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Rothenberg’s Best and Worst end-of-the-year awards for 2021

Biggest political surprise? Biden headache? Worst hair? Read on!

As usual, Stu Rothenberg finds some space for Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, in his annual Best and Worst awards.
As usual, Stu Rothenberg finds some space for Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, in his annual Best and Worst awards. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s time for another end-of-the-year column recognizing the best and the worst in American politics. And believe me, it isn’t easy to find a lot of good things about 2021. The economy remains a big question mark, the coronavirus continues to mutate, and the Yankees couldn’t get past a one-game playoff against the Red Sox.

But if I don’t do a winners and losers/best and worst column in the final weeks of the year, then I have to write something that will require some effort and knowledge. So, I better stick with lists.

As always, if you disagree with my nominees or my choices, feel free to complain to Nathan L. Gonzales at Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales or Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, or somebody else with some other thing.

Most memorable duo of 2021

The nominees:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

My winner: So, you thought this was going to be easy, huh? Two duos known for their lunacy, one for their principled positions and one from the Senate, which still needs to address President Joe Biden’s reconciliation bill. 

They are all reasonable selections (for different reasons, of course), but I’m going with Cheney and Kinzinger, who fought through abuse and threats in their efforts to put country ahead of party.

The strangest political speech of 2021

The nominees (with excerpts!):

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Nov. 19, House floor): “Inflation is at a 31-percent high, gas prices, Thanksgiving, a border that in a few months breaks every record of the last three years combined.”

Greene (June 26, Trump rally in Ohio): “President Trump is my president too. As a matter of fact, he is the greatest president this country has ever had. And he should be our president right now. But the dirty, rotten Democrats stole the election.”

Boebert (Nov. 17, House floor): “The jihad squad member from Minnesota has paid her husband, and not her brother husband, the other one, over a million dollars in campaign funds …”

Greene (June 26, same Trump rally in Ohio): “But now I have the radical Democrat socialists, the fake news media, the Silicon Valley cartel and the weak-kneed Republicans trying to take me out.” 

My choice: Um, I can’t pick one. I’m leaning toward McCarthy’s because so much of his speech was incoherent and because he spoke for more than eight hours.

Worst gerrymander of 2021 (so far)

The nominees: 

Texas (by Republicans)

Illinois (by Democrats)

North Carolina (by Republicans)

Ohio (by Republicans)

My choice: There are no winners. We’re all losers. Voters no longer pick their representatives. Representatives now pick their voters.

Biggest Joe Biden headache in 2021

The nominees:


The omicron variant of COVID-19


The U.S. exit from Afghanistan

My choice: On Capitol Hill, it’s Manchin. Nationally, it’s inflation. But keep your eye on the omicron variant.

Worst hair in Congress

The nominees:

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

Stuart Rothenberg

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas.

My choice: Well, it can’t be me. I’m not in Congress.

Biggest Biden accomplishment so far

The nominees:

Executive actions, including returning the United States to the Paris climate accord, blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, and prohibiting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Withdrawing from Afghanistan

American Rescue Plan

Bipartisan infrastructure law

My choice: Infrastructure!!! We won’t have to have another Infrastructure Week for years!! It required bipartisan support and accomplished something previous presidents had failed to do.

Political surprise of 2021

The nominees:

Republican Glenn Youngkin defeats Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race

The assault on the United States Capitol

Republican Jack Ciattarelli draws 48 percent of the vote in the New Jersey governor’s race.

Progressive House Democrats stick with Biden on infrastructure, even though they wanted more.

My choice: The assault on the Capitol, of course, “wins” this category. But my runner-up is Ciattarelli, who received little or no national attention prior to election night. Yes, he lost. But the closeness of the race, when combined with the Virginia result, built a strong narrative.

Democratic outlook for 2022 elections

The nominees:




Don’t ask. You don’t really want to know. It will be worse than you can imagine. 

My choice: “Bleak.” Let’s not get carried away. It’s still 11 months until the midterms.

Name that hasn’t appeared in this column yet but needs to

The nominees:

Four Seasons Total Landscaping

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Donald Trump

Dominion Voting Systems

My choice: Donald John Trump. He won’t stay quiet much longer.

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