Christine O’Donnell and Inside the Beltway

Well, I’m off to DC this morning for a few days of meetings Inside the Beltway. And I actually enjoy going to DC immediately before the elections. Politics is a blood sport there — with a lot of jobs, money and egos on the line. And something tells me that the hitting and political bashing will be aggressive and severe — just like in the days before the NFL became a flag football league. Oops. I digress.

And I’m going to noodle over this for a while. “Why is there much ado about Christine O’Donnell?” That’s the title of an interesting article in USA Today by David Paul Kuhn. Here’s an excerpt:

Christine O’Donnell will lose big. She’s down about 18 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average. Her state has less than a million residents. Nothing about O’Donnell should be national news.

But O’Donnell is headline news. She’s everywhere. Mocked on Saturday Night Live. Analyzed by premiere columnists. Anderson Cooper is fact-checking her. Her name was mentioned roughly 900 times in the past week’s news, based on a Nexis search. That’s more than twice the mentions of Marco Rubio.

Think about that. Rubio is ahead by double digits in a three-man race. Like O’Donnell, he’s running for the Senate. Florida’s population is 18 times Delaware’s. Florida is a key swing state. And Rubio is future presidential material. But O’Donnell is far bigger news today.

Politics is becoming reality television. And O’Donnell is the star of the 2010 season. She’s the freakshow’s freak. Her celebrity is indicative of our time. She’s famous not because she’s relevant. She’s relevant because she’s famous. This is why her fame survives her long odds. She’s like a character on MTV’s Real World. Good drama. The media elevates her because she’s outlandish, silly and cute, as these things go in politics. Never mind her chances. She’s good television.

O’Donnell wins even if she loses. She’s been flirting with the spotlight since the 1990s. The social conservative starlet, as featured on MTV and HBO. She will leave this race more famous. And notorious. They’re synonymous today. Maybe, like Sarah Palin, she too will earn a reality television show.

Gee. Politics as reality TV. Hard to argue with that.

But here’s another reality — which may explain the attraction of O’Donnell and others. People in many parts of the country believe that the career politicians who head to DC — and then never leave even when they get bounced from office — are out of touch with reality.  And that the politicians and policy wonks are part of a new elite — not really touched by unemployment, housing debacles, bad schools and so on.

Charles Murray writes in The Washington Post, “The tea party warns of a New Elite. They’re right.” From the article:

The tea party appears to be of one mind on at least one thing: America has been taken over by a New Elite.

“On one side, we have the elites,” Fox News host Glenn Beck explained last month, “and the other side, we have the regular people.” The elites are “no longer in touch with what the country is really thinking,” Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle complained this summer. And when Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell recently began a campaign ad by saying, “I didn’t go to Yale,” she could be confident that her supporters would approve.

And more:

The bubble that encases the New Elite crosses ideological lines and includes far too many of the people who have influence, great or small, on the course of the nation. They are not defective in their patriotism or lacking a generous spirit toward their fellow citizens. They are merely isolated and ignorant. The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.

Ouch.

I’ll do my best not to burst any bubbles.

Just sayin.’

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