Forty years ago, when the right wing was first ascendant in this country, the nation was introduced to some exotic characters the likes of whom most of us hadn’t seen before: Jerry Falwell Sr.; Pat Robertson; Newt Gingrich; even people like Illinois Representative Henry Hyde, who at the time seemed about as ideologically extreme as you could get. Surely they couldn’t go any lower than that. Well, here we are 40 years on, and it just gets lower. Some of the Republicans in the House of Representatives today make Henry Hyde look like Hubert Humphrey. And the horrors extend well outside the halls of Congress, to the states and the right-wing media bubble and beyond.
So The New Republic thought the time was right for a stocktaking. Who are the worst of the worst? Who’s the most dangerous senator? Which House member is the biggest threat to democratic order? Which governor is most irresponsibly putting his or her state’s people at risk? Who mounted the most shameless defense of the January 6 insurrection? Which Fox News host is the most despicable? (OK, we probably know that one, so who’s the second-most despicable?) Who’s the most obnoxious and unscrupulous Twitter star? Who’s the most flagrant racist? And, of course, who is the worst Trump? (We know that one, too, so we added a “Second-Worst Trump.”)
A lot of the answers weren’t all that surprising. Some were blowouts. Others were pretty darn close. We show here both readers’ answers and staff answers, so you can see where we were and weren’t in sync. And as you read through this, you’ll remember that, while we need to fear these people, sometimes we need to laugh at them, too.
10% Ron Johnson, Wisconsin
Known for: being dumbest person in the Senate; defending Capitol rioters as patriots and saying that if they had been from Black Lives Matter, “I might have been a little concerned” for safety—then denying any “racial” element to his comments.
The Worst: Mitch McConnell
Of course it’s old Mitch! How could it have been anyone else? Well, the others are all pretty bad, actually, and any one of them would be a plausible choice for worst. But none is responsible for anywhere near the amount of wreckage over a period of decades as McConnell.
Staff pick: Mitch McConnell
Worst House Member
25% Kevin McCarthy, CA-23, house minority leader
Known for: infamous post–January 6 Mar-a-Lago photo; general oiliness.
22% Jim Jordan, OH-4
Known for: winning a Presidential Medal of Freedom for efforts to stop “witch hunt”; apparent nonownership of any suit jackets.
3% Elise Stefanik, NY-21
Known for: abrupt recalculation from savvy Trump distance-keeper to fulsome Trump suck-up.
The Worst: Marjorie Taylor Greene
A bit of an upset here. One could easily argue that McCarthy deserved this one. He is, after all, the minority leader, whose posture toward Trump is one of extreme slavishness, and who has done and will do everything he possibly can to obstruct and interfere with the progress of the House January 6 commission.
But no one pushes our buttons quite like MTG. Around the time the voting closed, she released a bonkers campaign video in which she blows up a Prius (with “socialism” written on the side, natch) with a .50-caliber rifle—just like the one she wants to give away to a lucky raffle winner.
Staff pick: Marjorie Taylor Greene
Worst Insurrection Defender
15% Andrew Clyde, GA-9
Known for: saying January 6 looked like a “normal tourist visit.”
2% Brian Mast, FL-18
Known for: saying that the rioters weren’t acting on Trump’s behalf.
The Worst: Paul Gosar
The Vegas smart money was on Clyde here, after his comment shown above, which was a howler. But Gosar’s track record in this realm is indeed formidable.
Staff pick: Paul Gosar
6% Kristi Noem, South Dakota
Known for: promoting hydroxychloroquine; encouraging superspreader Sturgis motorcycle rallies two years running; bragging about resisting “the call for virus control at the expense of everything else.”
The Worst: Ron DeSantis
The voting here took place mostly prior to Texas passing that horrific anti-abortion law. Abbott might have won if that had hit the news a month earlier. But DeSantis earned this, as all too many grieving Floridians know all too well.
Staff pick: Greg Abbott
Worst Congressional Officeholder Who May Run for President in 2024
40% Ted Cruz, Texas
Known for: see above, plus recent “Imagine if Obama did that” stunt of showing up to vote in gym clothes.
32% Josh Hawley, Missouri
Known for: see above, plus introducing the “Love America Act” to deny funds to schools that try to teach racial history.
12% Tom Cotton, Arkansas
Known for: general World War III zealotry.
10% Rick Scott, Florida
Known for: Can someone who defrauded Medicare of hundreds of millions of dollars really become president? Uh … yeah.
2% Ben Sasse, Nebraska
Known for: well-timed Trump criticism that prevents media from reporting on his crazed, right-wing views.
