The 2019 Conifer Awards

Call me conservative, but I love tradition. And there is no finer tradition on these pages than the month of December, when I get to make predictions for the coming year, and — as I’m about to do now — I hand out superlatives for the year that was.

2019 came and went all too quickly, but there are plenty of bests and worsts to talk about. And so, we look back on the previous twelve months, and we remember. I give to you, the 2019 Conifer Awards:

Biggest Nothingburger Award: The Mueller Report

Do you even remember that the Mueller Report was released this year? All that time, all that hype, all that hot air, and it essentially amounted to nothing of note.

Least Likely to be Promoted Award: House Speaker Sara Gideon

The dream is there. The desire is there. The money is there. But she isn’t going to beat Sen. Susan Collins (who, disclaimer, I worked for years ago).

Coolest Accomplishment by a Mainer Award: Jessica Meir

In October, Maine astronaut Jessica Meir and her colleague Christina Koch conducted the first all-female spacewalk outside the International Space Station. That’s pretty cool.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch  inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools used on their first spacewalk together. The Expedition 61 flight engineers are holding the pistol grip tools used to swap out a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit, that regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the International Space Station.

Most Interesting International Story of the Year Award: Brexit

It was utterly fascinating: The constant failures to ratify a plan in Parliament. The intrigue on Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership. Her resignation. The elevation of Boris Johnson. The continued failure, followed by Parliamentary tricks. The new election. A massive majority delivered and final approval for Brexit, finally.

Most Important International Story of the Year Award: The Hong Kong Freedom Protests

Oh how I wish more people were paying attention to this, particularly in the United States government. People are crying out for freedom against an oppressive totalitarian state, and it seems that barely anyone cares.

Most Irrelevant Big Story of the Year Award: The Impeachment of President Trump

Look, you either think impeachment was critical to the survival of the republic, or you think it is a sham and an attempted coup of an elected president. I’m not saying no one has passionate opinions about it.

But there is nothing interesting about the story, and the whole exercise is pointless. All the votes in the House seemed predetermined before one hearing was held. All the votes in the Senate were likely decided months ago. President Trump will be acquitted, and the election will go right on the way it would’ve otherwise. It. Meant. Nothing.

The “Hey Big Spender” Award: Gov. Janet Mills

When you propose a budget nearly one billion dollars larger than the previous one — an increase of 11 percent — this award is a lock for you.

Best Use of Fast Food Award: President Donald Trump

Due to a furlough from the government shutdown (remember that?), the White House didn’t know how it was going to feed the visiting Clemson Tigers football team in January. So the president got the players hamburgers and fries from local fast food restaurants. The media laughed. The Tigers loved it.

Best Use of an Unusual Utensil Award: Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Apparently it isn’t all that fun to work for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, with many reports of the Minnesota lawmaker mistreating her staff. One interesting story from earlier this year relayed how Klobuchar berated an aide for forgetting to bring utensils with a salad for her to eat, and then ate the salad with a comb.

The Tim Pawlenty Flameout Award: Sen. Kamala Harris

Once upon a time, Tim Pawlenty was a popular Republican governor of a blue state (Minnesota) who hoped that his fresh face, blue collar sensibilities and establishment support could take down Mitt Romney and other candidates in the Republican primary of 2012. It didn’t go well. He went from one of the most serious contenders to dropping out almost overnight. In 2016, the title belonged to former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Congratulations to Sen. Kamala Harris, this year that distinction belongs to her. 

The “You Paid How Much to Get Into USC?” Award: Lori Loughlin

Fifty people were actually charged in this year’s college admissions scandal, but it was Aunt Becky — actress Lori Loughlin — that made me shake my head the most. No disrespect to the University of Southern California, but the notion that anyone would pay what Loughlin did — $500,000 — to get their child in that school is, well, more than a little ridiculous.

Most Believable Conspiracy Theory Award: Jeffrey Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself

Suicide? Snoozing guards who didn’t check on him for several hours? Camera tapes of the area outside his cell from an earlier suicide attempt, initially missing but eventually found? Him being on suicide watch? Come. On. I don’t know exactly what did happen, but I think it is safe to say that many of us don’t buy the official explanation.

And those, ladies and gentlemen, are your 2019 Conifer Awards. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.