The Worst People of 2019

Before 2019 comes to a close, let’s take one last look at the most obnoxious, appalling, and insidious personalities of the past twelve months. These are eight auld acquaintances we’d desperately like to forget — here’s hoping we’ve heard the last of them.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation chairman and Koch Industries executive vice president David H. Koch gives a thumbs-up November 4, 2011 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty

If Jacobin had our own Person of the Year, like Time magazine does, we’d probably choose someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Sara Nelson, though Time’s recognition of Greta Thunberg was also nice to see. But enough positivity! Let’s talk about 2019’s worst people, those of whom we fervently hope we’ve seen the last, each a cancer on the body politic in their own unique way.

Current heads of state like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Narendra Modi deserve inclusion, as does Boris Johnson, but they are disqualified since there’s no possibility of them exiting our lives quickly, although the Brazilian president was hospitalized after a fall over Christmas, so that’s a start. Cheeringly, we heard precious little this year from some of the people who made 2017 and 2018 so awful, like Nazi Richard Spencer, hipster-fascist Milo Yiannopoulos, and far-right mall predator Roy Moore, so at least we know we can dream.

Here are some people we hope will vanish from the public sphere for good in 2020.

The whole Koch family. The Koch family is an enormous source of funding for the libertarian right, and has, in recent decades, been a significant force fueling both climate change denial and the policy onslaught against what’s left of our fragile social safety net. David Koch died this summer (progress!) but his brother Charles is unfortunately still alive and wreaking destruction.

Bret Stephens. I recently learned there is a German word for “punchable face.” Just take a look at this guy:

Bret Stephens, professional backpfeifengesicht.

The New York Times recently had to append a long editors’ note to a column of his that had cited a study “showing” a genetic basis for the superior intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews that was — oops! — coauthored by a known racist. Amid a wave of violence against Jews throughout the New York City area, last week was a surreal time to elevate Nazi science.

Curtis Sliwa. In the wake of that same profoundly horrifying wave of antisemitic violence, Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, announced that the vigilante group would be patrolling Jewish neighborhoods. The group has also been patrolling Morningside Park since the recent murder of a Barnard student. All this might sound well-intentioned if you didn’t know the history of the Guardian Angels. Now an international organization, the group became prominent during the 1980s crime wave in New York City. Sliwa played a sinister role in fanning the flames of white racism in the ’80s and has even admitted to fabricating accounts of his own kidnapping. He’s now a right-wing radio host and NY1 commentator, in which capacity he distinguishes himself by being spectacularly unfunny as well as racist. The Guardian Angels aren’t a group that should be elevated right now; their visibility risks fanning white paranoia and anti-black racism, which leads easily to an ugly conservative populism. Sliwa especially is not a person from whom either women or Jews should seek solidarity or protection.

Hillary Clinton. When will she stop? Every time she speaks, she drags us back into the mire of 2016. In a recent interview with Howard Stern, she revealed herself to have gone full helicopter beanie, implying that both Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein were Russian assets and claiming that Bernie hurt her campaign by taking too long to endorse her. All of which is as flatly false as Alex Jones’s claim that chemicals in the water turn frogs gay.

Pete Buttigieg. If I’ve already said too much about this corporate tool, it’s his own fault for being so terrible. Groomed by the scariest regime-change advocates of the intelligence establishment — as Sam Finkelstein and Max Blumenthal have been reporting— his endorsements include numerous CIA operatives, including David Cohen, a leading architect of sanctions against North Korea, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, a policy responsible for tens of thousands of  preventable deaths. Mayor Pete has also been endorsed by several horrifying architects of Trump’s regime change efforts in Venezuela.

Bill Kristol. Actually, all Republican Never-Trump pundits and politicians. We welcome Never-Trump Republican voters — we hope they will vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, or at least vote for whoever is the Democrat in November — but these pundits are a special kind of cynical. All these years, they espoused and promoted a breathtakingly cruel and vapid politics — in Kristol’s case, encouraging Sarah Palin to run for VP, to take just one example — and suddenly this vulgar reality TV star is just taking things a little too far for them?

Travis Kalanick. The former CEO and founder of Uber, creator of one of the worst business models for workers even in neoliberal America, responsible for numerous taxi driver suicides in New York City as well as rampant sexual harassment at headquarters, resigned his board seat at the company on Christmas Eve, after selling off most of his Uber shares. These developments offer reason for hope that he might be disappearing from public view, although, of course, being a billionaire, he’ll probably crawl back from the wreckage like some particularly gross and resilient cockroach.

Rachel Maddow. She used to be an intelligent, well-informed liberal, a charming policy nerd whose rational, well-researched perspective made cable TV a little less brayingly stupid. No more. She’s turned into a nutty, dishonest Russia-obsessed hack, a sad development noted even by the Washington Post.

Giant sinkholes of the world, do your thing!