The Worst: Ted Cruz
Remember when there was such a thing as shame, and a senator who was caught flying to Cancún while his constituents were literally dying might have resigned so as not to bring further dishonor upon the world’s greatest deliberative body?
Staff pick: Josh Hawley
Worst Non-Officeholder Who May Run for President in 2024 (Who Isn’t Named Trump)
65% Tucker Carlson
Known for: white supremacism; cable television’s phoniest concern-troll facial expressions.
23% Mike Pompeo
Known for: State Department corruption; doing no right things in the last 30 years.
3% Mike Pence
Known for: doing one right thing in the last 30 years.
The Worst: Tucker Carlson
He actually might run someday. And yes, he could win.
Staff pick: Tucker Carlson
Worst Embarrassing Trump Sycophant, Congressional Division
47% Lindsey Graham
“I said, ‘Mr. President, this MAGA movement needs to continue. We need to unite the party. Trump-plus is the way back in 2022.’” (Fox News Sunday, February 14, 2021)
21% Kevin McCarthy
“President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We can’t allow this to happen before our very eyes.” (The Ingraham Angle, Fox News, November 5, 2020)
15% Jim Jordan
“But our party is led by President Trump. I think that’s good. I hope he runs for office, for the presidency again in 2024.” (Fox News, February 28, 2021)
13% Ted Cruz
“Let me tell you this right now: Donald J. Trump ain’t goin’ anywhere.” (CPAC 2021)
4% Elise Stefanik
“Voters determine the leader of the Republican Party, and President Trump is the leader that they look to. He is an important voice in our Republican Party, and we look forward to working with him.” (news conference, May 14, 2021)
The Worst: Lindsey Graham
Remember how Graham once tweeted: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed......and we will deserve it”? Now he likes to brag about how badly Trump beats him on the golf course.
Staff pick: Lindsey Graham
1% Eric Trump
Known for: being the nicer, quieter cheetah-killer.
The Worst: Donald Trump
Well, obviously. But Morticia, Pugsley, and Wednesday are pretty bad news, too.
Staff pick: Donald Trump
Worst Fox News Host
78% Tucker Carlson
Known for: see above, plus nightly assaults on reality like calling U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn an “angry left-wing political activist.”
9% Sean Hannity
Known for: being pissed-off that we now hate Tucker more.
2% Maria Bartiromo
Known for: Remember when she was the Money Honey?
The Worst: Tucker Carlson
They’re all such appalling creatures, but this was as no-contest as they come.
Staff pick: Tucker Carlson
Worst Non-Fox Host Media Celebrity
9% Chanel Rion
Known for: One America News Network Trump-era White House correspondent; asking Trump if “Chinese food” was a racist phrase (in attempt to exculpate Trump for saying “Chinese virus”); being subject of ridicule by Borat.
The Worst: Ben Shapiro
Be sure to read Ben’s new book, The Authoritarian Moment. Naturally, it’s about ... the left.
Staff pick: Ben Shapiro
Worst Twitter Star
46% Dinesh D’Souza
Known for: losing job over bringing girlfriend, not wife, to evangelical conference; admitting to violating campaign finance laws, whining afterward that Obama was trying to make an example of him; tweeting that perhaps “whole #Charlottesville rally was a staged event.”
33% Candace Owens
Known for: saying that “if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine.”
The Worst: Dinesh D’Souza
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when D’Souza and Laura Ingraham were buddies at Dartmouth. Dartmouth must be so proud.
Staff pick: Mike Cernovich
Worst “Serious” Journalist
36% Ben Shapiro
Known for: trenchant Middle East analysis, like: “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue. #settlementsrock”
18% Hugh Hewitt
Known for: personally lobbying Scott Pruitt, then-chief of the EPA, to fast-track the cleanup of toxic waste near his house, then defending Pruitt on MSNBC multiple times without disclosing it.
3% Lee Smith
Known for: 2019 book, The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History (“Tall at six feet, one inch, a family man, and slow to anger, Nunes is relentless in pursuit”).
The Worst: Ben Shapiro
And speaking of proud, what about Ben’s parents? Their boy is a winner in two categories!
Staff pick: Bret Stephens
Worst Dirtbag White Supremacist
5% Nick Fuentes
Known for: “jokingly” casting doubt on Holocaust by quoting a viewer who suggested it would be impossible to bake six million cookies in five years.
4% Gavin McInnes
Known for: Proud Boys founder; Crusades defender (“Why don’t we take back Bethlehem? Why don’t we take back Northern Iraq? Why don’t we start our own Crusades? That’s what the Crusades were. They weren’t just someone picking on Muslims for no reason—they were a reaction to Muslim tyranny. We finally fought back.”)
