At Sunday's Tea Party rally in Washington, I overheard a few effusive endorsements of Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, the longshot conservative running against the very moderate Republican Congressman Mike Castle for Vice President Joe Biden's old Senate seat. The race was once considered an easy layup for Delaware Republicans, but with the rise of O'Donnell, a crackpot of the first order, it looks increasingly likely that Democrat Chris Coons will be packing the U-Haul for D.C. in November. As stats wizard Nate Silver points out, if O'Donnell wins today's primary, the Republicans lose the seat in November: "Whereas Mr. Castle is nearly a 95 percent favorite against the Democratic nominee, Chris Coons, according to last week's FiveThirtyEight forecasting model, Ms. O'Donnell would have just a 17 percent chance of winning a race against Mr. Coons."
And the intellectual case against O'Donnell is overwhelming. A précis for those who have avoided the Delaware drama: O'Donnell lied about attending a Master's degree program at Princeton University; claimed that her political enemies are creeping in the bushes outside her house; is opposed to the sinister habit of masturbation; is a supporter of the "ex-gay" movement, despite the inconvenient revelation that her former staffer Wade Richards "returned" to homosexuality and denounced those peddling "cures" for his sexuality; filed a $6 million lawsuit against the conservative group ISI for "gender discrimination"; was denounced by her former campaign manager as a "fraud" who uses campaign donations to pay rent and utility bills; and has implied that her Republican opponent is gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
As the former head of the clumsily named Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT), O'Donnell was the Tipper Gore of the 1990s, attending lewd and lascivious rock concerts just to tell stoned, Satanist teenagers that they were going to hell. "Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks," she gasped. At a 1997 music festival in Washington, D.C., the Catholic killjoy "distributed thousands of brochures with information on the failure rate of condoms, on AIDS, on sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, pornography and the movement of former homosexuals."
In a piece for the Washington Post, O'Donnell told of one emotional breakthrough she made with a young concertgoer: "She was a girl of about 14 wearing cutoffs and a string-bikini top. A boy, hopefully her boyfriend, was draped around her neck absurdly with each hand firmly planted on her breasts. She did not look as if she was enjoying herself. As they passed me, I handed her the brochure, along with another one on "How To Say No." Something must have clicked inside her. She stopped and pushed his hands away." A true story or an extra feature from the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls DVD? You decide!
Or take this clip from Bill Maher's old television show Politically Incorrect (which, upon re-watching, one will discover was pretty politically correct), during which the True Conservative Fun Destroyer explains to her fellow panelists that she wouldn't lie to protect Jews during the Second World War ("Anne Frank? Oh, you mean that girl that lives in the attic?") because "deception" is immoral. Either way, it's a moot question, O'Donnell says, because "God would provide a way to do the right thing," despite not having providing a way to do the right the thing between the years 1941-1945.
But the moderate Mike Castle is unacceptable to many professional Tea Party adherents—radio host Mark Levin, for instance, is accusing all who doubt O'Donnell's qualifications as David Frum-like deviationists—who would rather a reliably liberal Democrat in the Senate than an insufficiently conservative Republican. They insist that good conservative foot soldiers plump for unqualified (and unstable) candidates because they aren't "RINOs," because they wink-and-galvanize but wouldn't know Milton Friedman from Milton Berle. One protester I spoke with on Sunday, holding a sign adorned with giant photos of Sarah Palin and Ronald Reagan (the "Gipper and the Grizz"), said that Palin is the best conservative hope for 2012, pointing out that she was "getting better" at addressing both basic policy issues and the adoring crowds of Tea Party activists. If she can identify a national newspaper by 2012, she's qualified to run the Western world.
And while the screeching Stalinists and ideological purity tsars of talk radio denounce left-wing magazines and blogs like The Weekly Standard, National Review, and Powerline as sell-out squishes, and as Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer is deemed the moral equivalent of Paul Robeson, O'Donnell trudges forward towards a primary victory. And the Republicans towards a November defeat.