Anytime I’ve heard Tea Party updates over the past few weeks, my first thought is always the same: they cannot be serious.
With midterm elections coming up, the Tea Party is on the verge of establishing a permanent place for itself in American politics. Incredibly, columnists and pundits across the country are still spending their time analyzing the significance of the movement’s emergence instead of pointing out a crucial yet underemphasized reality: The politicians that have a chance to be elected thanks to Tea Party support can be most flatteringly referred to as eccentric.
Let’s begin with Alaska, where moderate incumbent Lisa Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary by Joe Miller, who received more than $400,000 this month from the California-based Tea Party Express.
Miller is a stand-up tea partier, meaning he wants to get rid of Medicare, Social Security and the Department of Education. Miller considers unemployment benefits unconstitutional and has called the scientific evidence for climate change “dubious science at best.”He wants to cut foreign aid and United Nations funding at a time when the United States’ international image hangs in the balance and slash funding to the National Endowment for the Arts.
Some of Miller’s other proposals might sound reasonable at first, but they are cloaked in the language of smaller government that would in practice really lead to a paralyzed government.
These include proposals to give the president power to veto line items in spending bills, requiring each bill to note what part of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to enact it and allowing unlimited debate over appropriations bills.
These ideas might be motivated by a sincere desire to hold government more accountable to the people, but it is clear the proposal would create so much unnecessary red tape that it would lead to an even more inept federal government.
As of Sept. 1, Miller is leading in the polls.
Things look even worse in Nevada, where Sharron Angle is the Republican candidate running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Angle agrees with virtually all of Miller’s positions but takes them a step further; for example, she considers the Department of Education’s existence unconstitutional and wants the United States to withdraw entirely from the United Nations, calling it “the umpire on fraudulent science such as global warming.”
Although it is interesting that she believes that “there’s not sound science to back that up,” I personally prefer the findings of an international panel of leading scientists.
Some of Angle’s other career highlights include supporting a prison drug rehabilitation program based on principles of Scientology, counseling young pregnant girls to turn “a lemon situation into lemonade” and publicly stating her opposition to legalizing alcohol, which is either a bad joke or belies Angle’s mistaken belief that we live in the 1920s.
Angle is tied with Reid in the polls.
However, neither of these two fine political specimens can match the recently victorious standard bearer of Tea Party politics: the Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.
The 41-year-old Sarah Palin replica has seen her politics — the nature of which closely mirrors Angle’s and Miller’s — take a backseat in recent weeks to two videos of her from the 1990s.
In the first, filmed in 1996, O’Donnell makes a strong stance against masturbation, calling it equivalent to adultery. Sure, the video is scandalous, but we shouldn’t hold her religious views against her. What we can, however, hold against O’Donnell is her 1999 admission on comedian Bill Maher show, Politically Incorrect:
“I dabbled into witchcraft — I never joined a coven. But I did, I did … I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. … One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. I mean, there’s little blood there and stuff like that. We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.”
Because O’Donnell has raised nearly $1 million online, we are now facing a serious threat that she will actually be a U.S. senator next year. Nobody seems concerned about that prospect beyond its potential ramifications for a Democratic or Republican majority.
Something needs to change fast. The federal government, as much as it is maligned, is a serious institution that plays a crucial role in every American’s daily life. Candidates such as Miller, Angle and O’Donnell are threats to the government’s functionality, credibility and overall legitimacy; their success is an indicator of how unsuccessful the U.S. government is at communicating its message to the public and the lack of serious critical thinking that takes place in this day and age.
Hopefully, someone will emerge with the capacity to reverse this worrying trend. Otherwise, we might soon find our Senate filled with even more fools than it already has.
Daniel Charnoff is a senior majoring in international relations (global business). His column, “Through the Static,” runs Wednesdays.