The year’s 5 biggest political heroes

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    The year's 5 biggest political heroes

    Wendy Davis

    The Texas state senator and current gubernatorial candidate electrified supporters of reproductive rights everywhere with her nearly 11-hour filibuster against an extremely restrictive antiabortion law. The law ultimately passed, but Davis’ stand against it remains one of the most riveting and inspiring moments in liberal politics of the year and instantly transformed her into a leading pro-choice icon and rising star within the Democratic Party.

    The year's 5 biggest political heroes

    Pope Francis

    The new pope immediately made his mark by saying of homosexual members of the clergy, “Who am I to judge?” And the pope’s recent reshuffling of the Congregation of Bishops, which included the replacement of the conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke (who once threatened to deny Communion to John Kerry), is an encouraging sign that Francis intends to lead with action and not just words. While it’s more than fair for liberals to remain unhappy with the church’s official position on LGBT rights and abortion (as well as letting women into the clergy) with his greater focus on an evangelizing church that focuses on issues of poverty and inequality, Francis has already proven to be a dramatic and welcome shift from his predecessors.

    The year's 5 biggest political heroes

    Bill de Blasio

    New York City’s incoming mayor ran the kind of populist and liberal campaign of a progressive’s dreams by maintaining a laser-focus on economic inequality and improving the NYPD’s atrocious record on civil rights. His TV ad featuring his son, Dante, was far and away the best and most important political advertisement of the year, helping to ensure that for the first time in decades, one of America’s most liberal cities will be governed by a real progressive. And de Blasio’s stated goal of expanding early education is exactly the kind of smart, targeted policy that liberals will need to embrace if they’re to win the fight against economic inequality.

    The year's 5 biggest political heroes

    Elizabeth Warren

    While Sen. Warren’s 2013 wasn’t quite as outstanding as her 2012, when she convincingly defeated Scott Brown to win her spot in the U.S. Senate, the liberal icon nevertheless continued to do yeoman’s work, keeping the pressure on Wall Street and defending the values of economic inclusion and community in her speeches around the country and on the Senate floor. Despite working in a do-nothing Congress, Warren’s been pushing for progressive policy, too. Her recently introduced bill banning credit background checks of prospective employees is the kind of smart and fearless liberalism that’s made her such a hero.

    The year's 5 biggest political heroes

    Kshama Sawant

    The avowed socialist's surprise election to Seattle's City Council cheered leftists throughout the country. It also seemed to prove that in the wake of the financial crisis and the meager recovery, many Americans were willing to listen to voices once barred from the political mainstream. Thus far, Sawant hasn't disappointed and has advocated tirelessly for a $15 minimum wage and for worker democracy at the city's Boeing plants.

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

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