The Worst: Stephen Miller
When you get more votes than Donald Trump himself, that’s how you know you’ve really left your mark on the culture.
Staff pick: Stephen Miller
Second-Worst Fox News Host/Frequent Guest
The Worst: Mark Levin
Ah, Levin. In his latest “book,” he tries to link the Democratic Party to various Marxian thinkers in history. He reaches for the Frankfurt School. Except he calls it the “Franklin” School. These people make millions of dollars a year.
Staff pick: Jesse Watters
Worst Thrice- (at Least) Married Fascist Family-Values Peddler
35% Donald Trump
Known for: more than two dozen allegations of sexual assault.
9% Rudy Giuliani
Known for: marrying his cousin as first wife; screwing around on second wife with soon-to-be third wife (now divorced); announcing separation from wife two to press before he told her.
The Worst: Donald Trump
Certainly, Trump seems like the one who treated his wives worst. Although Rudy, remember, separated from his second wife at a press conference before he told her himself.
Staff pick: Rudy Giuliani
51% Kimberly Guilfoyle
Known for: Don Jr.’s girlfriend; leaving Fox in 2018 after, according to HuffPost, “showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were).”
11% Ivana Trump
Known for: being weird enough to marry him first; also, for saying—in 2020—that Donald was doing a “great job” and is “pro everything that I believe in.”
1% Marla Maples
Known for: being weird enough to marry him; that, and “best sex I ever had” (assuming she said it; may have been Donald).
The Worst: Kimberly Guilfoyle
A bit of an upset here. Perhaps Guilfoyle benefited from her lamentable association with Donald Trump Jr. The fact that Gavin Newsom was married to her was almost reason enough to recall him.
Staff pick: Fred Trump Sr.
Worst Embarrassing Trump Sycophant, Non-Congressional Division
13% Michael Flynn
Known for: lying to the FBI about conversations with Russian diplomat; getting Trump pardon; backing Big Lie; currently traveling country promoting vaguely Seven Days in May–ish military coup agenda.
The Worst: Rudy Giuliani
If you have about 15 minutes to kill someday, go back and watch Rudy’s speech lionizing Trump at the 2016 convention. That 15 minutes will certainly be dead.
Staff pick: Rudy Giuliani
Worst Supreme Court Justice
15% Samuel Alito
Known for: nominated after Bush-era Harriet Miers fiasco; recently complaining that opposing same-sex marriage was “what the vast majority of Americans thought; now, it’s considered bigotry.” Um … yes.
The Worst: Clarence Thomas
Tough one here. If only Coney Barrett’s “we are not partisan hacks” speech—delivered in Louisville at the McConnell Center, no less—had been delivered a little earlier in the summer.
Staff pick: Samuel Alito
Worst Magazine and/or Website
Known for: alt-right white nationalist site started by Andrew Breitbart, later run by Steve Bannon; reported that Obama Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to “Friends of Hamas,” which originated in a sarcastic comment made by a reporter; and, of course, Pizzagate.
Known for: started by Christopher Ruddy of Clinton conspiracy fame (he later made peace with the Clintons) and Mar-a-Lago dinner invites; providing home to aging reactionary cranks like Pat Buchanan and Dick Morris.
20% The Federalist
Known for: co-founded by Ben Domenech; running op-ed defending Roy Moore dating teenage girls; spreading rampant Covid disinformation, urging shortly after pandemic was declared that people hold “chickenpox parties” to fight “Wuhan virus.”
12% The Daily Caller
Known for: co-founded by Tucker Carlson to be serious conservative news site; quickly degenerated into trolling and prurient spreads like the one referring to some female Syrian refugees as “Syria-sly hot.”
3% The Blaze
Known for: founded by Glenn Beck; heavily edited satirical video about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; BlazeTV host Jon Miller tweeting, when a South Korean director gave an Oscar speech mostly in Korean, that “these people are the destruction of America.”
The Worst: Breitbart
This one’s all about Pizzagate.
Staff pick: Breitbart
Worst Big Donor
2% Richard Uihlein
Known for: founder of Uline, a commercial supply company; joined top tier of GOP donors in 2018 and 2020; wife, Liz, declared coronavirus “overhyped”—in April 2020.
The Worst: The Kochs
And just as we were going to press, the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity (brother Charles, pictured) launched a multimillion-dollar ad blitz against the Democrats’ budget bill.
Staff pick: The Kochs
ALL PERCENTAGE RESULTS ARE ROUNDED.