Opinion | The 25 Things I’m Thankful for in American Politics

Ah, Thanksgiving. That magical time when friends and family gather round the table to share the love, reminisce — and bicker endlessly about politics and the state of the nation. If your clan is anything like mine, the conversation bends toward the grim and angsty: President Biden’s advanced age, Donald Trump’s legal dramas, Ron DeSantis’s creepy robot smile, the price of Tom Turkey, the chaos in Congress, the government’s alien cover-up …. It can be a lot.

But there is, in fact, so much to be grateful for, especially in the political realm. Don’t laugh! And please stick with me while I share several of my favorites. Because while you may need to squint to see the silver lining in the political clouds, it is important to do so. Nothing is quite as dangerous as good people despairing and disengaging from politics, ceding the field to the crooks and cranks. Our democracy is too important.

Let me start with an entry that may surprise many of you. I am thankful that Kevin McCarthy, in his brief and inglorious tenure atop the House, cut a bipartisan deal to avoid a debt default. I have said many, many harsh things about the ex-speaker over the years — every one of which he earned with his hollow, slippery spinelessness. But the guy wrecked his dream job to prevent his right-wingers from wrecking the global economy. Gotta give him props.

I’m thankful that elections this year earned Republicans another spanking for their efforts to curtail women’s reproductive rights. Pro tip for abortion opponents: If you want women to buy your devotion to “a culture of life,” try pushing policies aimed at supporting mothers and children after delivery rather than focusing so stringently on restrictive measures that make you seem punitive and controlling.

I am thankful that Congress is getting some time off this week so that thin-skinned, overly emotional men like Mr. McCarthy and Senator Markwayne Mullin can pull it together and stop picking physical fights — or, if you believe Mr. McCarthy, accidentally thwacking a colleague in the back — in the halls of government. (Sorry, Kev. You just keep asking for it.)

On a related note, I am thankful that, after challenging a Senate witness to a smackdown, Mr. Mullin helpfully elaborated: “I’ll bite 100 percent. In a fight, I’m going to bite. I’ll do anything. I’m not above it. And I don’t care where I bite, by the way.” Stay classy, my man!

I’m thankful that the U.S. judicial system is not treating Donald Trump as though he is above the law.

I’m thankful that it has been more than 1,050 days since Trumpists last stormed the Capitol.

More earnestly, I am thankful that we have now gone three election cycles without major upheaval or violence. Kudos to all the people, from lawmakers and lawyers to election clerks and poll workers, who labor to safeguard the integrity of America’s electoral system.

I am thankful we have a president who believes in democracy. It feels weird to have to say that, but here we are.

I’m thankful that the fine people of New Jersey finally seem ready to kick Senator Bob Menendez to the curb. Two criminal indictments in eight years feels like enough.

I’m thankful that even Jim Jordan’s Republican colleagues understood that he is too big of a jerk to be the speaker.

I am thankful not to be George Santos’s lawyer.

Or Hunter Biden’s.

Or Rudy Giuliani’s.

Or Eric Adams’s.

I am thankful that Jenna Ellis is not my lawyer. Seriously. Who gave this woman a J.D.?

I am thankful that inflation is easing, though I wish it would ease even faster. People are struggling. High prices — and the perception of them — influence how voters feel about the state of the nation, and an angry electorate yearning for better economic days plays into the hands of Mr. Trump’s aggrieved brand of politics and his woo-’em-with-nostalgia message.

I am thankful for governors of all political persuasions. Most, though certainly not all, tend to be more solutions-oriented and open to cross-aisle compromise than members of Congress, who operate with more of a team-based mind-set.

I am thankful that Mike Pence got the message that no one wants him to be president.

I am thankful that Nikki Haley knows how to throw a political punch — especially at Vivek Ramaswamy.

I am thankful that even many Republicans clearly get that Mr. Ramaswamy is the most obnoxious creature ever to run for president.

I am thankful that Tucker Carlson no longer has a sweet prime-time platform from which to poison the minds of America’s grandparents.

I would like to be thankful for the Supreme Court’s new ethics code. The court needed some boundaries after all the revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas for years accepting luxury vacations and other eye-popping gifts from rich friends (without disclosing some of them) and participating in conservative donor events (on the q.t.) and failing to recuse himself from cases related to the political shenanigans of his wife, Ginni, including her work to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Sadly, this code is a wilted, flimsy fig leaf. Still, it suggests the justices can recognize when one of their own has crossed a line. So maybe they’ll do better after Justice Thomas gets back from his next friend-funded holiday or a buddy spots him an even bigger, shinier R.V.

I’m thankful that the House Republicans’ shabby impeachment inquiry into President Biden has been almost as embarrassing for them so far as a night out with Lauren Boebert.

Speaking of, I’m super thankful Ms. Boebert had the decency not to take her date to a matinee of “Beetlejuice,” where there would probably have been even more easily scarred children.

I am thankful the new House speaker, Mike Johnson, brushed back his ultraconservative colleagues to spare the nation a holiday-season government shutdown. Some of these wingers already have started working to make him pay for this betrayal, but, seriously, what are they going to do — oust him?

Lastly, I cannot adequately express how thankful I am to live in a country where I can poke fun at political leaders who so richly deserve it without fear of government reprisal. God bless America.

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