Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Progressives Must Wake Up

It's been all over the blogosphere: Republican Senatorial candidate from Delaware, Christine O'Donnell ("I'm not a witch, I'm you.") engaged in a debate with Democratic opponent Chris Coons at Widener University Law School on Tuesday. The debate took place in front of legal scholars and law students (ah, the elite!), and a portion of the debate can be viewed here. In one particular exchange, O'Donnell criticized Coons for his position that teaching creationism in public schools would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.

After a brief rant by O'Donnell in which she complains that "our so-called leaders in Washington" have decided that the founding principles are no longer indispensable. Coons offers an off-the-cuff retort, "And one of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state." The moderator attempts to move on to the next question, but O'Donnell isn't finished. She turns to Coons and asks, "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" This question, in this forum, elicits howls of laughter from the audience, and at least one member exclaims, "Oh my God!" in astonished disbelief. O'Donnell, completely oblivious to how idiotic she sounds, smiles at the audience, with an expression that could have been either "See, I got him, didn't I?" or "Oh, well, little ol' me made a little ol' gaffe!"

After a couple of minutes of someone asking O'Donnell about her positions on the 14th, 16th, and 17th amendments -- all of which have been targeted for repeal by Tea Party candidates across the country -- Coons, while careful to mention that Delaware's voters want most to hear about jobs -- calls O'Donnell out on her fundamental lack of understanding of how the Constitution works. He then points out to her that the First Amendment is where the establishment clause exists. She asks him twice -- "just to be clear" -- if the separation of church and state is in the First Amendment. There are audible gasps in the audience at this moment.

People, Christine O'Donnell is trailing Coons by a considerable margin, but there are a couple weeks to go, and who knows what will happen between now and then. There are other candidates on the GOP ticket across the country who are supported by the Tea Partiers. Not all of them possess the stunning lack of intelligence this woman possesses, but what they all have in common is a belief in how little intelligence actually matters. To be nominated for the Senate as a Republican, all one has to do is say the right things to enough people to get them to vote for you.

Populism, divorced from actual ideas, has gripped the minority party in a choke-hold, the only escape from which is death. The Tea Party, "movement conservatives," the Fox News/Republican National Committee propaganda machine, and corporate interests gleefully financing it all, all contain a fair number of intelligent men and women. But all that matters is winning the election. Once enough Republicans are elected, the real policy makers who operate in the shadows and the back offices will issue their orders to their Stepford minions, influencing public policy to favor their interests, and forsaking the very people who put them there. I feel afraid for the country if this happens, and I pity those who have no idea that their votes are going to be exploited, yet again, to benefit only the powerful. Roe vs. Wade will still exist; prayer in public schools will never happen; evolution will be the only acceptable subject taught about the origins of life on this planet in all enlightened public school in this country; and government spending will continue to spiral out of control, only this time there will be much less tax revenue to offset it, and so the deficits will grow, not shrink.

Progressives in this country can do something about this, because their brothers and sisters on the other side are hopelessly and utterly incapable of thinking for themselves. We can and should vote in vast numbers. We can and should get off our asses and vote Democratic across the board (any third party vote will strengthen the Republicans). If you have to hold your noses to do it, so be it. We cannot afford to have a Christine O'Donnell, or a Joe Miller, or a Sharron Angle, or a Marco Rubio, or a Rand Paul occupying a seat in the Senate for the next six years. What their elections will mean for governance, for sanity, for civility, for America, is far too frightening to do nothing.

So here's the call to action. If you're a Democrat and you know a fellow Democrat, make sure they're going to vote Democratic. Have them tell other Democrats. Put this up on Facebook, on Myspace, and on HuffPost as often as possible. There simply is no excuse, no viable reason, for not voting and not voting Democratic.

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