The Strange Sexual Obsessions Driving the Tea Party Movement
Tea Party advocates and rightwing media pundits were gleeful in the aftermath of this week’s primary election results. They were buoyed by their candidates’ strong showings throughout the country against the Republican establishment, particularly in Delaware and New York. The November election will determine whether the Tea Party will take control of the Republican Party and pull the Congress even further to the reactionary right.
Amidst all the victory hoopla, stories about the questionable sexual- and race-related attitudes and behavior of two of the Tea Party’s principal proponents, Delaware’s senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell and New York’s gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, have garnered as much notoriety as their often-questionable policy pronouncements.
Delaware candidate O'Donnell proposed in a 1996 MTV program and again in a 1998 article, “The Case for Chastity,” that masturbation is sinful and that looking at pornography is equivalent to adultery. She proudly declared:
When a married person uses pornography, or is unfaithful, it compromises not just his (or her) purity, but also compromises the spouse's purity. As a church, we need to teach a higher standard than abstinence. We need to preach a righteous lifestyle.
She has apparently not revised or repudiated her position in the intervening years.
The New York gubernatorial candidate Paladino has come under increasing media scrutiny for a growing number of apparent indiscretions. They include revelations about his collection of Internet porn which he gladly shares with his construction-industry “buddies” and racially-provocative e-mails depicting Pres. Obama as an African tribesman or a ‘70s-era pimp (with his wife, Michelle, depicted as a “ho”). More troubling are revelations about his extra-marital affair with an employee and the “love child” he fathered.
What is most striking about these incidents is not the specific actions, but the fact that Tea Party proponents have shrugged off these embarrassments as inconsequential in assessing their candidates for public office. With an almost, aw-shucks attitude, the Tea Party right sees the values and actions of their candidates like the conduct of ordinary folk, their next-door neighbors.
In fairness, a candidate’s private actions, to the extent that they are not criminal (e.g., pedophilia, rape) or inflict real suffering on another (e.g., physical and psychological abuse), shouldn’t be the principal factor in evaluating the candidate’s competency to govern.
Over the last few years, Republicans like Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign and Gov. Mark Sanford have been outed for their sexual indiscretions with little political fall-out. These conservative Republicans have adhered to a liberal moral standard and have gone on with their political careers with only a little mud on their respective faces, suffering no real price to pay. Yet, as was evident with the revelations about president candidate John Edward and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, when comparable revelations of sexual indiscretions about Democratic came out, those involved were forced from the political playing field. Such is the nature of the moral double-standard that defines American politics.
Hidden at the root of the Tea Party movement are the issues of sex and race, especially interracial sex and the resulting “pollution” of the white “stock.” The movement has sought to keep conventional “culture wars” issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research at an arms-length’s-distance from its organizing efforts. Knowing full well that the majority of Americans reject conservative Christian values, the Tea Party has campaigned on fighting personal taxes, the federal debt and the “tyranny” of Washington.
Nevertheless, the Tea Party’s appeal to traditional Christian values, its unstated secret agenda, was publicly exposed by the O'Donnell and Paladino revelations. At the heart of this unstated agenda are white Christian America’s deep-seated fears of sex, race and interracial "pollution."