Illustration: Jim Cooke ( (G/O Media)

The best things about Christmas (also Kwanzaa and Hanukkah) heading into New Year’s week are the gifts and the promises. Yes, there is a slew of wonderful viral videos about grandmas crying at Christmas and Instagram thirst trap posts masquerading as New Year’s workout resolutions, but in the end, it’s a week of gifts and promises to be better, more tolerable versions of ourselves.

This is the time of year when political campaigns do their own versions of gift-giving and promises, as well. Campaigns don’t stop on the holidays, but they slow down one last bit; nobody wants to hear stump speeches when there are end-of-year sales, and campaigns make promises to be bigger and better in these last weeks before Iowa. I’m sure Mayor Pete is out there in an eggnog cave raising millions, Bernie Sanders is spinning a dreidel made by unionized workers, and Cory Booker is handing out food to the homeless, healing the sick and talking about the importance of love (which is what Booker does all the time, whether it’s Christmas or not), but they’re keeping it lowkey as the rest of us enjoy the holiday.

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Thus, the Black Power Rankings Committee has decided: rather than rank candidates who are taking a break, let’s rank the kind of candidates we would want to find under our tree on Christmas, and the New Year’s promises they might make for us. That’s right; this week’s Black Presidential Power Rankings are all of the people, real or imagined, alive or dead, that we wish were running for the nomination in 2020. We are convinced this group would actually fit our primary mandate, which is a candidate with an actual black agenda; plus, they’d increase turnout, fix the economy and likely save us from alien invasions and natural disasters if they became president. Not sure what they think about Medicare for all, but it can’t be any more convoluted than what Elizabeth Warren has been saying.

In addition to our regular committee of me, Dr. Jason Johnson, and Marcus Ferrell (former director of African American Outreach Bernie Sanders in 2016), our special Christmas fantasy candidate edition includes special guest judges Corey Richardson and Joyelle Johnson. Richardson is the author of We Used to Have Money, Now We Have You: A Dad’s Bedtime Story, and he’s not only a great follow on Twitter, he’s a Morehouse Man and a former contributor to Very Smart Brothas. Joyelle Johnson is a standup comedian, writer and actress who’s written for Broad City, appeared on HBO’s Crashing and is the warmup act for Hasan Minaj’s Patriot Act on Netflix. In other words, these were the only folks we could find who would talk to us over the holidays; may Santa Claus, Kevin Kwanzaa and the New Year baby have mercy on our souls!

Since this week is all debuts there are no big drops or risers, but we looked at the policies and actions of everybody on the list, just like any other week of the rankings, which was much easier than you’d think, thanks to Twitter.

How do we calculate black power?

  • Finances: Are you paying black staff, advertisers, consultants?
  • Legislation: What legislation are you pushing or have passed for black people?
  • External Polling: No matter how good you are for black people, if your poll numbers are terrible we can’t rank you that high!
  • X-Factor: What’s your rhetoric like? How do you handle a crisis or the kinds of events and scandals that directly impact black lives?
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#1: Samuel L. Jackson

Honestly, there is no dispute for No. 1 on our Black Power Rankings for the last week of 2019: Samuel L. Jackson. Candidate, then President Jackson could definitely handle the press (have you seen his Laurence Fishburne interview?) Also, the man was battling drug addiction and apartheid at the same time, so we know he’s committed to black liberation. Plus, any black man who can command a white Norse god, a white “super-soldier” whose politics have been frozen since the ’40s, a Russian spy and a millionaire tech bro to lay down their lives to protect Harlem from an alien invasion could totally win the Midwest (sorry, Sen. Klobuchar). Would Jackson’s penchant for colorful language be a problem? Perhaps, but Jackson’s presidential debates with Donald Trump Would. Be. Fire.

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According to Corey Richardson, Jackson has all the bona fides of the president we would’ve liked to find sitting under our Christmas tree:

“Because he’s a muthafucka who means muthafuckin’ business. If there are three qualities that make black men successful in white environments (like Congress, D.C. and the green room at Fox News) it’s being cool, funny, and/or scary—and Sam’s got all of those in spades (no-racisto).

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Samuel L. Jackson’s bad muthafucka bona fides are indisputable. He got expelled from Morehouse for holding the board of trustees (which included Martin Luther King Sr.) hostage while demanding an African-American studies department. He’s one of the (if not the) highest-grossing stars in Hollywood history. He’s fucking Nick Fury! If you meet a black person who doesn’t like him, don’t trust that black person.”

Nuff Said!

