The Social Conservative Dog Whistle

When the Democrats and their like-minded brethren in the new and old media encountered a Republican that credibly challenged a Democrat for Senate in Massachusetts, they quickly promoted a story that Scott Brown was a pornography star. He did, after all, appear in a beefcake spread for Cosmopolitan magazine when he was a 22-year-old college student. After the news came out, one of my social conservative friends expressed disgust with the Republican Party and vowed not to support the party based on the salacious headlines until I soothed him with some context. Based solely on biased and sensational information provided by media whose interests and loyalties do not coincide with his, my friend would have not voted for Scott Brown.

Another year brings another election and another conservative candidate facing off against a Democrat in an eastern state and professionals in the journalism-industrial complex put the special social conservative dog whistle to their lips and blow. Christine O’Donnell, the longshot Tea Party candidate for the Senate from Delaware, admitted on television in 1999 that she participated in witchcraft when she was a child. According to the hopes of his likeminded televisia, the social conservatives will hear this sound and begin barking.

The damning video clip comes from an appearance on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher in 1999, wherein O’Donnell claimed to have dabbled in witchcraft, to have hung out with people like that, and to have unwittingly eaten at a Satanic altar. The enthusiastic claim itself presented within the widely circulated clip seems geared to broaden the depth of her experience and to excite the audience. The clip itself does not provide the context of what the panel discussed when she made the claims, but the context might damage the Pavlovian call to disapproval.

Other attempts to portray Ms. O’Donnell as a SINNER! include alleging that, as a young person, Ms. O’Donnell drank alcohol and had premarital sex. Undoubtedly, rumors await creation that she also listened to heavy metal music, played Dungeons and Dragons, wrote poetry lamenting how she was not understood, and/or dressed like a vampire for a costume party. The very things that Democrats look for in a life partner somehow transubstantiate into disqualifiers when they find them in Republican youth. Especially the youth of dangerous Republican political opponents.

Ms. O’Donnell spoke at a Republican picnic this weekend and explained her dalliance with witchcraft took place when she was in high school. Her other pronouncements portray her as solidly Christian. So Christian, in fact, that other gotcha clips portray Ms. Donnell as a particularly strident Christian, but those revelations were meant to incite the less godly, not the more godly. The out-of-context witchcraft quote, though, is designed to control social conservatives and keep them from supporting this candidate with votes, money, and passion.

In the past, this tactic might have proven effective. As the last election cycles have proven, though, staying at home on election day to protest flaws in a candidate closer to your views tacitly works to help elect people whose views oppose yours, often expansively and expensively. These days, though, a concern for smaller government needs to trump other differences to get the country back onto a track that’s not federally funded, underused, but cool-to-the-leaders light rail.

Most importantly, I hope my friend recognizes the greater interest that he shares with fiscal conservatives and limited-government conservatives, regardless of their diverse religious views. The Republican Party should have enough room for the Christians and the pagans to sit together at the table, to quote Dar Williams. When the left comes up with attention-grabbing ways to cast aspersions on conservative candidates, we all need to seek the context and, frankly, the historical nature of the aspersions to determine if they reflect reality or just another trial by ordeal portion of a witch hunt, where the candidate who loses at the polls is innocent and any that survives is still guilty.

(Yeah, I know it’s not timely, but this started out as a real op-ed piece, but I’m so slow when I write them that they’re too old by the time I’m done. Although I don’t bother to send these to the papers, I have no trouble filling a WordPress database with them.)