Welcome, fellow political enthusiasts, to the ultimate rundown of the year's most hyped-up, exaggerated, and downright overblown political sagas! From politicians who were hailed as up-and-coming only to fizzle, to news anchors juggling breaking news like hot potatoes, to conspiracy theories juicier than a ripe watermelon on a summer day, I give you my contenders for the most overrated, overreacted, and overhyped political stories of the year!
1. The white knight: Ron DeSantis
Most outlets and pundits, including CNN’s now unemployed Chris Cillizza, said Trump was heading for a reckoning. The Republican Party still wants a right-wing white supremacist wannabe dictator, but one without the immense stupidity and baggage. Whatever to do? DeSantis was the lone bright spot for the Republicans on election night 2022. He defeated the Democratic opponent by nearly 20 points and even won the blue county of Miami-Dade. He really fit the bill: He hated the right people and promoted the wrong people. He had zero qualms with violating the state constitution again and again while daring someone to do something about it. He literally bullied children, attacked teachers, and proceeded to pick fights with our state’s largest employers if they offered the slightest critiques of his destructive policies. Our state legislature gave in to his bullying repeatedly, even allowing him to illegally redraw the political map. DeSantis was the one to watch in 2023, we were told.
So what went wrong? In a word, everything. DeSantis waited too long, he didn’t prepare, and wasn’t used to having to answer real questions from journalists outside of Florida, much less talk and act like a regular human. There was his campaign’s launch, which was a complete disaster on Twitter, and making gaffe after gaffe on the campaign trail. Let’s not forget the viral clips of him awkwardly laughing at nothing, wiping his fingers on supporters, and wearing elf boots to appear taller. He showed everyone that he was one weird dude. He continued to refuse to denounce Nazism, and his campaign even put out ads embracing Nazi imagery. He blew up at reporters for asking sensible questions and decided to go all in on defending the merits of slavery.
His wife, nicknamed “Tacky O” here in Florida, was better, but not by much. She crisscrossed the state with the Moms for Liberty crowd and her “Mamas for DeSantis” before they became super-toxic. She tried to humanize Ron by crying into the camera saying how wonderful he was for finally agreeing to drop off his children at school because there was a brief time she just wasn’t able to. (Because she was fighting cancer!)
Oh, and Ron refused to take on the front-runner he was scared to mention, fearing he’d alienate Trump’s supporters. This was, by far, his dumbest decision. Trump gave him no quarter and used him as a punching bag every day while DeSantis just stood there.
Now Ron is behind Trump in the polls by 39 points ... in Florida! His own state legislature no longer fears him, as most of them have endorsed Trump. DeSantis’ requests for appointments and ideas for legislation have been ignored, which was unheard of last year. His entire political career has collapsed, and he’s been forced to debate other governors since Trump has completely ignored him. The best news is that he won’t even be a contender for 2028. He’s hated by the MAGA crowd and just about everyone else. The most-hyped threat to America is now a joke. It couldn’t have happened to a worse guy.
2. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter/Twitter Files
There was a time that Twitter was a huge deal. It altered the media landscape, changed our political discourse, and amplified marginalized voices. It provided a platform for citizen journalists and sparked movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Yet when plutocrat Elon Musk wanted to control it as his plaything, there was much fear from everyone except the right, who thought they would finally have a wide-ranging legitimate platform to spew their hateful and conspiratorial nonsense. Musk himself promised to release what he dubbed the "Twitter Files" late last year, which several outlets described as a “big deal.”
In fact, it was a desperate attempt to legitimize the well-worn conservative narrative that the suppression of Hunter Biden’s “laptop” proved collusion with the so-called deep state. This had conservatives salivating as they felt it was going to be spectacle on par with the Jan. 6 hearings. Democratic careers would be destroyed and Jim Jordan would lead it all. Kevin McCarthy promised a major hearing.
Have you heard or thought about that since? The only thing it “showed” was that Twitter's former content moderators were doing their best to fight political disinformation. When people say “Twitter” now, (I refuse to call it “X”), they don’t think about Hunter Biden’s laptop. They instead associate the word with Elon Musk’s antisemitism and his multibillion-dollar business failure. In fact, 2023 might well be regarded as the fall of Elon.
Gone are the days Elon would make an appearance on “The Big Bang Theory” to cheers or be taken seriously as some kind of scientific guru. What he showed the world is not just what a terrible business man he is, but also what an awful person he is. His attempt to turn a once-prominent social media platform into a forum for the far right has flopped spectacularly, with major advertisers leaving in droves, which happened even before Elon literally told them in a fit of rage to “F off.”
