By John Nichols
Progressives had more to celebrate in 2008 than in any year since the Supreme Court got into the business of stealing elections. The jubilant mood is dampened, of course, by the fact of a country is stuck in two military quagmires, ravaged by the most fearsome economic downturn in at least a half century and suffering from a serious case of Constitutional degeneration. Perhaps we have not yet reached an ideal champagne moment. But there is still good reason to toast the year's MVPs - Most Valuable Progressives.
MOST VALUABLE SENATOR: Bernie Sanders
When just about everyone else in the Capitol was absorbed with the presidential race last fall, the independent senator from Vermont recognized that the biggest story of 2008 was not the election - it was the collapse of the economic house of cards that successive Republican and Democratic administrations had built. Like Marcy Kaptur in the House, Sanders refused to panic in the face of demands for a massive bailout of big banks and bad investors. Instead, he argued, "Don't make working people bail out Wall Street!" The Vermonter framed his challenge to the economic orthodoxy of Washington insiders who still do not "get it" in the right way: as part of a broader battle to defend the middle class. And Sanders never forgets the human side of the equation: "It is one thing to read dry economic statistics which describe the collapse of the American middle class," he argues. "It is another thing to understand, in flesh and blood terms, what that means in the lives of ordinary Americans. Yes, since George W. Bush has been in office 5 million Americans have slipped into poverty, 8 million have lost their health insurance and 3 million have lost their pensions. Yes, in the last seven years median household income for working-age Americans has declined by $2,500. Yes, our country, for the first time since the Great Depression, now has a zero personal savings rate and, all across the nation, emergency food shelves are being flooded with working families whose inadequate wages prevent them from feeding their families. Statistics are one thing, however, and real life is another." Sanders highlights the real-life struggles of working Americans on the best website maintained by any member of Congress.
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By John Nichols
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