It’s the merry laugh on the lip of the abyss. Christine O’Donnell, senatorial candidate with her “no hand jobs” program has cast an unfamiliar ray of sunshine over the surreal landscape of American politics.
In terms of political fun this has been a bleak decade. Not since Monica Lewinsky eagerly confided to friends she was strapping on her kneepads for service in Bill Clinton’s Oval Office have politics offered as such simple enjoyment as O’Donnell, the Tea Party girl (41, but still young at heart) from Delaware, visibly bursting with sexual pizzazz, chuckling merrily as solemn reporters rake through what they piously term her “troubling” resume. This same resume is mostly par for the course for millions of Americans (a lien from the Internal Revenue Service against unpaid taxes) or business as usual for 95% of all members of Congress — use of political funds for personal expenditures.
“But that was when I was in high school!” she cries gaily when they play the clip from Bill Maher’s Show in 1999 when she gave us the great line, “I dabbled in witchcraft but I never joined a coven,” so much more alluring a denial than Clinton’s “…but I never inhaled.” How could one not yearn for O’Donnell’s victory on November 2 over stuffy Democrat Chris Coons, when she goes on, “One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn’t know it. I mean there’s a little blood there and stuff like that…”
And famously too O’Donnell has nixed masturbation, on the grounds that autotelic satisfaction is by definition a betrayal of the moral principal that lust should only be satisfied by conjunction with a marriage partner (of the opposite sex.) Democrats cluck about the eccentricity of this position, thereby implying that in their view masturbation is a perfectly respectable practice and only a kook would decry it. Back in Clinton-time few of them rallied to the defense of Clinton’s surgeon-general, Jocelyn Elders, fired by the President in 1994 after she’d said that masturbation could prevent young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity “and as a part of human sexuality” perhaps it should be taught."
This is all light opera amid the shrill insanity of American politics, where Forbes magazine features on its cover a piece by Dinesh D’Souza advancing the proposition that “The US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.” This utterly mad claim about the sedately imperialist Obama is then flourished by Newt Gingrich, one of the nation’s more prominent Republicans, who declares it to be “brilliant.”
The Democrats keep the focus on O’Donnell, somehow hoping that, thus primed, voters across America will come to the conclusion that Republicans are unfit to govern, and reject them on November 2. It’s a very foolish strategy. Tea Party candidates promoted by Sarah Palin are doing well in some states. Not O’Donnell. It’s sadly clear that Delaware’s voters are now concluding that O’Donnell’s true vocation is on Bill Maher’s Show or as a follow-on from Bristol Palin’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars. She lags behind her Democratic opponent by 15 points in the race for Joe Biden’s former senate seat.
But for Democrats to fixate on O’Donnell is like focusing on the “threat” of Little Red Riding Hood instead of taking a close look at the true threat lurking in the woods. This is a general popular fury with incumbent politicians, most particularly Democrats, since they control both houses of Congress, with a Democrat in the Oval Office. As a roadside sign I just saw in southern Oregon put it, “Remember to throw out the trash. Vote on November 2.”
It’s becoming clear that by the end of Election Day Democrats could be reliving the terrible double punch they endured back in 1994 after two years of Bill Clinton: the loss of not only the House but the Senate. The House is surely going Republican. Democrats can count on 192 certain seats in the next Congress, Republicans 205, with what the Real Clear Politics (RCP) site — crunching the numbers — says are 38 seats “too close to call.” You can bet that this year more of these will tend to fall to the Republican side of the line.
In the Senate, Democrats, according to RCP, can count on 48 seats, Republicans 46 with six too close to call. Of these six at least four could go to Republicans, starting with Tea Party star Sharron Angle in Nevada and heading east through Colorado, Illinois to West Virginia. And in this year of Throw Out the Trash, Democrats can’t count on “safe seats” to be truly safe.
A huge new factor is the consequences of the US Supreme Court’s decision last January in the Citizens United case. The Court ruled that corporations should encounter no impediment in sluicing money into elections via so-called “independent expenditures” theoretically bypassing direct contributions to a candidate. Already, at this point in the electoral season, Republican senate candidates have benefited from $23.3 million in these independent expenditures, while Democrats have only seen $3.3 million thrown their way.
Even as the Left quavers theatrically about the O’Donnell threat, they are almost certain to lose their strongest antiwar voice in the US Senate, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. On November 3 we could be heading into two years of a Republican Congress, infused with the inflamed certitudes of triumphant Tea Partiers. Will Obama display the back-to-the wall agility of Bill Clinton, triangulating back from political ruin? Probably not. Amid a fierce Depression and a Republican Congress he will have exultant foes, disappointed supporters, scant options and thus a thousand knives raised and ready to plunge into his back.
It will be exciting, good for the journalism business, but surely not light-hearted fun. Enjoy O’Donnell for the next five weeks.
Can the ‘Peace Process’ Get
Any More Cruelly Absurd?
Yes it can, or Si, se puede, as the “honest broker” Obama would say. In our latest newsletter, Kathleen Christison details the new round of negotiations between Palestinians and Israel, sponsored by Obama & Co. As Christison writes:
“The deck in these negotiations is clearly stacked against the Palestinians and against any possibility of resolving or even addressing the root of the conflict and Palestinian grievances going back to 1948.
“Imagine a peace process and, if the peace processors get their wish, a peace settlement that ignores major aspects of Palestinian interests —
“that ignores an entire portion of Palestinian territory in Gaza, along with its 1.5 million imprisoned inhabitants;
“that ignores Hamas and the reality that it was democratically elected by a people dissatisfied with the leadership of those Palestinian leaders now sitting at the negotiating table;
“that ignores Israel’s continued inexorable absorption of land, a phenomenon of which settlement construction is only one manifestation;
“that ignores the reality that prevention of any Palestinian state is part of the founding principles and the political basis of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, which itself sits to the left of other right-wing parties in Netanyahu’s coalition;
“that ignores the immense significance of the strong US partnership with Israel, particularly the Kafkaesque reality that the USA — the supposed mediator — gives one party to the negotiations the firepower with which to suppress the other.”
Read this savage, indispensable report in our subscriber-only newsletter.
Also in this terrific issue, Bill Hatch on the new speculative real estate bubble swelling day by day in California. Without booms and busts capitalism wouldn’t be capitalism. Love it… or change it.
And in America capitalism wouldn’t be capitalism without methodical racism. Mike Snedeker on a new map of hell — the New Jim Crow.
Alexander Cockburn can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.