trump's policies had overtly ugly, punch-you-in-the-face qualities to warm the hearts of the American Brownshirts.

  8. Russian president Vladimir Putin

    Our Take: The only reason he is not higher is that the instructions specifically asked voters to place the most weight on how the person impacted American society and politics.

    M.S. in Westchester County, NY: I voted for Putin for this reason: He affected the result of the 2016 election through the release of the Hillary Clinton and DNC emails and gave us Donald Trump. We still do not know the true story of the relationship between these two. He is poised to interfere again in 2024. He also has a powerful lackey in Tucker Carlson. The one, most basic argument that needs to be addressed by the Democrats is the survival of democracy. If Ukraine isn't a wake up call, what is?

    B.H. in Westborough, MA: The Ukraine war—U.N. estimates 14,200-14,400 Ukrainians dead so far, and estimates of 18,900 Russian Soldiers dead. Reports of rape and torture of Ukrainian women.

  9. Others #2 Fox personality Tucker Carlson

    Our Take: What is most scary about Carlson is that he doesn't believe most of the things he says, but he is able to make it seem as if he does believe. Surely there is significant socoiopathy there, right?

    A.H. in Columbus, OH: My top four votes in the Also-Rans list were easy...but for my fifth vote I was torn. I specifically thought about your admonition "that the focus is specifically on negative impact on America and American politics" and felt there really should be an evangelical leader like Billy Graham, et al., in the running for their very negative impact on America and American politics by weaponizing faith. The problem I came up against is: I can't choose just one. So I chose Tucker Carlson, because F that guy.

    J.P.M. in Eagle Mills, NY: Thanks for including Zuckerberg and Murdoch in this listing. They were easy, as were Addison McConnell and John Roberts. But oh, picking that last spot between **cker Carlson and Jim Jordan was tough. Carlson won, just because he has more negative influence at the moment.

  10. Legislative Branch #2 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

    Our Take: We took extraordinary steps to reshuffle the deck, doing something (a consolation round) that isn't actually a part of the NCAA Tournament (at least, not anymore). And still, McConnell and Carlson took third and fourth place. The cream always rises to the top, and the scum always sinks to the bottom.

    S.L. in Newark, DE: Thank you for giving me another chance to vote for McConnell.

    B.H. in Westborough, MA: McConnell is more evil over the long term than even Trump.

  11. Judges and Governors #5 Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)

    Our Take: From the moment we announced the bracket, we thought this result was inevitable. The only other contender for second place was McConnell, but he's a known commodity whereas the future harm that DeSantis might do is both significant and unknowable.

    T.B.S.S. in Silver Spring, MD: Ron DeSantis often gets mischaracterized (here and elsewhere) as "Trump, but competent" or "Trump with a brain." I don't think it's quite that simple.

    We've seen Donald Trump's central motivation for many decades now. He seeks power because—as with money, buildings, women, magazine covers, gold toilets, and so on—it helps feed his bottomless need to see himself as the world's most excellent and important winner.

    DeSantis, on the other hand, seems to be animated largely by a desire to punish his political enemies—not merely defeat them electorally, but actually harm them, using every lever of power at his disposal. That sadistic political bloodlust scares me more than Trump's corrosive, all-consuming narcissism. But even if it didn't, the degree to which the former president would hate losing to DeSantis (even in a poll like this) makes this an easy vote for me.

    D.E. in Lancaster, PA: So here we are at Sauron vs Voldemort; Darth Maul vs Darth Sidious; Elagabalus vs Caligula; Thanos vs Doctor Doom; Iago vs Macbeth; Harry Mudd vs Khan Noonien Singh; Mean Mr. Mustard vs Maxwell's Silver Hammer—and yes, I picked the pairings of villains with some snark in mind. Today I read that Trump was scared of killer fruit being lobbed at him during his rallies. On the other hand, DeSantis appears to have a deathly fear of general human decency and that he might inadvertently miss one culture war trope to ride all the way to the glue factory. If DeSantis were to become president, no books would be written about his time in office, as he will probably ban all books that aren't propaganda. I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but when I look at Trump, I can't help but see a clown and a con-man. When I look at DeSantis I see a fascist and a thug. Trump doesn't have the intelligence or the attention to detail that was needed to destroy our democracy whereas DeSantis has the base cunning and lack of ethics to make sure to stab it fatally with his steely knives. Clearly DeSantis' "conscious hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings in a several tale, and every tale condemns (him) for a villain." He is surely the worst of the worst! The idea of a future with DeSantis as president brings this to mind: "An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one that crumbles from within, that's dead. Forever."

  12. Executive Branch #1 Former president Donald Trump Sr.

    Our Take: There was absolutely nothing we could do—no way of organizing the bracket, no way of writing the instructions—that could stop this from happening. Remember that we did the seedings by searching Google for "hate" and "[person]" and then using the number of results that produced. Well, if you do that for Trump, you get 58,700,000 hits. That's more than the rest of the field... combined.

    T.B. in Bay Shore, NY: For a second, I had a "Red button meme" moment on this one but then I realized you gotta dance with the one that brought you, and for this dance it was always El Cheeto. Sure, Ron DeSatan is a more polished version of Trump but he is merely the weed that grew out of the nasty orange soil curated from his predecessor.

    D.S. in Havertown, PA: Was this one ever truly in doubt? Sure, McConnell is vile and has horribly damaged democracy, DeSantis is one of the most openly bigoted individuals in office in this century, Tucker is just a fire hose of hate, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is all of the above except in Mexico when the power's out. But one fact rises above all others. Of all of these men (interesting that not a lot of women made it very far in this race to the bottom), one thing separates the guy who is small-hands-down the winner. Despite what Ron thinks, Trump is the only one who has any hope of winning a national election. Even if it means stealing it. So, Trump has my...choke, gasp...vot—no... can't even finish typing it.

And there you have it. If you would like to view the entire bracket, it's here.

So, why did we finally wrap this up today? Because we're going to launch a very similar sort of thing tomorrow based on the format of the World Cup. It won't be bad politicians competing, though. It will be... well, as we said, there was a big hint in one of the headlines of yesterday's post. It's definitely something with much less of a negative vibe than this particular contest. (Z)

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