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#2: Rep. John Lewis

If America were a just and moral place John Lewis would have been drafted to run for president half a dozen times by now. But America isn’t a just and decent place; it’s just where we park our cars until those Wakandan green cards come through.

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In addition to being a legislator, Lewis is the only man who can claim to be the unofficial president of the ATL without having dropped an album. He’s got great policies for black folks, he triggers Trump every time he opens his mouth, and Rep. Lewis has a comic book based on his life, which is just like another famous black man who managed to get himself into the White House.

According to Mr. Corey Richardson, Rep. Lewis also has tremendous crossover appeal, which isn’t always easy to do.‘

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CR: “Real talk, John Lewis might just be the only black man living in America today that white people can get in trouble for hating. He is, in essence, the living civil rights movement and even the most racist-y of racist racists will give him his props for getting hit with a brick while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Only problem might be that people who aren’t black will confuse him for Elijah Cummings or Martin Luther King Jr., or George Jefferson, or Quincy Jones.”

Also, news just broke over the weekend that Rep. Lewis has stage-four cancer. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and it highlights just how wonderful it would be to have a man like that serving as head of state.

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#3: Michelle Obama

Both of our guest committee members had Michelle Obama as a top-tier candidate for black America’s best Christmas and New Year’s candidate, so I was overruled. Look, I enjoy the former FLOTUS as much as the next person, and she certainly has the policy knowledge for the job, but her new post-presidency BFF George W. Bush is a problem. I’m all for being polite at work, but the man is a war criminal, so I find it quite un-Becoming when she says “our values are the same” about a man who advocated torture, rolled back civil rights and started a war that destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Bah, Humbug. But Joyelle and Corey had different ideas.

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JJ: “She’s had eight years of training as first lady. But I want her to run mostly because she doesn’t want it. Humility is underrated. She also didn’t want Obama at first and look how well that turned out for him. She’d reluctantly spruce up America like she did for Barry.”

CR: “What better promotion for the forever first lady than to be the first president of black America? Besides, who else do we know that can make black America proud for all of the right reasons while simultaneously enraging white America for all of the same reasons? She’s already told us that she doesn’t want to run for political office and, while we respect that, it’s clear that she may be one of only a few people in America who can help settle real and existential black disputes like: how do we eat these grits? Or, do we bother with the traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ song or do we just go straight into the Stevie Wonder version? Michelle Obama could settle these issues and more.”

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#4: Angela Abar from Watchmen 

Angela Abar is the black female presidential candidate made in a lab by mad political scientists and campaign consultants who know what it takes to win an election. She’s like Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris rolled into one. She’s from Oklahoma by way of Vietnam. Folksy Midwestern but exotic? Check. She’s got a blue husband but he looks black. Check. Diversity, but not too scary? Check. She’s a cop but spent most of her time beating up white supremacists. Even Black Lives Matter would be in. She’s so down with reparations she took a bullet for it. Last but not least, we know those white evangelicals love them some Trump, but I think even some of them would pull the lever for Abar when they see that woman walk on water. Best of all, if she decides to run, she’d already knows she’s going to win.

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#5: Randall Pearson from This Is Us

So, Joyelle made a big push for Randall Pearson and that overruled the rest of the committee because 1) Nobody else picked him and 2) I’ve never seen one episode of This Is Us but all I ever hear is the brothers shedding thug tears and Panama Jackson at VSB singing the show’s praises. Randall strikes me as the kind of black man who could definitely get out the black women’s vote and even the hotep crowd has to admit his short stint as a black revolutionary in Oakland, not to mention his son’s politics, have to work in his favor.

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According to Joyelle of the “Draft Randall PAC”:

“He’s already won an election. He has a bleeding heart and I need my student loans forgiven. We’d also get some universal healthcare and basic income out of his sentimental ass. Everyone who wants rights would have them and he was raised by white folks so he’s fluent in Caucasian.”

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#6: Ororo “Storm” Munroe of the X-Men

I want it known that Storm was actually No. 1 on my list, but again, I was outvoted. She’s been in a Steadman/Oprah relationship with the Black Panther for years, so if she won there’d be hoverbikes for everyone and the Notorious RBG would finally get those vibranium implants she needs to stay on the Supreme Court. Plus, Storm is like a quadruple minority—black, woman, mutant, half-Kenyan (worked out pretty well for Obama) with years of working with self-important ideologically rigid white guys (Cyclops is essentially the Bernie Bro of the X-Men), so I’m sure she could handle the primaries and the DNC. Now, was it suspicious when Bernie Sanders claimed the Iowa caucuses were rigged because torrential rain mysteriously showed up only at the locations where he was strongest? And somehow there was a bolt of lightning and a power outage at every Elizabeth Warren campaign event? Maybe, but Storm’s playing for keeps, y’all.

