The 10 Worst Americans of 2021

At Christmas we traditionally reflect upon our blessings and forgive those who have trespassed against us. Let’s not this year.


From top left, clockwise: Rupert Murdoch, Sen. Joe Manchin, President Joe Biden, Elon Musk, former President Donald Trump, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Photo illustration: Shaun Lucas/The Intercept, Getty Images

At this time of year we traditionally reflect upon our blessings and forgive those who have trespassed against us. But we’ve been trying that for millennia, and the results have been unsatisfactory. So let’s discard the accumulated wisdom of all humanity’s spiritual traditions and focus our mental energy instead on how much we dislike various awful people around us. Merry Christmas.

1. Manchinema

Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of West Virginia and Arizona can be combined into one entry, Manchinema, both to save time and because it sounds like an obscure disease. “I’m afraid you have Manchinema,” says the doctor, looking grave, “and it is eating away the lining of your small intestine.”

Manchinema were seemingly grown in a lab to cause the most mental anguish possible to America’s progressives. They both adore the filibuster, which makes the anti-democratic Senate even less democratic. Why do they feel this way? Because, they say, they love democracy. It’s like supporting Mohammed bin Salman because you love Jamal Khashoggi.

2. Joe Biden

Biden would be on this list no matter what, because he is president of the United States. All presidents are ex officio members of any group of terrible Americans.

But Biden has also worked hard to earn his place here. “With Donald Trump out of the White House,” Biden predicted back in 2019, “you will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.” Biden appears to still believe this, even as his Republicans friends openly plot to kill and eat him.

Probably Biden’s worst action has been to help establish a kind of global vaccine apartheid, under which (according to a recent estimate) rich countries have vaccinated 65 percent of their population against Covid-19, while poor countries have only been able to vaccinate 3 percent.

This has the twin virtues of being both mind-numbingly cruel and unbelievably stupid. The omicron variant is the fruit of leaving huge swaths of humanity unvaccinated and available to host mutations. Omicron may turn out, knock on wood, to be less deadly than previous variants. But until most everyone on the planet has lasting immunity to Covid-19, we will continue to be rolling the dice, over and over and over again.

On the other hand, this policy does have some enormous upsides, such as [INAUDIBLE].

3. Elon Musk

It’s easy to criticize Elon Musk, America’s wealthiest man, so let’s do it. He’s engaged in union busting, built a gigantic fortune on government subsidies and government research, made preposterous predictions about the self-driving capacity of Tesla cars, and potentially undermined the safety of Tesla owners and those around them.

But let’s concentrate here on his more picayune claims. Musk has said that he was “selling almost all physical possessions” and living in a $50,000 home in Texas rented from his company SpaceX. But according to the Wall Street Journal, Musk has in fact also been living in a billionaire friend’s 8,000-foot Austin home. The Journal additionally found that Musk has been shopping for his own Austin-area mansion. The ultra-powerful often engage in this kind of peculiar self-mythologizing; Kim Jong Il was not satisfied with merely being dictator of North Korea — he also had to tell the world he shot a 38-under round of golf and was born under a double rainbow.

Finally, let’s not forget Musk’s gravest crime: violating a core commandment of the Church of the SubGenius, which is “Don’t Try to Be Funny If You’re Not.”

4. Jonathan F. Mitchell

Former Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell crafted the legal concept behind Texas’s S.B. 8 law, which bans abortion after as early as six weeks from conception. The Supreme Court has ruled that governments can’t interfere with a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before fetal viability, so under normal circumstances Texas officials would be sued and the law would be thrown out. But Mitchell came up with the idea of making S.B. 8 only enforceable by private citizens, granting them the right to sue into penury anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.”

Needless to say, this is completely bonkers. If it endures, it will literally be the end of constitutional rights in the United States. States can just hand individual citizens the ability to punish anyone engaging in constitutionally protected activities, and that’s that.

Societies can’t survive if lawyers are continually trying to find preposterous loopholes in everything. Yes, I signed a contract to pay you $300,000 for your house, but my lawyer figured out that it never specified they had to be American dollars. So here are 300,000 Jamaican dollars, worth about $2,000 in U.S. currency. Now get out.

Mitchell’s bad faith is the kind of thing that makes people give a standing ovation to the famous line from “Henry VI,” “Let’s kill all the lawyers.” We don’t need to go that far, but we definitely have to kill Mitchell’s pernicious sophistry.

5. Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch has been around so long — he’s about to turn 91 — that it’s easy to forget what an extraordinarily bad person he is. He’s generated a cult that now comprises perhaps 25 percent of Americans, who are lost in a fantasy world in which there are no such things as global warming, evolution, or any trustworthy figures outside the cult. Most shockingly, he’s sent out his minions like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson to discourage the cult from getting vaccinations for Covid-19. It’s like the People’s Temple in Guyana, except Jim Jones doesn’t kill himself but — after everyone else has drunk the Flavor Aid — jumps on a helicopter, shouts, “So long, suckers!” and flies away.

6. Donald Trump

There’s no need to enumerate the downsides of Trump. Everyone is capable of doing that themselves.

7. You

You were Time Person of the Year in 2006, but don’t let that go to your head; Hitler and Stalin received that honor too. For 2021, in particular, we’re all condemning you for having a body that can turn into a virus factory at any moment. Even in normal times there are an estimated 380 trillion viruses living on and in you. This is obviously too many; please get your act together.

8. Covid-19 Profiteers

The pandemic has turned nine pharma executives and investors into billionaires. They now have a combined wealth of almost $20 billion. But there’s more: Eight other pharma investors who were already billionaires pre-Covid have increased their wealth by another $32 billion.

This has only been possible thanks to a massive government intervention in the market via monopoly patent protection — for vaccines that were largely developed via government funding. In other words, regular people have paid for this on both ends. We haven’t checked, but surely America’s free market champions are out in force condemning this.

9. Stephen Breyer

Remember when Ruth Bader Ginsberg was diagnosed with both colon cancer and pancreatic cancer but refused to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency? What a girlboss! Then she died while Trump was president, cementing control of the Supreme Court to the ultra-right for the next 30 years.

Stephen Breyer has seen this example right in front of him and apparently decided to emulate it. Breyer, now 83 years old, is one of the three remaining justices appointed by a Democratic president. At any moment, a Democratic senator could die, plausibly handing control of the chamber to the GOP and eliminating any opportunity for Biden to replace Breyer. But Breyer is going to take his time, planning to retire sometime between now and 2056. It’s all very exciting, as long as your primary concern is Breyer’s ego and not whether American democracy is obliterated.

10. My Secret Enemy

I would like to identify my secret enemy, but then they wouldn’t be secret. Also, everyone who wasn’t my secret enemy would feel they were off the hook and be tempted to misbehave. Please try to stay on the straight and narrow, so you are not unmasked and identified in the coming list of all the worst people of 2022. (Note that it is plausible that my secret enemy is me.)

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