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Matthew Wills Headshot

The 2010 Freak Show

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So who's your favorite crazy running for office this year?

Is it Rich Iott, running for Congress in Ohio, who likes to dress up as a Nazi? Iott has a hard-on for the SS, no less, specifically the Wiking Division, which waged genocidal war on the Eastern Front, and got into the role playing as a -- wait for it -- father-son bonding adventure.

Maybe it's anti-sex zealot Christine O'Donnell, running for Senate in Delaware? A reformed witch turned fundamentalist, O'Donnell recently expressed surprise, if not shock, that the U.S. Constitution includes a little something called the First Amendment. "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" O'Donnell incredulously asked her opponent when he noted that the separation of church and state was enshrined in that obscure document, and, oh, some two centuries of case law.

How about that Joe Miller, whose security goons recently assaulted and handcuffed a reporter in Alaska? The reporter was working a story about Miller's previous employment that Miller wanted buried, but eventually admitted to: he had in fact been disciplined for violating the position's ethics policy. Unsurprising, the security squad story thickened into mire quickly: Miller's rent-a-muscle company turns out to have been operating without a license, and is made up of active-duty soldiers who could and should be facing disciplinary action for their moonlighting. Well, at least they weren't illegal immigrants.

Could it be Rand Paul? Like some kind of monstrous tennis prodigy, Paul seems to have been programmed since childhood, when he was named after drug-addled libertarian cult leader Ayn Rand, to be in his father's image. The result of this ideological child abuse is hardly surprising: a creepy weirdness, way-out notions, and poisonous historical perspectives. Challenged on his wild youth, extremist views, and hypocrisies, Paul now claims to have "Jesus in his heart," which might be funny, except that it isn't.

In Nevada, meanwhile, long-time ultra rightist Sharron Angle knows better and stays away from mainstream media for fear that she'll be quoted. Lately, however, there have been some escapes from the tight lid of her crackpot: claims that she's sort of, kind of, maybe Asian-looking-like, and fearful of invasions from both Dearborn, MI, and a suspiciously Mexican-looking Canada, the dark continent to the north.

In my own state, New York, Carl Paladino has darkened the climate with threats to take a baseball bat to his enemies and threats to "take out" a New York Post reporter. Then his desperate family values lunge proved to be made of the usual flimflam: he pays off a second family on the side while claiming gay marriage is a threat to the blessed institution. But my favorite Paladino-ism remains his forwarding of racist and sexist e-mails to his buddies, because, well, he's in construction and dat's what dey do in dat sector, OK? One of Paladino's lesser threats is to tell new enemies that they are off his Christmas list, which, judging from the bestiality e-mails he forwarded, is probably a very good thing.

This is turning out to be one very scary Halloween. But it's no goof. It's the resurgence of the most reprehensible of reactionary traditions in America. There are many reasons to be angry today in America, not least for the utter corruption of the political system. But if you see this weird, paranoid, fundamentalist, bigoted crowd, funded by the most reactionary of corporate interests, as somehow doing something better for the nation, then you're either a fool or one of them.