As 2016 comes to a close, I hereby present the 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards. The Person of the Year will earn a spot on the list of members of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner. Starting in 2017, listings of individuals on the list of recipients of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner will become separate from the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards.
PERSON OF THE YEAR – JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF
2016 was, all around, an awful year for progressives, both in the United States and worldwide. However, one bright spot in progressive advocacy is Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a women’s rights advocate from New York City. Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy for increased access to feminine hygiene products in public restrooms and advocacy for abolition of sales taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products has earned her support for her ideas from Democrats and even a few Republicans. States like New York and Illinois have eliminated sales taxes on tampon thanks to Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy, and Weiss’s hometown of New York City has mandated that tampons be made freely available in public restrooms of city schools, jails, and shelters. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2016.
ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – BERNIE SANDERS
For the second time in consecutive years, Sanders, who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, is the recipient of a ProgMid award. Although Sanders didn’t win his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and isn’t technically a Democrat, he has had a significant and largely positive impact on the Democratic Party. Sanders successfully pushed to make the national Democratic Party platform, which is non-binding for Democratic candidates, more progressive than in previous years and decades. Sanders helped bring progressive policies like making higher education truly affordable, single-payer health insurance, and expanding Social Security into the American political mainstream, even though none of those ideas will be enacted in the near future, at least at a national level. Furthermore, Sanders’s candidacy has led to the creation of the DNC’s Unity Commission, which will examine potential reforms to the Democratic presidential nomination process for the 2020 presidential election and future presidential elections after 2020. For his advocacy for progressive ideals and his efforts to improve the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the ProgMid Elected Official of the Year for 2016.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – LILLY KING
While 2016 was a banner year for the far-right Vladimir Putin regime in Russia, one thing that did not go well for Russia this year was their performance in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russia sent considerably fewer athletes to Rio than originally planned after the Putin regime was caught running a large-scale doping operation. Even worse for the Russians, they were completely embarrassed by Lilly King of the United States, who, after publicly criticizing Russia’s Yuliya Yefimova for doping, defeated Yefimova in the pool for the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. King was also a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay in Rio. For continuing the time-honored tradition of Americans defeating Russians in international sport, and for promoting ethical competition in sport, Lilly King is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2016.
PLACE OF THE YEAR – REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA
While the far-right has gained significant ground worldwide, Austria is, to an extent, an exception. Austrians rejected a far-right presidential candidate not once, but twice, in 2016. In the first of effectively two presidential elections held in Austria in 2016, left-leaning European federalist candidate Alexander Van der Bellen received more votes than far-right fascist candidate Norbert Hofer in a runoff election after no candidate received an outright majority of the vote in the first round of the first election. However, the Constitutional Court of Austria annulled the runoff results because Hofer complained of election irregularities, resulting in the runoff being re-held. Voters gave Van der Bellen an even larger majority in the re-run of the runoff, and Hofer finally conceded. For rejecting a fascist would-be head of state not once, but twice, in the same year, the Republic of Austria is the ProgMid Place of the Year for 2016.
CONCEPT OF THE YEAR – POLITICAL RESISTANCE
As I’m sure that virtually everybody who reads this blog knows, Republican Donald Trump won this year’s presidential election despite winning a minority of the national popular vote. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more than a few people on the left, and even many establishment Democrats, call for a non-violent political resistance to the incoming Trump Administration. With a barrage of right-wing federal legislation likely to be enacted starting early next year, progressives are going to expect resistance from the Democratic minorities in both houses of Congress. Political resistance is the ProgMid Concept of the Year for 2016.