Millions upon millions of users, including many celebrities who made extensive use of the platform, have signed off. And while it’s still being used by some—including me—its reputation is now synonymous with misinformation and hate since Elon decided it was a good idea to elevate Nazis and conspiracy monsters. (As I write this, he has reinstated Alex Jones.) Elon leveraged Tesla stock to buy Twitter, effectively sabotaging both ventures. Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion, is now worth to be estimated somewhere around $19 billion. My dumb cat could have done a better job—at least she wouldn’t have tweeted that Jewish communities were anti-white. The fact that Elon still has money isn’t a testament to his professed “genius,” but rather a testament to how broken our economic system is and the benefits of generational wealth.
Regardless, the hype was misplaced. Twitter once had the power to set the narrative of the masses, and that is what Elon and his ilk wanted. Yet its reputation is in such tatters that it’s seen as just another toxic waste dump that conservatives like to use. Threads, which was Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to Twitter, is abhorrent but it says something that tens of millions of users left Twitter the day it first launched. There are also now other options to use, such as Bluesky and Mastodon, so Twitter becomes more irrelevant each day.
3. NY Times/Sienna poll
After the 2022 midterms, Biden held a comfortable lead over Trump. No one cared. In October this year, a poll showed Trump with a slight lead in several battleground states. Other polls disagreed, but that didn’t matter. The media went nuts, and the typical Democratic bedwetters shouted the sky was falling. Almost immediately after the poll was released, Democrats swept every major race in the 2023 election. They flipped the Virginia House, held the Virginia Senate, elected a Democrat in Kentucky and New Jersey, and damn near almost won Mississippi if not for the shenanigans. They won every ballot measure, every important judgeship, and every important local race. It was one of the best elections in our party’s history. The result? The press doubled down on Biden being in trouble.
Damn. What do you suppose they would have written if the Democrats actually lost?
Need more proof of bias? Our economy is outperforming every metric and is the envy of the world, but people have only recently begun feeling it. It takes time, but it will happen—especially within the next few months.
And yet we have headlines like this:
Really? The economy is booming! (Which could have been its own overhyped story from the doom and gloom predictions last year.) So the economy is great but once again, this means bad news for Joe Biden? I guess if the economy were in the toilet, he’d be better off?
Here we are, one year out. We are winning elections, people are employed, inflation is dropping, and Trump’s convictions haven’t even started. They are going to be coming fast and ugly, and that’s just not going to sell with non-cult suburbia. In fact, the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll said 31% of Republican voters won’t vote for Trump if a jury convicts him of a felony.
Clearly, despite what Republicans say, the media is not Biden’s friend. Trump called to terminate the Constitution and promised to be a dictator on Day One, but you gotta let Trump be Trump, I guess. The media wants a horserace and they’ll get one. But I’m not worried about a poll a year from an election, and you shouldn’t be either. Even good polls only give a snapshot in time, not a prediction one year away. Meanwhile, Biden has more accomplishments under his belt than any Democratic president in modern history, the economy is on the upswing, and the people are just beginning to feel it.
I went back to 2011 for some perspective, and Obama's former campaign manager said the exact same story is playing out.
Nate Silver declared our campaign and President Obama “toast.”
A lot of Democrats romanticize the 2012 Obama campaign. But if you were there, you know it was a knock-down, drag-out battle — not just with Republicans, but with bad media narratives. One such narrative hit us on Nov. 3, 2011, when the New York Times Magazine published an analysis giving Obama a 17 percent chance to win reelection.
When that magazine hit my desk, I knew it was trouble. Not because I believed it, but because of the anxiety it would stir up. Immediately, we had donors, elected officials, and my Mom absolutely freaking out. We couldn’t get supporters to rallies. People were calling for me to be fired.
We all know how that played out. It never changes. The same when we were told there would be a red wave in 2022 and Democrats were in trouble in 2023. Yes, there is a real danger of Trump winning: there is and always was, even if Biden weren’t our nominee. But Biden is doing everything right. He’s not only the incumbent this time, he’s beaten Trump before. He is constantly underestimated, he knows what he’s doing, and he has a crack campaign team. A week is a long time in politics, but a year is an eon.
By the way, multiple polls one year ago were coronating Ron DeSantis, including this one reported by U.S. News and World Report:
The Florida governor would beat Trump by double-digits in four critical states, according to a poll released by an influential conservative group just a day before the former president may announce his 2024 bid.
