AMAC Exclusive – By Eleanor Vaughn
There’s no denying that 2021 has been a particularly tumultuous year. Many days, it seemed as if rage and radicalism dominated our national discourse. However, despite the chaos, many people—both public figures and private citizens—have managed to keep their heads on properly. Across the country and the political spectrum, people have defended their deeply held principles, often risking their careers and facing ridicule and hatred. Standing up to the far left in 2021 took courage. Here are some of the most courageous examples of individuals from the past year who reminded us that all what it takes to defend freedom and liberty.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis is perhaps the most notable of several Republican governors who stood up to the left on the issue of COVID restrictions, especially lockdowns. He and several others kept their states open – for business, for education, and for living – while protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that hospitals were not overrun. They have challenged the idea that lockdowns are a cure-all and recognized that there are real economic, educational, and mental health costs to shutting everything down and that, at some point, these costs outweigh the benefits. This common-sense approach has allowed Florida to thrive and perform well against COVID, while liberal states are still lagging behind in their recovery – both from the virus and the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Despite the liberal media’s best attempts to cancel him, labeling him a “murderer” and “anti-science,” the results in Florida speak for themselves, and the Sunshine State has helped change the national and global conversation about lockdowns.
Virginia Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears
Winsome Sears has been making history her entire political career and continued to do so in 2021 when she became the first black woman to be elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. A Jamaican immigrant, veteran, and small-business owner, Sears ran on the platform that education is the path to opportunity for all Virginians. Despite a slew of vicious attacks hurled at Sears from the liberal media, she remained focused on her goal: helping Virginians live better lives. Her election is truly historic and a good reminder to the rest of the country that demographics don’t determine politics, and common sense still carries the day.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin
It’s not just conservatives who have stood up to the left this year. Among Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin may be the most obvious example of someone displaying some common sense and a clear head. The moderate Democrat has made headlines multiple times this year for objecting to the Biden administration’s more radical proposals, most recently the so-called “Build Back Better Act,” which amounted to little more than a socialist wish list. Manchin has insisted that his colleagues in the Democratic Party find actual sources of funding for their progressive pipe dreams, particularly as spiraling inflation is decimating the finances of hard-working Americans. Despite immense pressure from the media, the White House, and other Congressional Democrats, Manchin has stood firm against the worst inclinations of the radical left.
Education Warrior Asra Nomani
Asra Nomani is a Virginian who took a stand for education and rooting out racist ideologies in school classrooms. As Vice President for Strategy and Investigations at Parents Defending Education and as co-founder of Coalition for TJ, Nomani has spent 2021 advocating for equality in education, especially at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The Northern Virginia school, widely considered among the best in the country, made news this year when administrators announced they were considering a new, race-conscious admission system. This system would actively reduce the number of Asian-American students, who currently make up around 70% of TJ’s student body. Nomani and other Asian parents in Northern Virginia, many of whom moved to this area so their children could attend these highly-ranked schools, protested the change and are fighting to ensure that race plays no role in selecting which students are afforded educational opportunity.
Commentator and Author Bari Weiss
Bari Weiss, who may be best known for her very public resignation from the New York Times last year, spent the year challenging progressivism. Importantly, she didn’t just stand up to the left in one dramatic moment but did so day by day, putting in the hard intellectual work to expose the inherent flaws in the far left’s worldview. Weiss moved over to Substack, an independent platform where readers can subscribe to individual journalists. She is part of a growing crowd of ex-mainstream journalists dissatisfied with editors and publications that prioritize ideology over truth. Weiss helped highlight perspectives and stories that were being ignored or misrepresented by mainstream sources. She often used her platform to exhibit others’ work, letting them speak to her audience in their own words. In doing so, she is helping pave the way for a new model of journalism that cuts out the middleman and more directly democratizes information for all.
Comedian Dave Chapelle (and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos)
The past few years have been difficult for entertainers, as rapidly shifting social rules dictated by progressive internet mobs have seen many of them deemed “problematic” or “canceled.” Many have had to issue apologies. But this year, stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle refused. His most recent comedy special, “The Closer,” contained jokes about sensitive issues like transgenderism which (naturally) sparked outrage. Despite several transgender entertainers expressing their support for Chappelle, Netflix employees staged a walkout, and several Hollywood news sources derided Chapelle as “transphobic.”
However, Chappelle stood by his comedic remarks, reaffirming his position rather than caving to social pressure. Perhaps even more surprisingly, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos did as well, refusing to pull the special off the platform. While neither Chappelle nor Sarandos is likely to be spotted at a local GOP meeting, both men refused to be bullied by the far left.
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroder
Judge Bruce Schroder was thrust into the spotlight when he presided over the Kyle Rittenhouse trial earlier this year. Despite the enormous media firestorm surrounding the trial, he worked hard to ensure that his courtroom would be a place of justice, not appeasement. He evicted reporters who tried to influence the jury and didn’t allow the prosecution to break legal procedure in order to make Rittenhouse look guilty. He was not intimidated by his role in the center of an explosive national controversy. Instead, he did his job, as it was supposed to be done.
What these people have done is not always showy. Much of it has involved simply doing their job and staying calm in the face of crisis. But in a crisis, staying calm is more than just remarkable—it is a sign of hope for everybody else. Hope, first of all, that we are not alone. That somebody, anybody, will stand up to the rising tide of radicalism that threatens to sweep away so much of our history and our culture. But also hope that people can change their minds. Not all of the above individuals are conservatives. But they have all in some way recognized the danger of unchecked extremism and decided to take a stand.
Yes, 2021 has been a year of outrage and upsets. It’s been hard to keep your head. It’s been even harder not to lose heart. But, hidden among the faults and failings have been glimmers of hope and moments of courage. Perhaps in 2022, we will have not just glimmers but lasting victories.
Eleanor Vaughn is a writer living in Virginia.
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