If 2013 was a year of ups and downs, it was also a year peppered with ironies. Here are just a few:
1. Two liberal talkers go over the line and bite the dust.
Conservative talkers have long been the political “shock jocks,” who pushed the envelope so far it fell off the table from where it was just a few years ago. Authentic “untouchable” Rush Limbaugh’s frequently over-the-top comments may have lost sponsors, but he is on the rebound in the number of stations. In the mega-big-time Los Angeles market, Clear Channel is axing its progressive talk format at KTLK -- a further indication of progressive talk’s market weakness -- and installing Limbaugh and some other right-wing talkers.
Few conservative talkers are yanked off the air. But MSNBC parted ways with actor Alec Baldwin, who had trouble with homophobic tirades in the past. Baldwin had been given a Friday night show on NBC that garnered positive reviews but by November his ratings quickly dropped 41 percent from the show’s October debut. Then he lost it with a photographer, indulging in a widely publicized homophobic outburst, calling him a c-----g f-g,” then issuing denials that convinced no one. MSNBC released a typical corporate speak statement saying it and Baldwin were parting ways and wished him well.
Baldwin then wondered aloud why his colleague Martin Bashir -- a former reporter who passionately made the leap to ideological talk show host -- had not been reprimanded by MSNBC. Bashir had taken talk to a new low by suggesting in remarks blasting Sarah Palin for comparing Obamacare to slavery that perhaps, like an infamous slave owner had done to his slaves, someone might doo (ahem) something in Sarah Palin’s mouth. MSNBC finally took it further than a reprimand: they fired Bashir who issued a resignation statement expressing regret over his bar-lowered-to-the-South-Pole comments.
Who would have thought liberal talkers would have been the ones to go? To be sure, Baldwin’s acting career (and lack of impulse control) will likely continue. And Bashir could actually turn his notoriety into brand endorsements. He could market “Martin Bashir Pooh Pooh Platters.”
2. Obamacare’s political fallout decimates Democrats for the second time. Democrats were battered in the 2010 mid-terms partially due to backlash against enacting Obamacare. President Barack Obama’s poor handling of the Obamacare rollout -- a shockingly useless website, and Americans discovering that they could indeed lose their doctors and existing medical plans despite Obama’s promises -- has led pundits to suggest that Republicans could win the Senate. Talk about Democrats re-taking the House is over.
3. The President considered the anti-Reagan who could make Americans realize that government could work to help them and work well, may have done the opposite. Unless something changes, Obama’s Presidency will be seen as one that featured lots of missed opportunities, and openings given to Republicans -- which GOPers are seizing. Younger voters in particular may be disillusioned with how soaring rhetoric compared to political reality. Polls show the coalition that re-elected Obama is weakening.
4. An actress identified with Disney would become the anti-Disney and laugh all the way to the bank. When Miley Cyrus “twerked” her butt at Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards, her image as a child star vanished and re-runs of “Hanna Montana” appeared less likely to ever be seen on a kids channel. Her consequence? MTV named her its Artist of the Year. Will this give Minnie Mouse ideas?
5. A Republican considered an independent in 2000, and more inclined to bipartisanship would in 2008 help the party’s extreme right seriously challenge the party’s more moderate establishment by 2013. With each passing day it’s clear that Arizona Senator John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate contributed to a chain of events where the Tea Party movement gained a Congressional and Republican foothold. Palin may now be a political celebrity and quintessential self-parody, but in 2010 her encouragement helped bolster the Tea Party.
6. Dick Cheney’s accusing Obama of lying about Obamacare. Given his history with the Iraq war, enough said.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week’s online edition. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman