You might remember that 2012 was the year of the latest most important elections of our lifetime—a chance for all of us to help get the country back on track by electing candidates who would fix the economy, clean up corruption, help the little guy, and protect our rights.
Now that it's over, we can say with some hopefulness that the 2014 primary is less than a year and a half away.
That doesn't mean that many of our local and national leaders didn't distinguish themselves in 2012. Some even deserve gold stars and trophies. Of course, we're too cheap to hand out gold stars and trophies. But we are happy to announce our Second Annual Reader Awards for Political Achievement. We're hoping the winners will be inspired to another year of even better public service.
And without further ado, the 2012 honorees are:
for saying one thing and doing something else even after you're caught doing what you say you're not: Mayor Rahm Emanuel—for the second year in a row! He still hasn't hired those 1,000 new cops, reformed the city's TIF program, or ended the gimmicks in the city budget, like diverting water and sewer tax revenues to things that have nothing to do with water or sewers.
First runner-up: Mayor Emanuel, for promising to extend the school day, then keeping kids out of school for a week and a half after picking the fight that led to the first teachers' strike in 25 years.
Second runner-up: Mayor Emanuel, for promising to do everything he can to lessen the impact of the parking meter deal while quietly having city lawyers fight in court to keep it in place—and putting countless other city properties up for auction.
for never letting a serious crisis go to waste: Juan Rangel, CEO of UNO Charter Schools, for using the CPS teachers' strike as an opportunity to recruit students for his nonunionized schools. Always open for business—and still plenty of seats available!
for the most public and devastating betrayal of a loyal ally: Mayor Emanuel, who unceremoniously dumped his schools chief, Jean-Claude Brizard, soon after the teachers' strike ended. J.C., we hardly knew ye.
for the tough black chick who sticks it to the man: Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, who emerged from the strike more popular than ever among her rank and file. We're all still wishing we could have witnessed her exchange with Mayor Emanuel at City Hall: "Fuck me? Fuck you, you low-life piece of … "
for waking up after a prolonged sleep: President Barack Obama, who regained consciousness sometime after the first presidential debate, just in time to remind voters that Mitt Romney was Mitt Romney.
for playing a cowardly lion: Mitt Romney, who never found the nerve to stand up to birthers, gun nuts, Texas secessionists, homophobes, climate change deniers, and other right-wing crazies during his losing path from moderate Massachusetts governor to conservative presidential candidate. And why cater to them? At least 47 percent of these people were going to vote for the Republican no matter what.
for the oddest political coalition: Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Reverend Pat Robertson, Congressman Ron Paul, and the voters of Washington and Colorado for doing what they could to legalize marijuana. Illinois politicians, you're free to step it up any day now.
for the politician who most resembles our favorite mail-order doctor from The Simpsons: Congressman Joe Walsh, who, during his failed reelection bid, declared that "with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" where women could die as a result of complications from pregnancy.
First runner-up: Losing senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri, who offered the theory that women don't get pregnant from "legitimate rape."
Second runner-up: Losing senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana, for telling us that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
for citizens most resembling the southerners of old who'd vote for a yellow dog over a Republican: Voters from the tenth state legislative district, who overwhelmingly reelected Derrick Smith after he was arrested and indicted for taking a bribe.
Runner-up: Voters from the second congressional district, who overwhelmingly reelected Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. even though he hadn't been seen in public in weeks and was reportedly suffering a mental breakdown.
for the candidate who tries to win election by pretending he's something he's not: Tom Swiss, the white Republican who ran as a black Democrat in the hopes of fooling west-side voters into backing him over Derrick Smith.