The Year in Right-Wing Disarray

You can’t always predict what will grab and hold your attention—a pop song, a politician, a personal tragedy. As the year comes to an end, Hazlitt’s writers look back on the things they were particularly preoccupied with in 2013.

So Rob Ford apologized to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale, whom he’d spent the previous 18 months defaming ever since Dale committed the unthinkable sin of reporting on the mayor trying to purchase public land. I’m old enough to remember when Rob Ford thought he was going to march to re-election on the back of successive demands that theStar issue a full, unreserved apology for its “gutter journalism.”

Oh God, you mean that was only in June? What the hell? In my defence, that’s six times the temporal distance between you reading this and the words “enough to eat at home.” Yes, 2013 has been a long, long year for crazy—and some of it doesn’t even involve Rob Ford, as hard as that is to believe.

Let’s start in the US, where crazy matters a lot more, both because it has a more loyal constituency, and because it has a 50/50 chance of ending up in control of a major nuclear weapons arsenal. The Republican Party spent basically the entire year trying to a) pretend that Barack Obama hadn’t really won the election, b) repeal Obamacare, c) see A, then B. That was, unfortunately, the whole game plan, and by September we had the spectacle of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaking for 21 hours, because of reasons. Cruz tried to call it a filibuster, despite the fact that it accomplished nothing whatsoever.

Well, okay, not exactly nothing: the Cruz wing of the Republican caucus so thoroughly violated the standards of the United States Senate that even Senate Democrats—never for a moment a Profile in Courage—stripped the minority party of its power to obstruct judicial appointments, except for the Supreme Court itself. As a bonus, a GOP exhausted of years of budget battles is laying down arms and may, if we’re very lucky in 2014, try something radical: governing, as if both Congressional Republicans and the president won their respective elections.

(Even in Texas itself, observers are praising the state’s politics turning sane, as voters approve billions of dollars in necessary water infrastructure.)

Meanwhile, it seems like a distant memory, but 2013 started off really well for Rob Ford, as such things go: he got to keep his job. (For those of us who were in the courtroom, one of the memories that will stick will be one of the appeal judges describing Ford as an honest man who just made a mistake. That’s a description time has not been kind to.) We now know, thanks to copious police documents, that by the spring, things had started to take a turn for the mayor, and by the fall, well, you know the rest. The mayor is now basically a councillor-at-large: elected by the city entire, but with no special procedural powers.

The cynical thing to say at this point is that’s the way Rob Ford likes it—free to bellow against his adversaries without consequence. (Rob Ford only has two modes: “bellow” and “feel persecuted.”) But we’re looking at a new year, so let me suggest a more optimistic take: both Rob Ford and the Tea Party were born out of political tantrums that, while coming from different causes, ended up expressing themselves the same way.

The lesson of 2013 is that you can get a long way on crazy, but it doesn’t get you to the finish line. (Ask President Mitt Romney, if he can stop ironing the clothes he’s wearing.) The question 2014 will answer is what happens when crazy burns itself out. Happy New Year.

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