Just when you thought "I am not a witch" would be the one catchphrase that would last long after the mid-term elections are over the political world was introduced to another one earlier this week that seems echos across party lines. "Rent is Too Damn High!" Not only does the statement seem to be true in the majority of renters minds, it is also the political party of one, Jimmy McMillan. An eccentric former Vietnam War veteran who suspects his exposure to Agent Orange requires him to wear tight black gloves.
It is not exactly sure how many people are a part of McMillan's political coalition, but he was able to registered in New York state as a political party and thus found himself on the same stage with Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo and his Republican challenger Carl Palidino along with four others who were just as obscure as McMillan during the first gubernatorial debate. When it came to fixing the growing deficits, the problems with schools even social issues such as gay marriage McMillan stole the show with catchy responses like "The Rent is Too Damn High Party says if you want to marry a shoe, I'll marry you." By the end of the night even the likely new governor of New York, if you believe his 30 percent lead in the polls, Andrew Cuomo was won over by McMillan's argument and had to admit, "Jimmy's right, rent is too damn high!."
Whether it was a political circus or just one more example of the extraordinary leap the country has made from sanity to irrational political theater is still to be decided. The final analysis will come on Election Night.
But what the New York Governor's debate did illustrate was that 2006 was a long, long time ago.
Remember 2006, when politicians, which said offensive things were immediately denounced by their peers and voters. George Allen is the quintessential example of this rational thought process. During one of his campaign rallies for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat in Virginia he referred to an Indian immigrant working for his opponent as "Macaca."
Most of us never heard of the word, but through research and media reports it was discovered the word is an offensive terms defined as a racial slur. In 2006, saying as Allen did, "...Macaca over there." ended his career with a self-inflicted wound. He lost the election by 10,000 votes.
Four years later, candidates are not only saying a whole lot worse, but emailing and actually wearing much worst and still are viable candidates for their respective offices.
Under the umbrella of limiting government and decrying the idea of political forces treading on individual rights we have seen example after example of extreme moves being publically exposed without retribution. Candidates calling Asian-American Energy Secretary Chu, "Chow-Mein" are not vilified but applauded. A candidate telling a group of latino students that some of them look asian and even calling herself asian does nothing to derail her chances. One more wears Nazi uniforms on the weekends for reenactments of favorable German won battles during WWII. Another candidate for higher office compares homosexuality to alcoholism and yet another calls the Civil Rights Amendment that enforced the equal protection laws of the Constitution bad policy still leads in polls in his pursuit for a Senate Seat.
Many thought the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American to hold the office of President of the United States would usher in what they hoped was a "post-racial" world. Where Americans would see individuality and content of character more than they saw color of skin. If Obama's supporters thought polical change would come easy, those who though post-racial would become a reality were even more naive.
In fact, because we have elected an African-American to the U.S. Presidency, it seems the racial atmosphere has gotten worst -- at least in the political arena.
In the political arena its okay to paint the President, who happens to be black, as an African witch doctor. In the political arena, its okay to forward emails that show the President as a Pimp and the first lady as a "street worker" and still win a major political nomination. In the political arena, it is okay for the Virginia Republican Chairman to email around a joke in which he says his dog was initially denied welfare but then he reminded the administrator that, "his dog is black, lazy, unemployed, doesn't speak English or know who his daddy is." This is not only politics at its worst -- it is people at their worst -- playing on people's fears and hatred for one another purely for political gain.
Looking at the free of rebuke, without consequence rants voters seemingly are allowing candidates a pass on, it has to feel like 2006 was a lot more than just four years in history.
Perhaps when all the votes are counted, reality will prove presumption wrong. The extremes of this country will give way to the overwhelming moderate mainstream of this country. The view that labeling the President a pimp, the view that comparing black people to dogs, and that the Civil Rights Act was historic not unconstitutional will prevail. Afterall in many of those political races the polls seem to suggest a tightening, that the extremists are losing support rather than their opponent gaining.
But no matter what happens on Election night, I for one can't wait to recall the mid-term election of 2010 and sigh with relief saying, that was a long time ago.
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