Political InQueery: It's Showtime!

Everett Maroon
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Everett Maroon is a memoirist, essayist, and fiction writer originally from New Jersey and now living in Walla Walla, Washington. His blog is transplantportation.com and he tweets at @EverettMaroon.

Christine O'Donnell making a strange face

Last summer, which now seems so very long ago, we looked at some people and trends in US politics and policy making who have affected our lives, some for good, but mostly not. I really enjoyed the “Where in the world is” posts in the series, even as I shuddered to write some of them. Bob Packwood’s “sinewy arms” just scare me. But as we look toward this midterm election season—and perhaps with some of those personalities of yore in our collective rearview mirrors as reminders of where we should not retread—it’s time to ask where the politicians of today have in mind for our future.

Million Man March on WashingtonIn the next two months I’ll delve into some of the candidates running for office, pointing to as many contradictions as I can before I fall over at my desk. It will be non-partisan because it has to be, as Bitch Media is a non-profit, so don’t ask me to risk their tax status. We’ll also take a look at the rhetoric around the overall and individual races for Congress and the Senate to see if gosh, there are any patterns in what we’re talking about this electoral cycle. I also want to explore what isn’t being talked about—that some of the health care reforms are working well, directly out of the box, *cough cough*—and turn an eye toward what is likely to come up first for debate once the dust of Election Day settles. (Hint: Social Security.)

Of course, we’ll have to take on the issue of rallies. So many rallies. It’s almost (anti-Vietnam War demonstrators) as if nobody (Million Man March) ever held (1993 March on Washington for gay and lesbian rights) a march (March for Women’s Lives) before Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin stood at Lincoln’s feet overlooking the reflecting pool.

I’m very excited to have another 2-month guest stint to explore current political shenanigans through a critical lens, and I’m looking forward to your thoughts and comments.

Yes, oh yes, we will talk about Rand Paul and Christine O’Donnell and Dan Quayle’s son, and many others. And thank goodness, there will be no mention of former Senator Packwood’s sinewy arms, because I know those haunt us still.

Esquire magazine’s blog ran a so-funny-it-worries-us article on the missives of Rand Paul, which I’ll quote here:

If Rand Paul had his way, we’d still have child labor (“Because sometimes in really poor families, kids just have to pitch in.”), we’d have no redress in court (“Yeah, those things just get so jammed — everybody playing the blame game. I mean, sometimes mines just collapse, you know? Nobody’s fault. I think it’s called gravity.”), concentrations of corporate power could never get too big (“I mean, they must be doing something right, you know?”), and restaurants that only want to serve people who trace their ancestry to
northern Europe would be okay, and everybody should stop being so touchy (“I mean, if you don’t trace your ancestry to northern Europe and you’re really hungry, if you ask nicely, maybe they’ll let you come in. I mean, these are things we can solve without laws and stuff.”)

This springboards straight at the heart of one of the concepts I’ll take up over the next two months, which is simple: What politicians say matters. Their words have effects and consequences—it’s easy to write them off, and certainly, many of the lesser-known independent candidates are going to lose these elections. But last summer certainly showed us that for some percentage of the US population, these ideas, many of which I would describe as cockamamie, resonate and result in a weird justification of anger. Toward undocumented workers, toward women who speak out for reproductive rights, toward LGBT people, and the list gets longer all the time.

So what if Ben Quayle put out a video campaign ad that gets the US deficit number wrong by 11 trillion dollars? Or if Christine O’Donnell has the loopiest, least comprehensible definition of “feminism” that I’ve ever read? Did you miss it? Here it is:

“…let me qualify that – I consider myself an authentic feminist. Not as defined by the modern movement. And, let me clarify that a little bit more. I was an English major, so break it down: -ist means one who celebrates. As a feminist, I celebrate my femininity.”

These folks have gotten attention for their remarks. A whole lot of attention. So much attention that we’re not hearing people give voters concrete plans for reigniting jobs in the US. We’re not talking much about the looming deadline in Congress to extend President Bush’s $1,000,000,000,000 + tax cuts to the rich. We’re not talking about the still-climbing high school dropout rate. We’re talking instead about going on dates with witches and who got fired from CNN. We’re watching words like “feminist” get so twisted around that they lose their meaning.

