So what qualifies one today to run for Senate, the highest office in American politics besides the presidency? Certainly not intelligence. Let?s take the infamous Christine O?Donnell, now the Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware. I know she?s easy to pick on, but that?s because, well, she?s easy to pick on. Let?s stack up the stupid things she has said: She doesn?t believe in evolution, because, ?Why aren?t monkeys still evolving into humans?? She doesn?t think condoms prevent AIDS. She thinks masturbation is evil. She dabbled in witchcraft back in the 1980s. And when she spoke about that to Sean Hannity, she said, ?Who doesn?t regret the eighties to some extent?? To which any good, intelligent conservative would have retorted: ?But that?s when Ronald Reagan?our God before whom we should genuflect?was president!? To which O’Donnell would have replied…well, who knows what she would have said? Oh, yes, and there?s her astute observation that President Obama is ?anti-American.? After winning the 2010 Republican primary, she decided not to do any television interviews but did manage to raise huge sums of money based upon what people knew about her at this point.
There are others, of course, including Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky. All Tea Party candidates, of course, and all the sort of people who seem to have gotten where they have not because of exemplary records in public service but because they shoot their mouths off and say things that the Republican base likes.
I think there?s a pattern here, something of a straight line that runs throughout the 2000s up to our current political season. When George W. Bush ran in 2004, some journalists noted that he seemed to emphasize his malapropisms, you know, those words he couldn?t quite tangle his tongue around. He was playing up his ignorance?letting it stoke the crowds. Or consider Sarah Palin. She never had a problem with mispronunciation, but she got caught out not knowing very much by Katie Couric, not exactly an intellectual heavyweight herself. Did Palin hit the books afterwards? No, she continues to play to the base and hasn?t seemed to school herself about what we?d expect from a presidential candidate?details about domestic policy or international relations. She?s too busy getting people hopped up on the likes of O?Donnell (her advice: just go on Fox News, screw the others). What we have here isn?t just the politics of being stupid but basking in stupidness. Stupidity as honor. Making up bullshit as the way to be trusted for public office.
We all worry about our country. And sometimes, for sure, liberals can get a bit freaked out about things they shouldn?t. In this case, what?s terrifying isn?t just that a person like Angle or Paul (less likely O?Donnell) could win public office; it?s that many citizens of our republic seem to love to hear things like O?Donnell?s blatherings. This is what our public life has become. The slogan of all future political candidates might be the saying on those goofy t-shirts that were once popular: ?I?m with Stupid.?
You can get O?Donnell?s best stupid quotes here.