by Julie Kelly
The year began with so much optimism.
Record low unemployment, rising wages, and a strong stock market buoyed the outlook for business owners and consumers alike. The president earned all-time high approval ratings following the Democrats’ impeachment farce. In February 2020, Republicans enjoyed a seven-point lead over Democrats in party affiliation, an advantage the GOP hadn’t seen in at least 15 years. The Democratic presidential primary field was a clown show; party elders publicly worried that none of the candidates could prevail over President Trump in November.
The ongoing catastrophe related to COVID-19 is mostly caused by human malice and hubris, not the virus. The year 2020 featured many villains, a handful of heroes, and millions of defenseless victims harmed by heartless authoritarians of both parties—politicians and bureaucrats consumed with power, arrogance, and an insatiable lust for the media’s approval.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: After barely beating Andrew Gillum in 2018, DeSantis landed near the top of the Left’s hit list and has stayed there ever since. DeSantis resisted calls in the spring to shut down Florida amid a vicious smear campaign by the news media, which continue to vilify him to this day.
DeSantis navigated a summer surge that also hit other parts of the Sun Belt without coming close to the fatality rates endured in states such as New York and New Jersey, which were hailed as models by the Left. In September, DeSantis lifted all restrictions on bars and restaurants and opened up nursing homes for family visits, later promising never to shut down again. People and businesses are flocking to the Sunshine State from failed blue states. DeSantis, 42, now is viewed as a 2024 Republican presidential contender.
Dr. Scott Atlas: A neuroradiologist and Hoover Institution fellow, Atlas joined President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force in August, six months too late. An early proponent of a more realistic approach to COVID-19, Atlas has been torched by the press, Democrats, public health “experts,” his Stanford colleagues, and even some in the White House.
But his views about herd immunity, mask use, and the human toll of lockdowns are scientifically sound. The people who push lockdowns, Atlas told me this year, “have blood on their hands.” Sad, but true: History will be much kinder to Atlas than to the current tyrants in the media and “expert” class.
Alex Berenson, Team Reality: Only a very small handful of journalists and commentators objected in March to shutdown orders to “flatten the curve.” Former New York Times reporter and author Alex Berenson led the pack this year, challenging the groupthink of his peers and focusing on data as opposed to fear. Amazon briefly banned the sale of his ebook critical of lockdowns. Others on Team Reality include Jordan Schachtel, Justin Hart, Aaron Ginn, Phil Kerpen, Daniel Horowitz, Steve Deace, Jesse Kelly, Tracy Beanz, and many others behind the scenes studying the actual science.
The New York Post: In October, after the Post published shocking information discovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop, the paper faced an onslaught of criticism. Articles detailing the trove, which confirmed Biden’s overseas rackets and his father’s involvement, were banned both by social media and traditional news outlets. Twitter locked the Post’s account for two weeks ahead of Election Day.
Former intelligence officials, including John Brennan and James Clapper, signed a letter claiming the laptop materials were part of a “Russian disinformation campaign.” The paper has since been vindicated; news reports published after the election confirm Hunter Biden is under federal criminal investigation.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: Rank-and-file Republican are rightly furious at top party officials for failing to confront egregious—and likely election-altering—voter fraud in key states. Trump’s legal team was all over the place, clearly unprepared for the necessary court challenges. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a solid lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7, later joined by several other state attorneys general and more than 100 Republican congressmen, outlining election illegalities in four swing states. Paxton’s filing should have been prepared by Team Trump and the Republican National Committee right after the election. The high court, to its lasting shame, refused to consider the case.
Honorable mentions: Tucker Carlson, Chef Andrew Gruel, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Senator Rand Paul, Rep. Andy Biggs, the Great Barrington Declaration authors, and California doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: Of the many solid candidates for “Villain of the Year” occupying executive mansions on both sides of the aisle, Cuomo beats them all. Cuomo did nothing to prepare his state for COVID-19, admitting in March that New York had no plan. New York City was besieged early on and acted as a “super spreader” for the rest of the country. His Health Department issued deadly guidance in late March to readmit COVID patients to nursing homes.
New York has the second-highest fatality rate, nearly double Florida’s. Yet despite his incompetence, Cuomo has been praised by the news media and pundit class. He wrote a book patting himself on the back for his handling of the crisis and won an Emmy for his self-serving press conferences. Shortly after, Cuomo began locking down parts of New York again as cases spiked. Nothing beats Big Apple arrogance.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Too much ground to cover here, but suffice it to say Fauci is almost single-handedly responsible for the catastrophe we now face as a country. As I argued in April, the president should have sidelined Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx as soon as they validated dubious models forecasting widespread death and doom. Trump, unfortunately, kept him on and Fauci quickly achieved rock star status; the aging bureaucrat was viewed as the “scientific” antidote to Trump despite reversing himself on everything including COVID’s fatality rate, face coverings, school closings, and most recently, herd immunity.
Nearly everyone has bought into Fauci’s messiah complex. He graced the cover of InStyle magazine, an honor never extended to First Lady Melania Trump, and was on Time’s list for Person of the Year. But no one did more damage to the economy, the country’s psyche, or our children’s future, than Anthony Fauci in 2020.
Public health “experts”: A highly-partisan scientific community exploited the coronavirus crisis to score political points against Donald Trump. Only the “experts” were permitted to opine on how to handle the virus; paycheck-safe academics and healthcare providers backed economic shutdowns without remorse. Colleagues who dared to suggest anything other than the anti-Trump company line faced harsh condemnation.
The Centers for Disease Control published unscientific “guidance,” often based on studies from China, promoting outlandish advice such as to avoid singing during the holidays. Its recommendations were used to promote mail-in voting in 2020, which helped Joe Biden win the White House.
