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21 Bright Spots From the Political Hellfire of 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Rashida Tlaib are an intimidating force at a congressional hearing.

I think we can all agree that 2019 was, by and large, a political hellfire. But it wasn’t all terrible. A few moments were good, some were great, and some were straight-up hilarious. As we begin our journey into 2020, which will no doubt be 100% perfect and not at all terrible in any way whatsoever (no, you’re ignoring reality), here are our favorite political highlights of 2019.

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The women of the impeachment hearings

Fiona Hill at the impeachment hearings

image: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The House impeachment hearings both excited us and took an emotional toll, probably in equal measures. But the undeniable highlight of the whole process was the testimony from so many incredible women: women like Fiona HillMarie Yovanovitch, Laura Cooper, and Jennifer Williams and Pamela Karlan.

Devin Nunes’ cow

Look, we all needed a laugh in 2019. So never forget that among his many, MANY lawsuits, Congressional Representative Devin Nunes is also trying to sue a Twitter account of a fake cow because he thinks it’s mean.

The historic number of women and POC to take the stage in a Democratic presidential debate

Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) laugh together during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate

image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Until now, no more than one woman has ever taken the stage in a major US presidential debate. 2019 saw that number increase sixfold, as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson, and Tulsi Gabbard all appeared in the first debate. Since then, the stage has gotten much whiter and male-r–something we should all be paying close attention to, as the DNC’s rules seem to be most definitely in need of updating.

The November elections

Not only has voter turnout for off-year and midterm elections skyrocketed since Trump took office, but those voters are overwhelmingly putting Democrats, women, POC, and reproductive rights advocates into office. This past November was no exception.

Journalist Julie K. Brown got the credit she deserved for finally breaking the Jeffrey Epstein cover-up story

More than a decade after the now-deceased billionaire serial abuser Jeffrey Epstein got a totally unethical sweetheart deal (thanks to the illegal dealings of Alexander Acosta, then the prosecutor–not Epstein’s lawyer–in the case and Donald Trump’s future secretary of labor), Brown broke the story of the cover-up, leading to renewed charges against Epstein and his eventual arrest.

Nancy Pelosi’s sarcastic clapping meme

The GIF of the Union. The GIF of the year.

Trump’s Twitter lawsuit

Technically, the decision that Donald Trump couldn’t block people on Twitter was decided in 2018, but it was upheld by an appeals court in 2019. That decision has since extended to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, so this isn’t an exclusively partisan move–it may be driven by partisan players, but at its core, it’s striving to make sure no one’s excluded from the larger political cyber “town hall.”

All of Trump’s allies going to jail

In November, longtime Trump ally and advocate Roger Stone was convicted on all seven counts of major political crimes, including, well, a lot of people. Like, basically all the people:

Trump got booed at that baseball game


Jane Fonda’s arrests

Fonda has been leading some high-profile climate protests and arrests this year. She’s been joined by Grace & Frankie costars like Sam Waterston, Good Place stars Ted Danson and William Jackson Harper, and more.

The women of Congress v. Mark Zuckerberg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-NY) listens during a congressional hearing

image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Back in October, Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress and had his whole ass handed to him by the women of the House Financial Services Committee. If we’re seeking out congressional butt-kickings, we can also look to the same women’s domination of the credit reporting industry. And if you want more Zuckeberg-owning, check out Sacha Baron Cohen’s absolutely incredible speech to the Anti-Defamation League. Also please check out Rep. Katie Porter on Bill Maher’s show. She fully owned that appearance.

That racist citizenship question wasn’t allowed to be included in the census

Trump was obsessed this year with putting a question regarding citizenship on the census. The Supreme Court denied the idea, though they did leave some wiggle room, and for a while, it seemed like he wasn’t going to give up. He appears to have been distracted by bigger issues, though, like his ongoing impeachment battle and his potential removal from office.

SCOTUS heard its first-ever trans rights case

So much of this case is still to be seen, but the fact that the Supreme Court is finally hearing its first transgender rights case is a landmark experience.

Megan Rapinoe’s spotlight

This is the moment I became a soccer fan:

Her Woman of the Year acceptance speech, in which she praised Colin Kaepernick’s activism, was also really great.

Greta Thunberg and the historic climate protests worldwide

Between her powerful U.N. speech, her expert trolling of Donald Trump, and inspiring worldwide climate change protests on a historic scale, we’re grateful to Thunberg (as well as all the other young activists don’t get the same amount of attention but fight just as hard to save us all).

Jacob Wohl kept existing and publicly failing for our collective enjoyment

Look, I don’t want to consider anyone’s constant failure to be a “bright spot” of the year but then Jacob Wohl goes and insists on continuing to exist. And by “exist,” I mean he keeps pushing ridiculous conspiracy theories, from essentially writing graphic fanfic about Elizabeth Warren’s purported ravenous sex life to pretending Ilhan Omar’s supporters threatened his life. He keeps trying to put himself in the political spotlight and the only reason we keep covering him is because he keeps failing so spectacularly.

Also, just in case you’re still thinking it’s mean to dunk on Wohl and his associates in ineptitude, please remember that he also tried to capitalize on the #MeToo movement–meaning he was attempting to weaponize countless people’s actual accounts of sexual harassment and assault–with apparent fake allegations against Pete Buttigieg.

Democratic candidates added their pronouns to their Twitter bios

Increased pronoun inclusion 2020!

Kirsten Gillibrand’s explanation of privilege

Before Gillibrand dropped out of the 2020 race, this was one of the most powerful moments of her campaign.

Abortion decriminalized in countries around the world

This year saw a number of pieces of reproductive rights legislation passed: Northern Ireland, (most of) Australia, and Oaxaca, Mexico all chose to decriminalize abortion in 2019.

Monica Lewinski reclaimed her own narrative

Towards the end of 2018, Monica Lewinsky made headlines for walking out of an interview that was supposed to be about the “perils and positives of the internet” and instead tried to focus on Bill Clinton. She also decided to participate in a docuseries about “the Clinton Affair.” (“Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal . . . I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle,” she said at the time.)

In 2019, she’s continued on that path of reclamation, giving an absolutely incredible interview to John Oliver, deciding to produce the upcoming American Crime Story adaptation of the political scandal, and settling in as an essential and often hilarious Twitter presence–even before the most recent impeachment ordeal began, but most definitely since then.

The impeachment of Donald Trump

These were arranged in no particular order, but obviously this is number one. No matter what happens next in the Senate trial, Donald Trump was impeached and no one can take that from us.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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