A few rules and guiding principles first, however. Let me make clear that the purpose of the Only Decent Dude Award is to celebrate those individuals who have managed to do two things at once: first, to be in some sense public figures (commentators, public intellectuals, media personalities, journalists, politicians, etc.); and second, to have been, in spite of this fact, consistently non-terrible, and non-evil. It is our belief on this blog that very few such people exist (and by few, we mean one, as in the the one and only) -- hence the nominees are ODD in at least two senses of the word.
Oh-- also, the nominees must be alive or only recently deceased. I don't want to see any votes for Jesus or Woody Guthrie.
Given these parameters, you will understand that the purpose of this award is not to honor your friends and neighbors and family-- they are probably all decent people, but they are also probably not public figures, for whom decency is much more difficult and generally comes at a much steeper cost.
This award is also not meant to honor those public figures who are delightfully malicious, or implacably unamiable but correct, or who you know must be dreadful human beings in real life but whose writing gives you a twist of sick pleasure. No writers of screeds allowed here, no appliers of journalistic thumb-screws. I don't care if you are a fan of Bill Maher. You have to be able to picture the nominee's face next to the word "decent" and not giggle with hideous irony; otherwise, they don't make the list.
Now that's all clear, here are the official nominees so far:
Reasons for nomination: avowed socialist politician in America, willing to face mockery and scorn and loathing with seeming indifference, able to foresee obvious consequences of terrible foreign policy decisions, seems to care about children on food stamps or in Head Start despite the fact they can’t vote for him, doesn’t like torture, cares enough about his constituents that they vote for him even when they are political conservatives, was involved with the Civil Rights and Peace movements, went to college at the University of Chicago, sounds almost exactly like Larry David’s impression of George Steinbrenner.
William Julius Wilson
Reasons for nomination: managed to blaspheme against a sufficient number of left-wing shibboleths that people mistook him for a Neocon, was never actually a Neocon, thinks that poverty is bad for everyone who is poor and not just for a handful of super-people among the poor, was willing to take on Reagan/Clinton-era arguments about poverty and “dependence” at a time when the rest of the left either was too deep into a half-baked postmodern shell to bother formulating a rational argument or else kinda-agreed with the conservatives and didn’t want to admit it.
Reasons for nomination: champions left-wing position on school reform, but was also known back in the '80s for her tendency to outrage New Left “de-schooling” types, etc. Provides timely and reliable succor to lefties who know in their hearts that the school reform movement is all wrong but who stand in need of reasons why. Is admirably single-minded in what she tries to do. Studied history.
Reasons for nomination: got bored and broke with the New Left, but has been left-wing all along, cares about “character” and “meaningful work” and other unquantifiable things that tend to embarrass other people, went to college at the University of Chicago, grew up in Cabrini Green, studied history.
Reasons for nomination: liked universal values, disliked fashionable French intellectuals, was left-wing all along, never went in for identity politics but didn’t go in for Neoconservatism either, thought that both modern liberalism and modern conservatism were out of ideas, got everything right about Bush and Iraq from the very beginning, took brave and admirable stand on Israel-Palestine conflict that got Michael Walzer and everyone else mad at him. Studied history (a lot).
Reasons for nomination: exudes decency from every pore—basically the living definition of ODD, I’m tempted to declare him the winner right now, he’s bright, light, he’s nearly always right, he’s smart, tart, he suffers for his art. GO-O-O-O GEORGE! (And I think he studied history too.)
Reasons for nomination: supremely calming voice, wise and erudite, inspires profound feelings of trust and sense of being at peace with all living things through diction alone, kind and good-humored but was still willing to tell Gene Simmons that he is “obnoxious,” became Bill O’Reilly’s enemy without really trying, generally enrages right-wingers despite almost never expressing a political viewpoint and being one of the most obviously Decent Dudettes around.
Reasons for nomination: The. White. House. Press. Correspondents. Dinner. Am I right? Also, Catholic, and good dad, and similar thing going on with Bill O’Reilly to previous contestant (minus the part about "not really trying".)