Myth and Madness


Maureen Dowd
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
September 18, 2010

Christine O’Donnell is in a fantasy world. Literally.

The pretty Palin Mini-Me identifies with the women of Middle Earth, comparing herself to the female characters in the “Lord of the Rings” novels by J. R. R. Tolkien.

“Look at the significance that he gives to Eowyn, the Lady of Rohan,” O’Donnell said on C-Span in 2003. “She was a warrior spirit and, to me, that’s who I love. I mean, I aspire to be soft and gentle like Arwen, but realistically, I’m a fighter, like Eowyn.”

O’Donnell said she liked Tolkien’s outlook on gender: “On the one hand, there’s the attitude that’s normally on the conservative side — as a conservative woman, I feel I can say this — that stifles women. There’s almost the stereotypical attitude of, to be a true woman, you have to stay at home. And I’ve actually had people say to me, ‘Why do you choose a career over marriage?’ Honestly, I’ve had only a few significant relationships, and they’ve broken up with me. And one of the things I’ve been told is, ‘If you weren’t so strong, you’d be married by now.’ ”

This anti-abortion, anti-masturbation, anti-premarital-sex, anti-stem-cells, anti-gay-marriage, dubious-about-evolution Christian conservative has rocked politics by snatching the Delaware Republican nomination for the Senate away from the seemingly sure-thing moderate Mike Castle.

At the Values Voter Summit here on Friday, the 41-year-old O’Donnell cited another fantasy world to conjure up a Christlike image for the Tea Party.

“We’re rowdy, we’re passionate,” she told the enraptured crowd. “It reminds me of the C. S. Lewis Narnia books, where the little girl asks someone about Aslan the lion, who represents God, and she says with a little concern over such a fearsome lion, ‘Is he safe?’ And her friend says, ‘Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’ ”

She’s right that there’s an untamed beast rampaging through American politics. But this beast does not seem blessed; rather it has loosed a kind of ugliness and wildness in the land.

Speaking to Sean Hannity on Fox, Karl Rove dismissed O’Donnell as an absurd choice with a sketchy background and dubious character. He alluded to facts in The Weekly Standard that chronicled her lawsuit against her former employer, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative nonprofit based in Delaware.

Although O’Donnell said in 1998 that wives should “graciously submit” to their husbands, her 2005 suit charged that she suffered “mental anguish” after being demoted and fired because the institute’s conservative philosophy deemed that women must be subordinate.

We the People in the Ruling Class Elites do think O’Donnell comes across as alarmingly loopy. But maybe she’s smart as a fox in doing a Single-White-Female, Fox anchor makeover to look more like her queen-maker, Sarah Palin.

She’s also smart to think of politics in terms of passion and myth — two elements Barack Obama was able to summon during his campaign that are sorely missing from his presidency.

She might have gone a broom too far, though, when she once told Bill Maher that she had “dabbled into witchcraft” and went on a date with a witch that included “a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.”

Obama’s bloodless rationality has helped spawn the right’s bloodletting of irrationality. His ivory tower approach to the nation’s fears and anxieties about the economy gave rise to a tower of angry babble. Tea Party is basically a big tent for anger.

The president’s struggle to connect and inspire passion is a dispiriting contrast to, as Yeats said, the worst, full of passionate intensity.

The first African-American president, who wrote in his memoir that he trained himself as a young man not to let his anger show in a suspicious white society, now faces anger on an unprecedented scale from a mostly white movement.

He seems weary of crisis management, conveying the attitude of the hero in “The Incredibles” who has to keep saving the world: “Sometimes I just want it to stay saved!”

The president seems put upon and impatient with reality while his foes seem happy to embrace fantasy.

Obama can connect with policy. He just can’t connect with the objects of policy. Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice.

He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed “bitter” during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them. That’s how Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his job, despite D.C.’s progress on schools and crime.

The insane have achieved political respectability while the sane act too good for it all. The irrational celebrate while the rational act bored and above-it-all.

When Rahm Emanuel leaves to go run for mayor in Chicago, all the blood will drain out of the White House. And Obama can go to Ben’s Chili Bowl for lunch every day and it won’t matter.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/opinion/19dowd.html?_r=1&hp

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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