Inspired by The Washington Post's "Bad Year in Washington" article, here's my list of political losers for 2012. I'll do the winners in a wee while. :-)
Biggest unnoticed loser (third place): Ron Paul & Band of Merry Acolytes
He quit the Presidential race, never having got close to enjoying a moment in the sun. Unlike everyone else on the Republican lineup, who's Icarusian moments are either unforgettable or completely forgotten, Ron Paul never became a front runner. Even when no one else was left standing, the man failed to become front runner.
His political rantings received the same attention as Ayn Rand's: his fans swooned at his insight and cleverness and everyone else thought they were just the inane "Get off my lawn!" rants of a curmudgeonly old man.
Biggest loss of credibility (joint third): Paul Ryan
Policy wonk extraordinaire...ish. The man proved to be better at trying to project an image than actually being that which he sought to create. His credibility was fine until he picked up a particularly bad habit from his boss, Mitt Romney. Lying about his marathon time was the start; lying about his mountain climbing abilities proved to be too much. And then he faced Joe Biden. Which didn't go so well for Paul.
His famous ability to process numbers and policy took a major hit when he couldn't quote actual numbers and kept getting his policies mixed up. He criticized President Obama for things Paul Ryan had voted for, and then tried to persuade us that two identical spending cuts weren't the same at all.
Barely visible in the campaign, the man managed to keep his Congressional seat, but his district still voted for Mr Obama. His Presidential aspirations are now in tatters. The big question is whether he's noticed.
Biggest loser, runner up: Tea Party
They blew it. By campaigning on an arrogant , uncaring, morality they managed to alienate the people they said they were defending. They became known as the party of "cranky old white guys". Or was that just the Republicans?
The Tea Party proved itself capable of pretty much only one thing: self delusion. Adherents "unskewed" political polling to prove the man they despised would win the election, they went out of their way to be victims of a vast left wing conspiracy and their "grass roots" was convincingly shown to be astroturf. Their political espousing became more and more truculent; their spokes folk on the telly became more and more fire, brimstone and angry tears. Their Christianism, the politicizing of their Southern Baptist beliefs, with its overt and obvious grading of who's Christian and who isn't, who's Republican and who isn't, repelled Americans and middle-of-the-road voters and potential supporters. Their often breathtaking hypocrisy became too obvious to ignore, it became a topic of conversation in its own right; they encouraged a basic racism and misogyny and then loudly whined when those were pointed out.
Without an articulable vision or philosophy, the Tea Party settled into being petulant and willful. Their temper tantrums were a sight to behold; now they're just tired bombast. Collectively, their representatives in politics and television continue to prove they didn't think through their knee-jerk populism, racism, misogyny and uncaring selfishness. Their extremism has led to the rewriting of history, a denial of science in favor of uninformed belief and a victim mentality that is as stupid as it is disingenuous. Because they allowed various, and often specialized, extremists to dictate their policies (to use the term liberally) the result was that the Tea Party lost pretty much all of its credibility.
Biggest Loser: Mitt Romney
What can I say? The man ran a campaign that accused Team Obama of doing what he, himself, was doing. He briefly ran on being a superb manager; he proved to be less than capable at that. In fact, he proved to be what Team Obama painted him as: cheap, out of touch, wanting the presidency because it was due to him, totally unlikeable and generally arrogant. Mittens himself was their biggest help in that effort. As Republicans whined about the tone of the campaign, billionaire GOPpers tried to buy the election, proving once and for all that Citizens United was a Really Bad Idea.
The full extent of Mittens' incompetence as a manager, as a leader, became apparent on election night. Confident he was ahead, because he kept reading "unskewed" polls, all that was proven was just how badly he'd misread the voters. Winning 47% of the vote (!), the man basically had no chance, despite the concerns and worries of the left. The first clue arrived, unnoticed, when he was the last man standing in the Republican primaries - the GOP rank and file had done everything they could to not pick that man. How do you become President when the people you need dislike you so much? Answer: you don't.
The man has faded into obscurity; the GOP has taken to its habit of erasing bad memories with gusto. First George W. Bush and now Mitt Romney - gone, from the collective consciousness of the conservative faction. An ignominious end to the aspirations and naked ambitions of a man so plastic, so malleable, no one could figure out what he stood for, and basically didn't like him anyway.
And I won't mention his walk.
It was, obviously, pretty easy to define the top loser; the next rung were a tad harder. Was Paul Ryan a third place finisher, or did his career going down in flames make him a runner up? In the end, I had to go with the Tea Party; they got soundly beaten in the election, and lost pretty much most of whatever support they had.
Ron Paul was the unnoticed story, I think. Watching Paul Ryan's career and aspirations go down in flames was interesting, and important, but I Ron Paul had to be a joint third. I discovered his supporters couldn't actually articulate their core beliefs; they believed in liberty, but not gay marriage; they believed in gold but not fiscal policy; they despised the Fed but couldn't tell you why. The list, quite frankly, is too long to go through.
When the man announced he was retiring, with a lifetime of (quite good) taxpayer-provided health care, he quickly faded from the scene. I decided he was a joint third because while Paul Ryan's career went down the tubes, Ron Paul's much-vaunted and never actually "quite there or together" movement went down the tubes with his very sound primary beating. His "movement" tried to play the "we're powerful" card at the GOP convention, only to be told to sit down and shut up. Which they dutifully did. With nowhere to go, his supporters will probably gravitate to Glenn Beck's new Bircherism.
But ultimately, I decided that the second place had to go to the Tea Party. Being much bigger, and a lot more energetic and relevant, than Ron Paul & Co, and having been repudiated so convincingly (well, to everyone except them), the Tea Party, the party of "Know-Nothings and No!", lost more because they had gained so much and, if they'd figured out some core principles to hold, and not been so ornery and extreme, could have reshaped American politics and what America is. Now? Now, they are a party on the take, the billionaires payroll, doing the bidding of their lordly masters and while they still have a voice, it's weakening and becoming the shrill nonsense that is their filtered and biased base, Fox News. When Roger Ailes finally kicks the bucket, which he will - he's an old man - the Tea Party will not have their behind-the-scenes leader. And then they'll be in real trouble.