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Guest judge Joyelle Johnson pointed out that not only would President Storm save us millions of taxpayer dollars by flying instead of using Air Force One and win over all those racist voters who’d be distracted by her white hair and blue eyes, she might be the only candidate who knows, for a fact, without any question, in the most intimate way possible, that climate change is not a hoax.

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#7: Sofia from The Color Purple

JJ: All her life she’s had to fight. So she doesn’t take shit from men. She’s willing to punch white people in the face and sit out a sentence in an old-time jail just because of it. One of her priorities would be to destroy the prison industrial complex. And most important: She’s also Oprah.

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I mean, we basically couldn’t argue with this one at all. In fact, the only way you might be able to slide a billionaire like Oprah past the left-wing purists in the primary is if you dressed her like Miss Sofia. However, the committee has a sneaking suspicion that on the campaign trail, Joe Biden would say that if he’s the nominee, he could find a way to get things back to normal and work with Harpo and Mister, and there are just enough men out there who’d believe him.”

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#8: Colin Kaepernick

The committee likes Kaepernick; we talk about him all the time. We talk about how he should still be in the NFL, and how much he’s sacrificed. In fact, one of the reasons Beyoncé isn’t on this Christmas candidate list is the committee couldn’t stomach the idea of Mr. Jay-Z Knowles being on the same list as Kaepernick. There are plenty of reasons why he’d make a good presidential candidate for black folks—

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JJ: “As if his peaceful temperament wasn’t enough, we’d have a good-looking president again. I’m gonna fantasize about him shaking hands with Justin Trudeau at the G7 summit. I also wanna see a president with an afro. He isn’t afraid to stand (and kneel) for a cause and he’d lose money for it in the short run, but he doesn’t lack vision for the future. And he acts like he’s not light-skinned.”

But you know why we can’t rank him any higher? The MAN DOESN’T VOTE. Mind you, neither did Donald Trump, and he became president, but shouldn’t we aspire to a higher standard here? Either way, Kaepernick as president might be worth it just to see Stephen A. Smith’s complete metamorphosis into Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock, and if President Kaepernick is generous, he’ll appoint SAS as ambassador to the Sunken Place, since I think he already owns property there.

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#9: Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman has more White House experience than anybody else running for president. Yes, he’s been president 50-11 times, but did you know the man has led all three branches of the federal government? That’s like the triple crown of black presidential candidates. He’s been president, speaker of the House and chief justice of the Supreme Court. He’s played so many government roles, he’s the Sterling K. Brown of black candidates. He’s collecting so many federal government pensions he’s the Tyrone Hankerson of government employees. The committee has no doubt that he would pass policies and enact change to help the black community. There’s one little problem though, highlighted by Corey Richardson.

CR: “I know you’re wondering why he’s not higher on this list, but hear me out: Yeah, the pro is that he’s basically the voice of God and all that, but the con here is that every time he’s ever been president in a movie, shit hits the fan and we just can’t take that kind of risk here. Sorry.”

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If you thought eight years of sarcastic #ThanksObama from pre-MAGA white voters was bad, just wait until 15 minutes after President Freeman’s inauguration, when a giant meteor starts heading towards the Earth. Now who thinks a Space Force is a dumb idea?

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#10: Bumpy Johnson from Godfather of Harlem

There’s a New York criminal in the White House now, so why couldn’t Bumpy Johnson be a worthwhile presidential candidate? ( beyond the fact that he’s dead—but again, this is a Christmas candidate gift from the past!) Bumpy was pretty good at organizing people, so voter suppression wouldn’t be a problem. He outsmarted the Italian mob and helped orchestrate the death of Dutch Schultz, so the committee believes he could get some judicial nominees past Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (yes, there’s a show on EPIX starring Forest Whitaker, but if you’ve never seen the schlock-tastic 1997 movie Hoodlum about Bumpy Johnson, it’s worth it just for the true-to-life Schultz death scene. Bumpy knew budgets and numbers, worked well with powerful women and knew how to stimulate the economy.

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There’s only one major drawback: There’s no way in hell America would let a black man pull off as much crime in the White House as the current white guy has. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would’ve been throwing impeachment articles at Bumpy faster than you can say “Emoluments Clause.”

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