This year was a nonstop horror show for some in the political class. Aside from President Obama, who presided over his party’s electoral debacle at the federal and state level, the year proved to be the undoing of a long list of characters and movements. Here are the worst of the worst of 2014:
1. Bob McDonnell went from one of the most respected Virginia governors to its most disgraced. After refusing to take a plea bargain for a single felony count, he was convicted on 11 counts and faces years in prison. He and now his children have taken to blaming the whole thing on his wife, which qualifies him as the cad of the year. At multiple junctures — before accepting lavish gifts, before contacting state officials on behalf of a major donor, at the plea bargain stage — he could have averted the train wreck. He gives new meaning to the phrase “when in a hole, quit digging.”
2. The Beltway right-wing groups that cheered the shutdown found out that its ideal candidates were cranks, but worse than that, losers. Their wipeouts in Senate and House races, followed by the failure to dislodge the budget process for the remainder of the fiscal year, should convince all but the hermetically sealed far right that the country does not see the world the way they do. Talk radio hosts talk, but do not reflect popular opinion. Political purists denigrate squishy moderates, but do not sway voters. As many of us suspected, the actual Republican Party (not the one imagined by Heritage Action or the Senate Conservatives Fund) is far more sane, internationalist and open to compromise than the mainstream and conservative media would have you believe.
3. Rolling Stone lost any patina of respectability. MSNBC and CNN lost viewers. David Gregory lost his job. Jill Abramson lost her job. The New Republic lost its staff. Chris Hughes lost liberals’ most overrated media outlet. Politico lost dozens of staffers. Cable TV news lost perspective on everything from missing airliners to the Ferguson, Mo., incident. The media figures convinced that there was no GOP wave or that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the leading light of the GOP lost track of reality.
4. Hillary Clinton reminded everyone that she has nothing interesting to say, no political skills akin to her husband’s, no populist vibes, no greater love than money, no shame about accepting fees from hedge funds one day and declaring corporations don’t create jobs on another, no record of accomplishment, no ability to distance herself from President Obama on major issues (Iran, the war against the Islamic State and Cuba), no fan club in the left wing of the party, no rationale for a presidential run other than her gender and longevity on the national stage and no limit to her sense of entitlement.
5. Liberalism took hit after hit this year. Democrats wiped out across the board. The anti-Koch brothers and anti-women memes bombed. The results of the not-Bush approach to foreign policy caught up with the Obama team. The “jayvee” team gained territory and influence in the Middle East. Iran is edging toward its dream of a nuclear weapons capability. Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Our relations with Israel hit rock bottom. At home, the economy recovered despite Republican refusal to pass another stimulus. The liberal welfare state is proving to be unmanageable. In contrast to conservatism, which is enjoying a period of intellectual creativity, liberalism has become a movement dedicated to the status quo.