And by and large, mainstream media isn’t spending a lot of attention on far-right candidates for the Senate who aren’t Christine O’Donnell, like Joe Miller in Alaska, Ken Buck in Colorado, Marco Rubio in Florida, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Mike Lee in Utah. But we’ll be talking about them here!

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

O, Christine O'Donnell! I

O, Christine O'Donnell! I remember reading that. I was an English major, too, and -ist does not mean "one who celebrates." It's more like "one who performs," as in, a rapist performs rape, a pianist performs piano, a Papist performs Papism (Catholicism), and a feminist performs feminism... Which I suppose she does, if you count appropriating the word as a performance! ;-)

Anyway... Sorry for the randomness! Looking forward to more of your posts!

Ah yes, I was an English

Ah yes, I was an English major too (along with psychology), and I don't recall "ist" being defined as a suffix in the way O'Donnell does it. And like I told Judith Butler directly, not all performance is subversive. But hey, that's just my opinion!

Thanks for your comment...I think we're going to have a blast these next two months, even if we're sobbing the Wednesday after election day...

O'Donnell Either Knows She's Not a Feminist Or Is REALLY Nuts

Christine O'Donnell claiming she's a feminist because she thinks she's feminine after having <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzHcqcXo_NA" rel="nofollow">asserted that women commit adultery by using a vibrator</a> is ludicrous. To me, that suggests four possibilities: She is either ignorant, a liar, a lunatic, or some combination of the first three. The best possible light I can think of to view her statements in is that she truly believes it is in women's best interest to be treated like property and thinks that's womens proscribed biblical role. Not good. Maybe she's should be hoping everyone but the Mike Huckabees and Sarah Palis of the world (her base) think she's crazy and don't take her seriously. What's even scarier is that there are so many more people like her out there.

Ableism check

Christine O'Donnell has some issues for sure, but calling her nuts, a lunatic, and crazy is a form of ableism (conflating mental illness with having backwards beliefs) that goes against our <a href="/comments-policy">comments policy</a>. Here's some more on why using these words isn't okay.


Thanks, Kjerstin, for this

Thanks, Kjerstin, for this comment. I also don't want to dismiss any politician in this way, not only because it has ethical implications that I find problematic (for the reasons you already stated), but also because it avoids a larger systematic reading of where these instances of hate-laden rhetoric are conceptualized, where they take up residence in our culture, and what effects they have. If O'Donnell were simply "crazy," we would be looking at her statements and later attempts to deny them as merely a localized effect of one individual. But O'Donnell's persistence in making it to elected office (since this is not her first attempt to launch a campaign) and the fact that in 2010, she finally at last is on the ballot for the US Senate says something about where we're at as a country, how her rhetoric has currency for some people, and what this means about our electoral system, not to mention our ideas around democracy. Calling her crazy shuts down all of those conversations, in addition to being offensive.

So I hope we can unpack some of these questions as this column makes its way through the next two months.

Reconsidering My Ableism

I am definitely reconsidering my ableism and will keep your points in mind since as a general guide they are good point, but:

Please note the "either" "or". in the title of my previous reply. One of my positions, which I apparently did not present with enough clarity, is that <a href="http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/index.html?story=/politics/w... rel="nofollow">Christine O'Donnell</a> knows full well that she is not a feminist. I made no claim that she is mentally ill. She is, however, a right-wing-nut and some of her assertions run the gamut from bonkers to deranged. I believe that she is she is well aware that she is using twisted arguments to try to sell her viewpoints. I was not slurring someone with a mental illness or disability. Rather, I was slamming a slick political operator who was trying to make a snake oil sales pitch. It was the sales pitch that was ludicrous and qualified as lunacy (extreme folly or eccentricity) and not an impugning of the mentally ill as per the article entitled "On the ubiquitous use of "crazy", but reject the notion as by Arwyn.

I'm well aware that many people consider <b>me</b> to be crazy. I don't believe that the RMJ's theorem meant that all use of the words crazy or nuts are related to disability or are using disability as a rhetorical weapon. My comment asked whether she might be hoping everyone but her base thinks she's crazy and hoping that those who are opposed to her views will not take her seriously.

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