O’Donnell would have Joined Hare Krishnas

Christine O’Donnell, candidate for senator in Delaware, was clearly a religious seeker in her youth. Bill Maher played a clip last night in which she admitted that she might well have joined the Hindu Krishna Consciousness Society (popularly known as ‘Hare Krishnas’ because of their distinctive chanting in public places), but was put off by their vegetarianism (‘I’m Italian, I like meat balls.)

Bill Maher also admitted to deliberately attempting to torpedo O’Donnell. His strategy is called in professional political circles the ‘Blue Hair’ gambit. A significant voting bloc among Republicans is elderly white women who put a high value on conventional morality. What Maher is doing is turning off the Blue Hairs to O’Donnell, and without them she likely loses. This strategy was also deployed by John Kerry in 2004, when he emphasized that the Cheneys have a gay daughter. That was an attempt to sink the Bush-Cheney ticket with the Blue Hairs. It was pretty low. Maher’s broadsides are more justifiable, since they are about O’Donnell’s own actions and choices.

But the Maher strategy is a little disturbing, as well, since that she was a religious seeker in her youth is not actually very relevant to her contemporary candidacy. O’Donnell’s story is a sad reminder that many religious seekers, who experiment with a number of traditions, are not actually so much open-minded as in search of a narrative about life that will give them certainty (the Society of Krishna Consciousness is as close as Hinduism gets to fundamentalism in its own right). Once O’Donnell settled on right wing Christianity, she became insufferable. And that is what should damn her politically– that she wants to impose her sectarian morality on all of us– not that she tried out other fundamentalisms when young.

Here is the clip:

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11 Responses

  1. What should damn her is that she sought fundamentalism (read literalism since Fundamentalists lack fundamental principles but have a surfeit of beliefs that deny logic) and continues to seek beliefs to solve problems rather than employing logic and humanity.

    What a shame it is today that people who value humanity (secular humanists) are despised by the crossy-nut cabal that values ritual cannibalism and instant gratification through instant salvation once they “believe on him,” whatever that means.

    A W. once observed, running a country is hard work. We need people willing to work for results rather than those who think Instant Karma will magically produce results, regardless of how it comes gift wrapped.

  2. Interestingly, she claimed she looked into Buddhism, for which i can find no analog that is fundamentalist (Zen?). And i suspect that if she dabbled in Krishna, she also tried TM. Paganism is perhaps as far off the mainstream she went; it would have been nice if she put time into Jainism for example. Her religious adventures are indicative of her shallowness, skimming through a comparative curriculum (as she did in college) really isn’t engaging in, or investing oneself in, any religion.

  3. I doubt it.
    First of all, the conservative/Republican “blue hairs” don’t watch Bill Maher and those who even know who he is despise him from his days on Politically Incorrect and his movie Religulous. They’ll rally around O’Donnell with cries of “the liberal media is out to destroy her!!” – just as they did with Palin.

    As for Kerry – pointing-out that the VP of an anti-gay administration has a gay daughter is hardly an attempt to “sink the ticket”

  4. Maher is an athiest. He views anyone who is “in” a religion with a mix of sympathy and contempt, the way many view a drunk passed out in an alley.

    He probably thinks of someone seeking to find a faith as a person actively trying to go insane.

    In this he is at odds with the vast majority of his fellow human beings.

  5. In an ideal world you might be right, but this is about defeating an insane movement by pointing out its illogic, which sound like fair game to me. Hiding in the dark corners of the right-wing mind is the nostalgia for a past America of monoculturalism and monoethnicity, where parents would sacrifice for the future because their kids were guaranteed to grow up as their clones and thus validate their values. O’Donnell’s life is a dissonant reminder that this just doesn’t happen anymore.

    While a certain faction of the Christian Right loves converts and captured seekers like O’Donnell as proof of the supremacy of their cult in the cultural marketplace, I bet the rest don’t really want these tokens to govern. They’ll jump up and down to cheer on an ex-Moslem convert as a spokesman, but would they ever let him head the denomination? Black conservatives played much the same role in right-wing ideology, but look at how poorly Michael Steele is treated now that he’s running the RNC instead of generating soundbite insulation against charges of GOP racism. Since 2008 you hardly see Bush-era black spokestokens in the media, because the Tea Party doesn’t trust them. They probably won’t vote for a Mormon or a Jew either. Reformed WASP drunks like G. W. Bush, another matter.

  6. I’m no psychologist, but when I see those old clips of O’Donnell I see someone trying to convince me that she’s oh-so-hip-and-open-minded while still banking on her attractiveness to help win the day. Nothing epitomizes this more than the “I might have joined the Hare Krishnas but I liked meatballs too much!” ridiculousness. I remember seeing her on those shows, and she always seemed to be trying just a bit too hard to make me forget about her extremist rightwing message.
    “Pay no attention to my radical beliefs – look how cute and adorable I am!”

  7. I don’t know if that was a Blue Hair attempt by the Kerry campaign. I believed they were just trying to show the hypocrisy of Cheney and GOP “family values.” It was telling that the Cheneys did not appear with their famly at the convention, and it was obvious why: questions about what he thought about his lesbian daughter. BTW, I worked on the Kerry campaign in Virginia–if you could call it that. No effort and no organization. They even wanted to charge me four dollars for one Kerry sign. I refused, and you saw the results.

  8. It’s not that she shallowly tried out various fundamentalisms that condemns her so much in my eyes, it’s the determined (and successful) effort to get her face on the TV screen, no matter what she had to say, no matter what she had to do. That is the true religion of this mish-mosh culture of America in the early 21st Century: an arguably hot babe on the tube. For her to continue to get the calls from Bill Maher’s people in the late 90’s was the Holy Grail for her, the piece of the true cross, the personal blessing from the Pope.

    American television is most certainly about making the people stupider, so that corporations can manipulate them more easily. Pert, glib dumb blondes are an essential tool in the corporate toolbox for this purpose. People think that they are choosing shows to watch on TV; but at the top of the broadcaster’s food chain, they understand very well that they are offering “traps” or “lures” to catch YOU, to hypnotize you into not turning the channel, so that you can be packaged up and sold to advertisers.

    Until Americans get smart enough to turn off the idiot box, and/or demand much more intelligent offerings, it’s hard to see any good endings for our children and grandchildren.

  9. John Kerry mentioned that the Cheney’s daughter was gay and immediately added that they undoubtedly loved her as much as the parents hetrosexual children love those children. To me, Kerry was saying that good parents love and accept their children. To impute “the alienate the blue-hairs” motive onto Kerry’s remarks seems quite unfair.

    Dick Cheney got angry, claiming that Kerry had said that his daughter was gay, in other words, that Kerry had made a true statement, but in so doing, claiming that Kerry had crossed some line.

    My perceptions are informed by having two homosexual siblings. To me, the gist of Kerry’s comments that the Cheney’s loved their daughter no less than other parents love their children, that they were accepting of her, because they loved her. This ought to be the kind of thoughtful idea capable of bringing people of different political persuasions together in agreement, when the issue is not one of “some gays out there” but one of “some gays that are right here, that I know, that I love.”

    Meanwhile, a cottage industry arose to denigrate and question John Kerry’s military service to his country. These vicious lies resounded across an echo chamber that ultimately reverberated across the mainstream print and TV media was indeed an attempt to sink the Kerry-Edward ticket; an attempt that succeeded remarkably well.

    I, for one, chose to put the most charitable construction on what Kerry said. It was an honest truth, and it spoke to deeper honest truths. The kind of things politicians are not generally noted for doing.

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