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Monday, October 11, 2010

How the Tea Party Is Screwing Over Republicans

Posted By on Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell: "I'm not a witch"

A new Harris Poll indicates that Democrats are gaining ground ahead of the November mid-term elections, and that the assortment of right-wing extremists who call themselves the "Tea Party" have something to do with this last-minute success.

Among all U.S. adults registered to vote in races where a Tea Party candidate is running, 43 percent say they would support a Democratic candidate, compared to 30 percent who would support a Republican candidate and 9 percent who would back a Tea Party candidate. Assuming that Republicans and Tea Partiers end up voting for the same person -- that is, that the Tea Party candidate is also the Republican nominee -- this leaves the Dems with a 4-point edge.

The outlandish beliefs espoused by the Tea Party's standard-bearers in prominent elections could be pushing voters towards the Democrats, according to Harris Poll founder Louis Harris, who offered these remarks in a column published online:

Hoping to revive the 2008 Democratic base became a major occupation of Democrat strategies. None of these retreat strategies seemed to work and the general Congressional vote showed double digit leads for the Republicans into early September. And, at the same time, the Tea party movement got bolder by the minute. They began to win primaries for U.S. Senate and Governor seats. Most Republican leaders thought the Tea Party organization would happily integrate its winning efforts into a new and revitalized Republican Party.

One specific example shows how this did not work. Early in September, the victorious Tea Party candidates demonstrated openly who they really were. They turned out to be a brand new breed of public figures, who unfortunately for them, were symbolized by the Tea Party upset of moderate Mike Castle in Delaware by a Tea party candidate Christine O'Donnell.

O'Donnell, you will recall, is the Tea Party poster girl and self-professed witch -- really -- who has managed to clinch the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware. Her latest television spots offer the surreal experience of candidate O'Donnell denying her penchant for the Dark Arts, asserting, "I'm not a witch ... I"m you." (See video above.) Sort of makes you long for the days when prominent Republican politicians only had to aver that they weren't crooks.

Intergalactic warlord Xenu: The original Tea Partier?

The list goes on. There's Republican Senate candidate and Tea Partier Sharron Angle of Nevada, who teamed up with leaders from the Church of Scientology to try to prevent troubled schoolchildren from receiving conventional psychological treatment. Scientologists disapprove of psychiatric medications, a view based on the Church's theory that humans' emotional problems are caused by the lingering souls of extraterrestrials brought to earth millions of years ago by an alien warlord named Xenu. (No joke.) Angle herself is a Southern Baptist.

Or Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, who believes that a sinister -- and entirely fictitious -- "NAFTA Superhighway" is being constructed to help speed the unholy merger of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico into one nation.

Whatever these bizarre figures portend for the future of American political culture, their immediate effect, as the Harris Poll suggests, could be to drive moderates from the Republican fold.

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Peter Jamison


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