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The Dark Side of the ‘Toons

O'Donnell odonnellChristine O’Donnell says she dabbled in witchery and attended a midnight picnic on a Satanic altar. Meanwhile, Kenyan witch-hunter Thomas Muthee prayed over Sarah Palin to “protect her from the spirit of witchcraft,” proving the point that the Tea Party’s cartoon covens want to have their hell-broth and drink it too.

Eye-of-Newt Gingrich is unconcerned about Palin’s Kenyan witch-doctor or O’Donnell’s boil-and-bubble but panicked over the beyond-the-grave powers of Obama’s Kenyan father. Remember how the Right used to complain about cultural relativity and the alleged “situation ethics” of their enemies (derided as scary secular humanists)? That was before they fully mastered the dark arts of hypocrisy, which Ambrose Bierce called “prejudice with a halo.”

I am a bit unclear on how the political pundit class continues to take seriously a loose movement led by such obvious loons. Yes, they reported Sharron Angles’ threatened violent coup (“…if this, this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies…”). But doesn’t journalism demand more than that? When the band they’re in starts playing different tunes, shouldn’t they at least, well, take five and think about it?

It’s not a matter of covering two sides in an honest debate over policy or ideological differences. We don’t need a reasoned arbiter. We need a balmy-ologist.

These people are nuts, they have no business getting anywhere near the levers of power, everyone knows it, but few are doing anything about it. We are not watching the Weird Sisters of Macbeth. This is real. There’s no theater to leave or late night bistro to repair to for wine and discussion of the evening’s entertainment.

Angle, O’Donnell and so many others are getting within spitting distance of some potential say about the use of nuclear weapons, for pity’s sake. Even the out-of-touch Potomac elite should be alarmed at that circumstance.

Here’s part of the problem. Since I first began covering politics back in the ‘70s, no one really thought the entertaining kooks on the Right would ever amount to much. I still remember the great Pornography Storm, when countless of these fools paraded before countless government bodies with their enormous collections of porn. See how bad it is! they’d cry. Not so bad that they wouldn’t purchase their own porn by the closetful.

Their crazed protests gave them an excuse to say “penis” in public, and they were clearly aroused by the prospect. We all had a good laugh at their expense. Americans are far too sensible to put such people in charge of anything, we thought. Plenty of pundits still think that.

They shouldn’t pretend that 2010 is witnessing some kind of authentic discussion of the role of the federal government or the benefits or dangers of deficit spending. The Tea Party movement, as measured by its chosen candidates, has nothing to do with those matters.

Instead, the Tea Party is a celebration of the newest rage in identity politics, which, of course, was and still is condemned by its newest adherents even as they cry, “The ignorant have rights, too!” They want to take back America, by gums, from those who never attended late-night Satanic picnics or faux exorcisms.

There’s no IQ threshold for participation in a democracy, and there shouldn’t be. I still believe in the wisdom of the broad public, recognizing that the broad public includes a good number of loonies, hustlers and mountebanks. O’Donnell, Palin and the others should not be silenced. But they should be recognized for what they are in venues other than the Comedy Channel.

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Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith