By Eric Soble
A picture is worth a thousand words, so a 30-second campaign ad should be worth at least 500. In the limited space The Bucknellian supplies me, I hope to take Christine O’Donnell’s infamous television advertisement and translate it into something educated Americans can understand.
O’Donnell begins with the pronouncement, “I am not a witch.” This opening is in response to a statement O’Donnell made on “Politically Incorrect” with Bill Maher. In this clip, O’Donnell explains that she “dabbled in witchcraft” when she was younger, culminating in a date on a “satanic altar.” It is odd that she would begin an ad in this way, suggesting that the ultimate thing on her mind is the restoration of her own reputation.
She then asserts, “I’m nothing you’ve heard.” This assumes two things: that I’ve previously been informed about O’Donnell, and that my informer was indubitably wrong. This clears up a lot of problems I had with O’Donnell. She must then: believe in the theory of evolution, treat homosexuality as a normal variation of human sexuality, understand the secularism of our constitution and realize the importance of comprehensive sexual education.
… oh, she doesn’t? Nevermind.
Next, O’Donnell puts forward an interesting argument by simply saying, “I’m you.” To the untrained ear, this kind of identity hex would only be possible if her previous denouncement of witchcraft were false. Instead, O’Donnell is alluding to an argument often made by conservatives “outside the beltway”—that she, as a candidate, is exactly like any other hard-working American.
This is the problem: I don’t want myself in public office. In fact, I know I would be terrible at politics. I don’t have the ego to think I could run this country; I can barely finish my 15-page international relations midterm.
Employing this underdog rhetoric has helped many politicians achieve widespread success. Americans tend to vote for candidates they could have a beer with instead of candidates who could be able to navigate complex negotiations in the Middle East. O’Donnell is just the latest of candidates appealing to populism to achieve electoral success.
O’Donnell levels several accusations against the “backroom deals” and “spending” in Washington. These are legitimate claims in our current political system. One cannot understand Washington without looking at nepotism and the vast web of interconnected success that permeates our capital.
It is telling that O’Donnell could only produce cliché, interchangeable themes for being such an outsider. Her advertisement does not put forth any substantial policy changes, nor does it advance any agenda of any kind.
But this doesn’t matter for her listeners, so long as she rallies against big government and taxes. As long as our current civic paradigm continues, tea partiers and conservatives alike have no reason to fight for a cause rather than against one.
One has to wonder how much longer Americans will buy the rhetoric advanced by O’Donnell and people like her. The faster we see the working class image politicians adopt to win elections as it is—a contrived veneer—the better.