International Peter Certo

A Few Amazing Progressive Wins That Happened in 2021

Feeling bleak? Well, 2021 wasn’t all bad — here are a few astounding things ordinary people won at home and abroad.
Former Chilean student leader Gabriel Boric will be Chile’s next left-wing president. [Diputadas y Diputados de Chile / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

By Peter Certo | OtherWords

It would be easy to survey the end of 2021 and see another year in wreckage. There’s the pandemic that won’t end. Rising inflation. Climate disasters. A democracy that looks creakier by the day.

And that was before West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin hit the brakes on the Build Back Better Act. In a stroke, Manchin put 10 million kids at risk of falling back into poverty, threw millions of green jobs into doubt, and set back projections of U.S. economic growth.

But let me offer an unusual comfort: At least Henry Kissinger is still alive — to see a new progressive government in Chile.

Nearly 50 years after a bloody, Kissinger-backed coup, the South American country is throwing off the shackles of the Pinochet dictatorship. Since last year’s mass demonstrations, they’ve tossed out the dictatorship-era constitution and just elected Gabriel Boric, a progressive new president who wants to build a social safety net in the famously unequal country.

Next door in Peru, voters earlier this year elected Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher and union leader, as president, defeating the daughter of a corrupt former dictator who presided over a vicious civil war.

And in Honduras, voters just handed a commanding victory to Xiomara Castro, a progressive who will also be the country’s first woman president. It’s a stunning result in a country that’s seen 12 harsh years of narco-dictatorship since a U.S.-backed coup in 2009.

Maybe this is small comfort when it feels like our own democracy is unraveling. But to me it shows that people with far less have overcome much steeper odds. And that can help us appreciate how much social movements in our own country have already accomplished.

It was movements who demanded that COVID-19 vaccines be made freely available. Even with a worrying new variant of the disease, millions of triple-vaccinated Americans are safely hugging their loved ones this holiday season thanks to them.

Together they’re unwrapping presents that were shipped in time by America’s public postal service, which was bolstered by COVID-19 relief legislation — and strong support from the public.

Relief packages like the American Rescue Plan Democrats passed this spring put more presents under the tree, too. Despite a deadly pandemic and economic crisis, measures like stimulus payments, expanded unemployment relief, and the groundbreaking Child Tax Credit actually reduced the U.S. poverty rate.

That puts workers in a much stronger position. Next year, tens of thousands of employees will get bigger paychecks thanks to an astounding year of strikes throughout the heartland. In fact, even non-union employers that oppose a federal $15 minimum wage are now posting one for starting positions. Wages have risen more in the last three months than in the previous 20 years.

And despite our political gridlock, there’s even good news on the climate front: The White House has ordered the sprawling federal government to eliminate its carbon emissions. And deep-red Nebraska has embraced a net-zero goal for carbon emissions from its electricity.

We can’t be sanguine about any of this in our political moment. But rather than despair, I’d prefer to remember the late Howard Zinn: “To be hopeful in bad times is not being foolishly romantic,” he said. “It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of competition and cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

If we remember those moments “where people have behaved magnificently,” Zinn advised, “it energizes us to act, and raises at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

As we spin into another year, let’s take those words to heart. Happy new year.

Peter Certo

Peter Certo

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of


  1. Let’s embrace our southern brothers and sisters as we set about reshaping the USA away from its inverted totalitarianism and its capitalistic economic model. Growth does not mean Thrive.

  2. You were doing so great until you came to Covid-19. The Covid-19 shots have injured millions of people including deaths and soon there will be millions more as more boosters are injected. Why don’t you know this? Why are you believing the US government, the pharmaceutical industrial complex whose lead guy is Dr Anthony Fauci, the CDC, FDA, World Health Organization, Bill Gates and many worldwide leaders marching lock step behind them. These are the most corrupt entities in the history of humanity? They go after, censor and vilify anyone who goes against their narrative, like Dr Robert Malone, one of the inventors of the mRNA technology, Dr Peter McCullough, one of the top cardiologist in the US, Dr Pierre Kory who has been treating patients with early treatment methods like ivermectin and hydroxychloraquine which has pretty well wiped out Covid-19 in millions of people worldwide. The CDC and FDA have banned US doctors from using these safe medications because that means Covid-19 shots are not necessary.

    You’re not following the real science! Read Robert F Kennedy, Jr’s book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health It tells you the history of the pharmaceutical industrial complex and where we are today. Because of people like you who pretend they’re real journalists, who pretend to do deep investigations, you’re also culpable to this horrendous crime that they all play for money, power and data collection. They will go before the International Criminal Court where they are being charged with Crimes Against Humanity. There are many cases being presented to stop this once and for all and they will pay for their crimes! Here are a few examples of the real truth:

  3. I am a U.S. citizen who has lived in Guatemala,Central America, for 29 years. I was so happy to read of the good changes in a couple of the neighboring countries! Yes, they have overcome SO much and at a time that my homeland’s democracy is getting so corrupted by the evil people who have been elected ( by ignorant people) to positions of power!

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