Monday, September 27, 2010


Withhold your vote for the right reasons

The right-wing Tea Party movement has been moving along, winning the occasional primary election and getting some of their loony-bin escapees nominated as Republican party candidates here and there. One of the most touted of those is Christine O’Donnell, who just won the right to represent the Republicans in Delaware, hoping to take the U.S. Senator seat that Joe Biden vacated when he became Vice President (Ted Kaufman is currently filling it). Chris Coons will be her Democratic opponent.

Now, Ms O’Donnell is a religious fanatic with some of the most backward ideas on the planet. The list of people and organizations endorsing her should tell you enough: Sarah Palin, the National Rifle Association, the Family Research Council (you know that when someone puts family in any political organization’s name, it’s means they’re anti-Gay, against reproductive rights, against choice in end-of-life issues, against stem-cell research... and for religious liberty, which basically means that they want to tell everyone exactly what they may and may not do, in the name of God).

And that all means that no thinking person should be voting for her. Alas, a large portion of the voting populace doesn’t think.

The left, though, has surfaced some video footage from some time ago, and is using it to laugh at Ms O’Donnell. You’ve heard about them, surely: There’s the clip from MTV in 1996, after she founded a silly organization called the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, in which she says that we should stop kids from masturbating and calls masturbation wrong, an improper, un-Godly use of our God-given sexuality. And there’s the clip from Bill Maher’s show in 1999, where she relates that, years earlier while in school, she dabbled into witchcraft and had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar.

Sure, we can laugh at these. They’re silly and pathetic. They’re also old; the giggly young woman on those videos is not the 41-year-old candidate who’s been on the podium campaigning. Let’s make sure we’re not rejecting her because she said stupid stuff in her youth. Let’s look at where she stands now.

And where she stands now is scary. Here, for instance, is something from the MTV video, when she was 27:

The reason that you don’t tell [kids] that masturbation is the answer to AIDS, and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because again, it is not dressing [sic] the issue. [...] You’re gonna be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him, and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?

The problem isn’t that she said that at 27, though I’d expect it more from a 17-year-old. The problem is that she stands by that now, that she still insists that the kind of purity she talked about 14 years ago is the only right way. If the answer to AIDS is to stop all sexual thoughts outside of marriage, then we’re in a lot more trouble than any of us thinks.

And here’s another one, from Bill Maher in 1998, where she says that evolution is a myth and asks Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans. At age 29 she should have had that sorted out, had she learned anything at all in science class. This, too, she stands by now, as do many of her evangelical fundamentalist fellows. (And this might be a good place to point out that her education isn’t very sharp: she almost graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University, known for its business school, not it’s science curriculum. What level of education is appropriate for a U.S. Senator could, of course, be an interesting debate on its own.)

As to the witchcraft thing, who cares? It was silly stuff a long time ago. And if we blasted candidates for being juvenile and superstitious, we’d reject ones who beg an imaginary benefactor in the sky to bless their election campaigns, wouldn’t we?

Imaginary Benefactor knows, there are enough reasons not to vote for Ms O’Donnell, nor for any of her Tea-Party-endorsed colleagues. Real reasons, involving what they stand for, and what they plan to do if they get the reins of power. Never mind the old videos; they’re good entertainment, but that’s all. Let’s spend our time pointing to all the reasons that really matter.


Brent said...

Do the end justify the means? If silly videos are the only way to convince voters, who just can't bother to understand the issues, to vote against the wacko - is that justified?

I honestly don't know what to think here. I shudder at what will happen if the republicans get the majority in either house...not because they are evil, but because they are disciplined enough to do what their leaders tell them to do. But I also want our public debates to be at a much more adult level. You are absolutely right that these videos degrade the whole process.

I spent 3 years on our local school board. I came away with three observations: (1) I have no talent for politics, (2) even the smartest members of our public insist on having an opinion without bothering to learn any background facts, and (3) I have huge respect for those few honest politicians that really do learn the issues and try their best they can to really solve the problems.

Barry Leiba said...

Hm. ’s true: I do say that “a large portion of the voting populace doesn’t think,” so maybe that sort of thing is the only way to get through to them. Make them laugh and give them a political message at the same time.

On your number 3... I’m not sure whose district you’re in, but I think that Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel, and John Hall (my own congressguitarist) are all honest hard-working, well-intentioned representatives who really are doing their best. On the Senate side, I’m less sure; I don’t know what to think of Ms Gillebrand, and Chuck Schumer (who I do also think is honest and well-meaning) seems to jump to what’s popular at the moment, and is more interested in having his face on TV than I'd like. That penchant makes it seem that there’s more form than substance, sometimes.

Brent said...

I used to think the public doesn't think...but I am more convinced that they do think, but they just don't bother to learn any relevant facts on which to base their thinking.