Mass gatherings, the experts insisted, must be forbidden. That unquestionable advice, however, quickly changed during the George Floyd riots; social justice prevailed over social distancing. Hard to think of a group that burned its credibility more this year than our haughty credentialed class.
COVID-19 modelers: Dr. Neil Ferguson at Imperial College London ignited global hysteria with his March 16 model predicting 2.2 million Americans would die of the virus by the end of the year. Ferguson introduced the world to the pseudoscientific “social distancing” theory that has failed. Ferguson quickly walked back his projections after much criticism; he then was caught violating his own home isolation order when he visited his married lover in May. Computer experts shredded his buggy code, but the damage was done.
Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, acted as Ferguson’s American doppelgänger. In late March, Murray churned out similar models that warned the United States would run out of ICUs and ventilators. Fauci and Birx presented both models to President Trump in late March, convincing him to shut down the national economy for another month. None of their dire predictions came true but the world is saddled with ineffective, destructive “social distancing” dogma for the foreseeable future.
Big Tech: Silicon Valley shaped America’s discourse in 2020, and not for the better. Doctors who questioned COVID-19 “mitigation” measures or promoted hydroxychloroquine were banned; ditto for posts criticizing the efficacy of face masks.
Big Tech’s meddling in the 2020 presidential election resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars—at least—in unlawful in-kind contributions to Joe Biden and the Democrats. Social media companies and internet search engines collaborated to suppress criticism about absentee voting; dozens of the president’s tweets before the election were flagged, allegedly for containing “disputed” information, an absolutely laughable policy considering the same platforms allowed users to spread lies about Russian collusion, the Covington Catholic High School kids, and Brett Kavanaugh, just to name a few recent notorious incidents.
Republicans, despite promises to the contrary, never reined in Big Tech. Section 230 is alive and well; Silicon Valley oligarchs emerge as the biggest winners of 2020.
Dishonorable mentions: The U.S. news media, the World Health Organization, China, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, “peaceful protestors,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the Lincoln Project, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General William Barr, Senator Mitt Romney, Fox News, Dr. Deborah Birx, the U.S. Supreme Court, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
Nearly everyone, except for those at the top, took a hit in 2020. More than 100,000 small businesses are shuttered for good. Loved ones still cannot comfort a spouse or parent during their final moments in a hospital; the dying die alone.
But the biggest victims of 2020 are the youngest and the oldest. Tens of millions of children have been isolated at home, struggling to learn anything via “remote learning” as teachers’ unions hold them hostage. The pleasures of youth have been stripped from their lives never to be replaced—yet the Faucis and Cuomos of the world show no remorse. College campuses resemble police states. And there appears to be no end in sight.
At the same time, millions of senior citizens remain trapped in long-term care facilities, forbidden to see family or friends. Nursing home residents are dying from “failure to thrive” as they wither away without human contact or touch. Some have staged protests to no avail. The most advanced, innovative country in human history with the most self-aggrandizing “expert” class can’t figure out how to safely allow grandmas to hug their grandchildren. An unforgivable disgrace.
One person, however, deserves the title of Victim, Villain, and Hero of 2020: Donald Trump.
Victim: In the eyes of the national news media, Donald Trump could do nothing right. In 2020, the media covered up any negative news about the Bidens while bolstering the Democrats’ preposterous impeachment case against Trump. Daily tickers on coronavirus, without context, fueled unnecessary hysteria while solely blaming the president for every new case and death.
Democratic election officials in swing states broke absentee ballot laws to help Joe Biden win but the courts, including the Supreme Court, refused to intervene. Republicans in Georgia capitulated to Democrats’ demands, helping flip that state from red to blue in 2020.
Most Republicans in Washington not only refused to back Trump, they are clearly eager to have him gone even though they benefited from having Trump at the top of the ticket this year. With friends like these . . .
Villain: Trump’s refusal to cut loose people who openly undermine him is the president’s biggest flaw; 2020 was his comeuppance on that score. Rather than fire Fauci and Birx, Trump let them run the show and drive the nation’s thriving economy into the ground. The pivotal moment in his presidency, when he heeded their treacherous advice to keep the economy shut down in April, would prove to be his undoing.
Trump did not fire FBI Director Chris Wray or CIA Director Gina Haspel, even as they continued to thwart his authority. Attorney General William Barr should have been asked to resign when he said in September any charges stemming from Special Counsel John Durham’s probe into the Obama Administration’s meddling in the 2016 election would be delayed until after November 3. Trump didn’t have in place a solid legal team to successfully litigate valid instances of election fraud, instead relegating the job to longtime friends and unknowns. Most of the president’s travails this year were self-inflicted wounds—and the country paid a steep price.
Hero: When few people, including top Republican leaders in Washington, refused to condemn Black Lives Matter rioters, President Trump did. The president called out cowardly Democratic politicians who let Antifa and BLM thugs destroy their cities. He defended the country’s history and Founders in a moving Fourth of July address at Mount Rushmore and created the 1776 Commission as an antidote to the “1619 Project.”
As he prepares to exit the White House, Trump will be remembered for confronting the nation’s enemies, foreign and domestic, at a time when we needed it most. In the din of 2020, President Trump often emerged as the only steadfast leader willing to defend the country.
Unfortunately, 2021 isn’t looking much better. Our countrymen are depressed, hopeless, and fearful. A poll released this week shows only 29 percent of Americans think the country is on the right track. Most Republicans think the election was stolen; Joe Biden is not at all up to the task of serving as the leader of the free world. It’s only a matter of time before President Kamala Harris occupies the Oval Office.
Trump, however, will continue to be the most powerful political leader in the country. What he does with that power is up in the air. Let’s hope he uses it for good—Lord knows we will need him to.
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Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.