RELATED STORY: How can Democrats persuade the voters they need?
4. Numerous GOP House investigations
Most stories about the imminent GOP takeover of the House last year focused on the myriad investigations that would haunt the Biden administration. The “weaponization of government” was supposed to be the big one, and it flopped as hard as Kevin McCarthy’s disastrous impeachment inquiry. It was so bad that even Fox News chose not to cover it. But there were so many hearings, and none of them stuck. There were hearings on border security, Afghanistan, one on the deep state (seriously), the Biden family’s business practices, Hunter Biden’s laptop, the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and even one on the Pentagon’s alleged cover-up of space aliens. Great job. I’m not even touching the litany of attempts to find things to impeach Biden, which is still ongoing one year later.
The fact is that most of these groups only met once or twice, didn’t have anyone of substance attending outside of discredited right-wing cranks, and was completely ignored by the public. Even right-wing outlets were embarrassed and frustrated. People know exactly what the Republicans are trying to do in the House, and they just aren’t interested.
In fact, there were only two big stories from the House this year: the fact that they couldn’t pick a leader, and the fact that the GOP had to admit in their official report that they found no wrongdoing by Joe Biden. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Nothing they do at this point is going to hurt Biden next year because their sham investigations are a joke, and all the press energy is going to be sucked up by Trump’s actual multiple criminal cases. That is the most painful reality of all that the right wing is now facing.
5. Trump’s indictments will rip this country apart
Once again at good ol’ CNN:
“A criminal prosecution of an ex-president and current presidential candidate by the administration that succeeded him would subject the country’s political and judicial institutions to more extreme strain than even Trump has yet managed. If Trump were indicted, the uproar could be so corrosive that it’s fair to ask whether such an action would be truly in the national interest – assuming special counsel Jack Smith assembles a case that would have a reasonable chance of success in court.”
It wasn’t as bad as when the disgraced former CNN legal pundit Jeff Toobin begged Merrick Garland not to prosecute Trump, or when Trump himself promised “death and destruction” if he were to be indicted for his many crimes. I remember watching a pundit this time last year calling the Jan. 6 riots a “tea party” compared to the violence that would occur if Trump was indicted. Trump also promised the biggest protest the world would ever see would happen after his first indictment.
This is the reality of what actually happened.
More reporters than protesters showed up. But the second time would be different. Then the third time. Nope. Then the fourth time:
I’m hearing the same garbage now about if Trump is jailed for his crimes that it will amount to a civil war. It won’t. The people who ruined their lives storming the Capitol serve as a reminder to everyone who thinks about putting their lives in jeopardy for Trump. He could have pardoned all of the J6 insurrectionists, but didn’t do that for any of them. He just doesn’t care. He desperately wants violence and has outright called for it, but it hasn’t happened. There will be a few nutballs for sure, but we’ll deal with them.
6. Moms for Liberty school takeover:
Going on the Google time machine, there many stories about this new powerful group—some of which were cheered:
- CNN: “How two Florida moms spearheaded a parent movement aiming to impact the 2022 elections”
- Newsweek: “Moms for Liberty Ride Wave of "Anti-Wokeness" to School Board Victories”
- NPR: “Inside Moms for Liberty: the conservative parents group hopes to tip the scales in 2022”
The lazy media bought into the narrative that it was just two moms selling T-shirts that spawned a nationwide movement on banning books, bullying LGBTQ+ teens, and terrorizing teachers and administrators. The fact that this was an astroturfed right-wing takeover attempt of public schools funded by spiteful billionaires didn’t seem to register at first.
Yet their multiple times quoting Hitler, their open antisemitism, their bigoted book bans on everything from Anne Frank to Amanda Gorman, and their designation as a hate group turned many people against them. And that’s not to mention their most recent sex scandal. (Don’t all right-wing “values” groups have at least one sex scandal?)
The most recent election gave them a drubbing even in deep red areas. The headlines now read a little differently:
- USA Today: “A Moms for Liberty pep talk after big election losses to 'filthy liberal book huggers'”
- Miami Herald: “If Moms for Liberty co-founder had sex with a woman, why is she targeting Florida’s gays?”
- Business Insider: “Book banning Moms for Liberty just got canceled by US voters”
They’ll still be around next year, but no one is tolerating their BS anymore, least of all this amazing Sarasota student who was personally attacked by Bridget Zeigler, the Moms for Liberty co-founder on the Sarasota school board who is embroiled in a sex scandal and refuses to resign.
Those are my picks. If you have any that you think I missed, please put in the comments.Campaign Action