Spooky election campaigns jump-start Halloween this year. Christine O'Donnell, a Tea Party Republican running for a Senate seat from Delaware, is looking for a metered space to park her broomstick. "That's the kind of candidate Delaware hasn't had since 1694," cracked a player on "Saturday Night Live," as a skeleton in the background plays the piano with boney fingers.
Rich Iott, a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio, also backed by the Tea Party movement, decks himself out in a Wehrmacht uniform for a re-enactment of a World War II battle and takes incoming fire for becoming the figure he impersonates. What does that say about actors who portray Nazis in Hollywood movies, or children who dress up as monsters when they go trick or treating?
The Tea Party movement, according to columnist Richard Cohen, is leaderless and amorphous, which has Barack Obama "swinging wildly, punching at ghosts." But Obama's got lots of company in the netherworld of contemporary politics, where ghosts are driving Richard and the conjurers crazy.
A small coven met with Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time," and you might have confused them with the witches in "Macbeth," stirring the boiling cauldron with fillet of fenny snake, wool of bat, tongue of (Blue) dog and eye of newt (but not that Newt). Rob Reiner, Hollywood director/activist and deep thinker, formerly known as Meathead, stirs the pot by suggesting that all the Tea Party needs to complete its legions is a leader like Hitler, since the Tea Party, like the Nazi Party, wants a fuehrer.
"My fear is that the Tea Party gets a charismatic leader," says Mr. Meathead. "Because all they're selling is fear and anger. And that's all Hitler sold." He compares the United States circa 2010 to Germany circa 1934. "They were having bad economic times -- just as we are now -- people were out of work, they needed jobs and a guy came along and rallied the troops." To rapturous applause, he decried the Tea Party as "selling stupidity and ignorance."
Such condescension and paranoia -- and attacking the voters Democrats need to survive a tsunami -- is contagious on the Left Coast, where the elite meet to eat and greet at learned academic conferences. The University of California's Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements at Berkeley recently called together left-wing scholars, political commentators and think tankers to decipher the "truth" about the Tea Party movement and to find an original thesis for a book or doctoral dissertation. They're going to have a hard time accomplishing their goal if the abstracts describing their research are an indication of their current attempts to think.