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Leaving Las Vegas

After two nights of watching debates featuring candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, I know why I haven’t been able to write about the midterm elections. It’s hard to believe this is not a dream. At any moment, I think, I’ll wake up, and realize that the past few weeks have been one Alaska-sized nightmare.

But, as Harry Reid would confirm, what’s happened tonight in Las Vegas is real alright as real as the mud on Michele Bachmann’s pumps.

One comes away with a couple things from listening to Reid debate Angle:

The word “Obamacare” has caught on like wildfire in a mostly dry campsite, and is now a shibboleth, mantra, and one of Palin’s nonsensical neologisms that are as weightless as a slipper in outer space.

After all, what is “Obamacare” but a new arrangement of the same health reform song sung by former Massachusetts governor Mitt, the CEO cheerleader, Romney. In almost every important respect, what Palin, and now Sharron Angle, like to dub “Obamacare” is virtually identical to its predecessor, the New England Commonwealth’s health reform bill which is now jokingly referred to as “Romneycare” everywhere but in, you guessed it, Vegas and Alaska.

Notably, as you remember, Mitt Romney’s health reform bill called for a government mandate for citizens to carry health insurance, like car insurance, or face a penalty just like “Obamacare” does. Its detractors have also blamed Romneycare for statewide job losses, and hurting small business. In fact, according to an article in Politico, Romney, everyone’s favorite Republican 2012 presidential contender is already being urged to distance himself from the Obama administration’s health care reform so as not to damage any possible bid.

From now on, when you hear a Republican talk about “Obamacare,” think “Romneycare,” as that is what it essentially is.

None of this seems to phase candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul, or Sharron Angle.

Secondly, and importantly, thanks to the mainstream media’s fascination with nouveau populist causes, as well as anything that boosts anemic readership, many voters now think of Palin, Bachmann, O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Sharron Angle as tea partiers, not Republicans. To think of these politicians as anything other than the logical, if nightmarish, extension of the Republican revolutionaries of 1994 is to deny the obvious. What is called the tea party is merely recycled conservatism.

So, we interrupt this article to bring you the following breaking news:

Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann, and Rand Paul are as true to the Republican Party platform as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush before them. They are card carrying right wing nuts. Don’t let their two-bit populism fool you. They’re populists all the way to the bank. They care as much about the working man and woman in this country as the folks at AIG, Citibank, Enron, and Goldman Sachs do. When they speak about the free market and deregulation, they’re not practicing witchcraft, they’re bringing you Reaganomics in drag.

The same Reagonomics that broke the air traffic controllers union now wants to break social security, Medicare, under the pretext of reducing the budget. Palin et. al are fighting hard to keep the upper 1% of the population precisely where it is, and has been for the past thirty years. Preserving the tax cuts of George W. Bush means preserving the status quo. Angle, O’Donnell et. al mean change you can believe in because you’ve already been there, half a century ago.

The scare tactics they use about increasing the deficit, and the risk of another terrorist attack are real, but the target isn’t. They are every thinking man and woman’s cause for fear. The prospect of a Palin, Angle, Bachmann, or O’Donnell in Congress, or lord forbid, the White House should scare the wits out of any reasonable person.

From Sharron Angle’s proclamation, during her debate with Harry Reid tonight, that if we allow the Bush tax cuts to expire we do so at our peril to Christine O’Donnell telling her Democratic opponent Coon that she supports reversing Roe v. Wade and letting the states decide whether or not abortion should be legal to Michele Bachmann defending the rights of what used to be called fetuses, but which Bachmann now insists are the “pre-born,” what we hear is the battle cry of the underprepared and overcoached. Who are the coaches? The same guys who sold arms to the Contras in exchange for release of hostages. The lawbreakers. The saboteurs. The ones who like you to think they’re keeping you safe while robbing your safe.

Michele Bachmann takes the choice debate one step further by saying she would work to grant the “pre-born” equal protection under the 14th Amendment. One can only scratch one’s head when hearing that a candidate who aims to protect the “pre-born” simultaneously voted “no” on enforcing anti-gay hate crimes.

Bachmann’s stance on gun control is equally emphatic. She wants to ban gun registration and trigger lock law.

And, while Angle wants to repeal the Department of Education, Rand Paul wants to abolish the U.S. Department of Energy. In his latest debate, Rand Paul also wants to repeal health care legislation.

During her debate with Harry Reid tonight, Sharron Angle made it clear that she still wants to privatize social security, though she now calls it “personalizing,” using the proverbial party line that social security is verging on bankruptcy.

That Christine O’Donnell was unable to name one Supreme Court justice she admires during her live debate with her Democratic opponent is especially scary given that she can see the White House from her front lawn.

When Rand Paul said he wouldn’t have voted for the Civil Rights Act, all he needed was a confederate flag in the background and a couple of guys in white hoods to make the moment more authentic.

As for Sharron Angle, it’s hard to take anyone seriously who dismisses their mistake of $25 billion, and $2.5 billion, but guess what… this is serious, this is mega serious, and no, Martha, this is not a bad dream.

This is the radical right wing fringe of the Republican party, the same virulent wing nuts who brought you Oliver North, Newt Gingrich, and Dan Quayle, on steroids.

Some might say we need to vet our candidates more, but the same vet who gave Sarah Palin her pedigree has worked on the campaigns of Bachmann et. al.

These four candidates, and their less conspicuous peers, like Scott Brown who recently won a Senate seat, and the Republican now running to be New York’s next governor, have one common denominator: they’re scary as hell.

Perhaps the maxim should instead be: “Those who are not old enough to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

If you, too, have never been one to rush to the polls during a midterm election, then you’d better be prepared to live with the consequences for a long time to come.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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