Christine O'Donnell and the 'crackpot gap'(Read article summary)
Many Americans are cynical about government, but they like dangerously out-of-touch politicians even less.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
After the victories of many of the insurgent primary candidates sheâ€™s sponsored, Sarah Palin is off to Iowa today (Friday) for a high-profile series of political events. Is it possible sheâ€™s looking to make a run in 2012? Do birds fly?
Republicans are being fueled by a so-called â€śenthusiasm gapâ€ť but their biggest worry leading up to the midterms should be the â€ścrackpot gap.â€ť
In Delaware, Palin-endorsed tea partier Christine Oâ€™Donnell is so far right sheâ€™s called â€śdelusionalâ€ť by Delawareâ€™s GOP leader. In Kentucky, Palin-favored Rand Paul says the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shouldnâ€™t apply to businesses. In Colorado, tea partier Ken Buck talks of getting rid of the 17th amendment, which provides for the direct election of senators. In Nevada, Palin-favored Sharon Angle has called for â€ś2nd Amendment remediesâ€ť if Congress doesnâ€™t change hands.
Many Americans these days donâ€™t like Congress and are cynical about government. The lousy economy has made almost all incumbents targets of the publicâ€™s anger and anxiety.
But if thereâ€™s one thing Americans like even less itâ€™s people pretending to be legitimate politicians whose views are so far removed from those of ordinary Americans that they pose a danger to our system of governance.
In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, a third of undecided voters had a negative view of the tea party movement. 13 percent of those who said they prefer Republicans to win control of Congress this fall also reported a negative view of the tea-partiers.
The latest CBS poll shows that 40 percent of voters viewed Sarah Palin negatively in August; today, 46 percent do.
When Newt Gingrich, who has all but declared his candidacy for president in 2012, says President Obama exhibits â€śKenyan anti-colonialâ€ť behavior, and that allowing an Islamic center near New Yorkâ€™s Ground Zero is tantamount to permitting Naziâ€™s near the Holocost Museum, he doesnâ€™t sound like an ordinary American. He sounds like a hate-mongering crackpot.
Weâ€™re not dealing with â€śextremism in defense of liberty,â€ť as Barry Goldwater put it in 1964 (and even then, a large majority of Americans decided against him). Weâ€™re dealing with extremism that defies the principles undergirding our Constitution.
Some Democrats think all this is wonderful because it boosts the odds of Democratic wins, not only in the midterms but also in 2012 when the Republicans put up Palin, Gingrich, or someone equally bizarre. Even voters who are are unenthusiastic about Democrats will be motivated to turn out if they fear that crackpots will otherwise take over our government.
Iâ€™m not as sanguine about whatâ€™s happening. Political discourse in America is important. What candidates say can legitimize hateful or divisive views that would otherwise never see the light of day.
Weâ€™re in the midst of an ongoing economic emergency that requires clear thinking, intense work, and practical ideas. It also requires that we join together rather than be pushed apart. The loonies who are taking over the GOP pose a real and present danger.
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