The Benefits of Being a White Ridiculous Candidate

Tea Party-movement-backed Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell today released a campaign ad in which she tells Delaware voters directly, “I’m not a witch.” I’m no advertising expert, but it seems to me that if you’ve got to remind people that you’re not a witch, your problems are bigger than a 30-second spot can handle.

Besides refuting her time spent in witchery—“But not in a coven!” she asserts—O’Donnell has fessed up to decrying abortion as “adultery,” proclaiming that we should cut funding to AIDS research, implying that she has classified information about China's plans for world domination and saying that she’s not sure she would lie to Nazis to protect a Jew. Also spotty is O’Donnell’s education record, which she appears to have fudged twice—charges she denies.


Whatever you think of her religious beliefs, it seems pretty obvious that O’Donnell is unfit for major elected office. So unfit, in fact, that I can’t help comparing her with this year’s other most famous amateurish candidate: Alvin Greene.

Running in South Carolina, Greene surprised everyone back in June when he won the Democratic Senate primary and the opportunity to take on incumbent Jim DeMint. Like O’Donnell, Greene had no experience in office, a controversial back story and a propensity for saying crazy things in public. Unlike O’Donnell, however, the political machine abandoned him almost as soon as he won. The DSCC refused to put any money into his campaign, and South Carolina Democratic officials asked him to drop out of the race. Some people even accused Greene of cheating. Watching O’Donnell’s meteoric rise to fame, I’m left wondering how she’s become a major talking point on cable news a month before the election, while Greene was almost literally laughed into hiding.


Despite some initial reticence, the National Republican Senatorial Committee donated $42,000 to O’Donnell’s campaign, with Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the organization, saying he personally, “strongly stand[s] by … Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.” It may not surprise you that de facto Tea Party leader Sarah Palin endorsed the ultra-Christian O’Donnell, but so has the powerful NRA and Greene’s opponent, DeMint. What’s more, all the media hype and GOP establishment support has made O’Donnell a household name, almost guaranteeing her a spot in politics regardless of how she fares on Election Day.

I’d be remiss to leave out the fact that, despite having earned a number of powerful supporters, polling suggests that O’Donnell is going to lose handily next month. And most Delaware voters don’t consider her qualified for office. But the point is that she was given a fair shot at winning, a shot that Greene—her political equal—never had.

Is it because O’Donnell is white? Is it because, unlike Greene, she didn’t have obscenity charges pending when she started her run? Is it because the modern GOP is more willing to tolerate borderline insanity than modern Democrats? I don’t know, and I don’t think we ever can. But I don’t like a climate in which news anchors ask unqualified black candidates if they’re “mentally sound,” as CNN’s Don Lemon did to Greene, while giving similarly unhinged white candidates a pass.

As far as we know, Alvin Greene never even prayed over a bloody altar while on a first date.


--Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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