Editor’s Note: Back in the 1970s, the British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus did a segment on British elections that, 40 years later, seems like something out of our current election news. If we can’t have a government that behaves sensibly, then the least they can do is provide us with something amusing to listen to during the campaign season. This year, we have the Tea Party candidates — right-wing fanatics who offer some goofy ideas to an electorate that’s had about all they can stand from politicians. Maybe, if we’re lucky, in another few years, we’ll have wacky left-wing Tea Baggers, with silly proposals from the other end of the political continuum. However, in 2010, the really silly stuff is coming from the conservatives.
The Rise of the Very Silly Party
“It is not enough to be
abstinent with other people, you also have to be be abstinent alone.
“I haven’t seen a half-monkey,
The GOP has convinced the public (particularly the Tea Baggers) that Obama is a socialist Muslim radical and, perhaps, not even an American. He’s the perfect foil: a Democrat spending at levels even Reagan and Bush partisans can pretend to find outrageous, who’s been unable to put a dent in a 9.6% unemployment rate. Meanwhile, demoralized Democrats see Obama as a lackluster moderate who’s failed to deliver on his electoral mandate sufficiently to arouse his own base.
Tea Party candidates profit from disillusionment and outrage, but offer few solutions beyond platitudes. They hate deficits, but reject tax increases that might actually raise revenue. They want to cut spending, but refuse to be specific, because spending reductions are as unpopular as taxes — for example, the defense budget is off the table. And they combine a strange and capricious brew of libertarianism and social conservatism.
In addition, pressure from the Far Right has forced some GOP candidates beyond just the slightly silly. Challenged in the Arizona primary by extremist ex-congressman J.D. Hayworth, John McCain, an erstwhile adult who got things done by cooperating with Democrats, proudly told a Tea Party rally he’s now a member of “ the party of hell no!”
More than 70 Tea Party candidates are running for national office (e.g., gubernatorial and congressional). Many are merely silly, but some are more like members of what Monty Python called the “Very Silly Party,” which ran candidates with names like Evelyn Stoat-Pamphlet P’taing-P’taing Carburetor Smythe-Jones. In 2010, they have names like Christine O’Donnell.
South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, considered a Tea Party “kingmaker,” is another longtime member of the Very Silly Party. Among DeMint’s far-right ambitions is a ban on unmarried, but sexually active, female schoolteachers. This seems out of character for Tea Party libertarians, who purport to want government out of people’s business. Would this be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation, or would investigators be stationed under the unmarried teachers’ beds?
An electorate so silly it turns out in hundreds of thousands to cheer Glenn Beck — a pundit so goofy he makes Limbaugh sound like William F. Buckley — will produce embarrassing candidates and, inevitably, silly legislators. Perhaps, two years from now, the pendulum will reverse, and we’ll go back to nominating only slightly silly candidates. But don’t hold your breath.
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