Matthew Norman: Christine O'Donnell is one helluva scary witch

The would-be senator's strictures on honesty make George Washington look like the love-child of Tony Blair and Walter Mitty

Related Topics

Apologies for retreading ground so clumpingly trodden last week, but a swift return to Christine O'Donnell of the Tea Party Express seems less a temptation than a moral imperative. Previously on this page, as they almost introduce the second half of US TV drama two-parters (and what a US TV drama we see unfolding here), I speculated about the remote possibility of Christine winning the Republican senatorial primary in Delaware, and what this might say about the current state of mainstream American politics.

At the time, a little was already known about the 41-year-old Palin lookalike (vaguely), endorsed by Alaska's Cretine D'Evil on her Twitter account. The unemployed Christine was known to owe some $11,000 in unpaid taxes from happier days when she wasn't, for example, at least according to the IRS; and also to have defaulted on a mortgage.

If you thought such bold defiances of candidate convention would deter fiscally hyper-conservative voters from picking her to fight the November election for Joe Biden's old Senate seat, what were you thinking? Ms O'Donnell duly whupped her centrist Republican rival, of course, and what has emerged about her since... well, it's here that the notion of thought feels like a betrayal of the senses. Sometimes, as with Harry Hill, great comedy is a visceral delight that defies intellectual analysis. This, if ever there was one, is such a time.

Fittingly enough, it fell to a fine comic to expose what for now count as Ms O'Donnell's most engaging flourishes. On HBO's Real Time, Bill Maher dug deep into the archival ground of his old show, Politically Incorrect, on which she used to appear as a pundit, and found gold in them thar clips. "I dabbled in witchcraft," she confided to him in 1999, adding that, although she never formally joined a coven, "I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up... One of my first dates... We went to a movie and then had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar."

If that were the high point of Ms O'Donnell's challenge to conventional wisdom about what American churchgoers seek in elected officials, it wouldn't be so bad. It wouldn't be so good, because the last thing anyone relying on the Christian right's votes would want is an entry in the online reference resource Wickenpedia. Even so, if Christine passed the odd witching hour with Brad or Chad, or even Damian, eating cheeseburgers and drinking Dr Pepper while getting her bobbysox splattered with blood of freshly slaughtered goat, hey, don't all college kids do crazy things? I mean, jeez, it's not like she's a Muslim, right? At least Christine didn't get herself birthed in Africa, like someone we could mention, before devilishly overcoming the limitations of colic to plant fake birth announcements in Hawaian newspapers from the crib of her Mombasa hut.

Things become a little more alarming as we reach her strictures on honesty. She may once have been a white witch (a white anything will do, you suspect, for the Tea Party), but she cannot tell a white lie. Indeed she makes George Washington look like the love child of Mr Tony Blair and Walter Mitty, and for this discovery we must thank another comedian – this time, hurrah, one of our own. As a fellow guest on Politically Incorrect, during a 1996 debate about whether it can ever be permissible to tell a falsehood, Eddie Izzard asked Christine what she'd have done if a Nazi had come to her Dutch home to enquire if she was hiding any Jews.

You may recall history's finest heckle, when a Broadway theatre-goer staggered by Pia Zadora's lead performance in The Diary of Anne Frank greeted the arrival of Nazi stormtroopers on stage by yelling "She's in the attic!" That heckler, judging by the reply she offered Izzard, might have been Christine. "I believe if I were in that situation, God would provide a way to do the right thing," she said. "You never have to practise deception. God always provides a way out." In that specific instance, presumably, via Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

Ms O'Donnell, who though regarding Aids as divine retribution is a fierce foe of masturbation, cancelled all her scheduled Sabbath day telly appearances (even one, God have mercy, on Fox News) after Maher had opened his book of revelations. And no wonder. Tea Party candidates take an admirably stern line with what Palin so drolly calls the "lamestream media". As Sharron Angle, Senate majority leader Harry Reid's opponent in Nevada, put it when bravely interviewed on Fox: "We need to have the press be our friend... We want them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

I want never gets, nanny used to say, and yet again, it seems the old bat was right. The oddity, or rather one among so many oddities in the captivating madhouse that is lamestream US politics, is this: those raising all the vexing questions about the lunatics hoping to take over the asylum are almost exclusively comedians. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's devastating Palin pastiches on Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, Bill Maher on HBO... while the citadel of the American right is being stormed by the deranged (and to think Colin Powell thought those nice, sane neo-cons "fucking crazies"), the defence of the centre-left is in the hands of the jokers.

Even by post-Vietnam standards, this is one doozy of a culture clash. In November, when the cuckoo-bananas candidates go to the polls, we will get a better idea of whether the satirists' pens are mightier than the Tea Partiers' swords; or in Christine's case, her spells. For now, with Maher promising more clips, it's an absolute riot. But doubling up alongside the mirth is the fear that the laughter will soon fade, and that nothing but toil and trouble lie ahead.

The forces of fascism, however thick and bonkers and risible they may seem, are approaching. When they knock on electors' doors in six weeks' time, will independent voters laugh them out of town? Or will they do as Christine would have done in Holland long ago by welcoming them within?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard

London’s foreign money bubble is bursting – but will we be better off?

Chris Blackhurst
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash