December 4, 2013

THROWDOWN THURSDAY: Democrat of the Year 2013

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By MAX SCHECHTER

For the last Dems Discuss column of 2013, I wanted to write something that would encapsulate the year in politics. I thought I would do a straightforward “year in review” where I could talk about the highs (DOMA being found unconstitutional) and the lows (government shutdown). Then I saw a headline online that said the Miley Cyrus is leading TIME magazine’s online poll for Person of the Year and I got a better idea. Thus, I give you, my completely unofficial results for Democrat of the Year 2013!

First he two runners up:

Pope Francis

Maybe it was because he called Islam a violent religion or disagreed with the use of condoms to fight AIDS, but I was not a Pope Benedict XVI fan. I did not have high hopes that Pope Francis would be very different. But my apologies, Your Holiness, you have been absolutely killing it this year (he reads my column, I’m sure). Pope Francis has spoken about refocusing the Catholic Church on the poor and the starving. The Pope has criticized the inequity fostered under trickle-down economics and he thinks women should play a bigger role in the church. Finally, a Pope who is willing to say, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” is a pretty good Pope in my book. If Democrats can convince religious voters that caring about the poor and economic inequality (which we do!) is more important than gay marriage and abortion, then there are votes that can be peeled away from the Republican Party. Besides just being awesome, Francis is offering Democrats a roadmap on how to communicate with religious voters! So, why didn’t Pope Francis win Democrat of the year? He’s from Argentina and lives in the Vatican now, so, not technically a Democrat. Sorry, Frankie (that’s what his friends call him, I presume).

John Kerry

I know, you think John Kerry is a boring old white guy who lost the Presidential Election and gave us four more years of George Bush. And he is. But, Kerry started this year as the long-faced chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is ending this year as the Secretary of State responsible for a historic deal with Iran. He also made a joke that turned into an actual solution to Syria’s chemical weapons and that kept us from going to war! He has even held some talks with multiple parties in the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Right now, he looks like he can do anything. In an era in which all of President Obama’s appointees were filibustered without end, John Kerry’s nomination sailed through with 94-3 vote. He is an experienced negotiator and foreign policy wonk who is already making a great Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton left big shoes to fill, but John Kerry has handled it with aplomb. So, why didn’t John Kerry win Democrat of the Year? John Kerry isn’t what you’d call a “winner.” He had a very good year in 2013, but is he the absolute best the Democratic Party had this past year? No.

So, without any further ado, my choice for Democrat of the Year 2013 is …

Wendy Davis

This seemed to be the year of the filibuster with Rand Paul Ted Cruz, and even Patton Oswald on Parks and Recreation getting in on the action. But one 2013 filibuster took the cake and that was State Senator Wendy Davis’ eleven-hour filibuster in Texas to try and stop, or at least bring attention to, a restrictive anti-choice, anti-woman bill that was set to pass the Texas legislature. Wearing her pink running shoes, Davis spoke passionately about her own life story (she worked her way up from being a teenage mother to a Harvard Law School graduate); the needs of her constituents and women all across Texas; and womens’ rights to make choices for themselves and not have men in government plan their families for them. Soon, scores of protesters came to Senator Davis’ support and, when parliamentary tactics were use to try and silence her, their voices kept the bill from passing (well, until Governor Rick Perry called another special session and it passed. Oh well.).

Wendy Davis became the face of unafraid pro-choice Democrats everywhere and now she’s running for Governor of Texas. This year might have been her breakout year on the national stage, but keep an eye-out; Wendy Davis is a rising star in the Democratic Party. The grand prize for the Democratic Party would be turning Texas blue and it’s going to take courageous and inspiring leaders like Davis to get the job done. It is my honor to bestow Wendy Davis with my first annual Democrat of the Year title.

It’s been a pretty good year for Democrats. As long as Obamacare can get under control, it looks like 2014 will be as good as it can be considering the unfavorable Senate election map and the fabled six-year itch that says people tire of a political party in a President’s sixth year in office. Still, with leaders like Wendy Davis, John Kerry and examples from Pope Francis, I’m not too worried.

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