2016: Highs, lows and farewells

Jamakaya, Contributing writer

James Corden delivered the best quip of 2016. Hosting the Tony Awards ceremony, he teased, “Think of tonight as the Oscars but with diversity.”

How diverse is it, James?

“It’s so diverse that Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater.”

Another fun moment was supplied by Jill Soloway, as she accepted an Emmy Award for her direction of an episode of Transparent. Soloway paid tribute to the civil rights, feminist and transgender movements then urged the audience to “Topple the patriarchy! Topple the patriarchy!”

Alas, the patriarchy still stands.

Donald Trump wins the “Unbelievable Mendacity” Award for continually characterizing his presidential victory as a “landslide.” Hardly. Hillary Clinton beat him by 2.7 million votes (48 percent to 46 percent). In a perverse twist unique to our antiquated Electoral College system, Trump was elected president instead, by 306 to 232 electoral votes.

Compare that to Ronald Reagan’s real landslide in 1984 when he beat Walter Mondale by almost 17 million votes, garnering 525 electoral votes to 13 for Mondale. In 1972, Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern by 18 million votes, winning 520 electoral votes to McGovern’s 17.

Trump is no Reagan. But he could be a Nixon. Nixon’s glory faded fast. Within two years of his re-election, “Tricky Dick” faced impeachment for abuse of power, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress. He resigned in disgrace in August 1974.

This year’s “Fox guarding the Henhouse” Awards go to Trump’s transition leaders and cabinet nominees.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., Trump’s choice to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and privatize Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. For the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has repeatedly sued the EPA on behalf of fossil fuel interests in his state and who denies human involvement in climate change. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, set to run the Education Department, wants to dismantle public education in favor of private voucher schools (whose pilot efforts in her home state of Michigan produced terrible outcomes). Fast food CEO Andy Puzder, who opposes the minimum wage and wants robots to replace workers, will lead the Labor Department.

As a condition of their awards, “Fox guarding the Henhouse” recipients must roll up their sleeves for a massive infusion of human empathy.

The “You Get What You Pay For” Award goes to Wisconsin taxpayers. State spending on prisons, $2.5 billion in the next biennium, surpasses what we will spend on the entire University of Wisconsin system in that same period.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer was the best book of the year. Skip the new Star Wars movie and read about the real villains actively plotting against us.

If there’s a rock ‘n’ roll heaven, it’s really got a hell of a band now. Farewell to Lou Reed, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Leon Russell and Prince, as well as R&B artists Ruby Wilson and Sharon Jones.

Sweet dreams to country crooner Merle Haggard, zydeco master Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr. and soprano Marni Nixon, who sang the female vocals in some of the great musical films of the 1950s and 1960s.

Music helped me survive 2016. I hope it helps us survive whatever comes at us in 2017.