Quick, name five things you know about Christine O'Donnell, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Delaware. If you are anything like me, this is what came to mind.
1. She is not a witch, though she is the first politician in memory who has felt it necessary to refute the charge.
2. She is not big on masturbation.
3. She is not big on paying her taxes, her bills, or her employees.
4. She is the darling of the Tea Party.
5. She is great television with her attractive appearance, kooky ideas, and countless appearances on shows where she talks openly about numbers one and two on this list.
Now, name five things you know about Elaine Marshall, the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate from North Carolina. This is what I knew without the help of Google.
1. She is the North Carolina Secretary of State.
2. She beat King Richard Petty when she won the office the first time.
3. She comes across as a regular person who is serious about her job.
4. She is not a witch.
Okay, so I could not come up with five things I know about Elaine Marshall and had to play the "witch card" just to get to four. This is not good. And my concern is not what this says about Elaine Marshall the candidate, but what it says about the world in which we hold elections these days.
Let's face it; there is little reason for me to know anything about Christine O'Donnell. She is a candidate in a state most people can't find on a map who appears to have little chance of being elected. After the votes are counted, O'Donnell will likely fade from view. Yet, in an election year where the stakes are incredibly high, she is the person who has gained the most attention.
Why? Because we are no longer a serious nation when it comes to fixing our problems. We would rather watch politicians who do and say the bizarre, or stake out the most extreme positions imaginable, than listen to rational people talk about policy solutions. After all, who can focus on the economic crisis when there is witchcraft and masturbation to talk about?
Elaine Marshall has little chance of getting much press under these circumstances. She is an adult in a political culture that has turned childish before our eyes. How can we hear what she has done to enact lobbying reform in our state, or prosecute those who take advantage of the elderly (yes, I finally Googled her), when we can gawk at mental adolescents willing to do or say anything for attention?
It would be tempting to blame the mainstream media for turning politics into nothing more than reality television. Yet, those in charge of the 24-hour cable news business are only serving up what we demand: entertainment. Our addiction to watching the weird and titillating among us means we know far more about the politician who has been in a sex scandal than the politician trying to pass financial regulatory reform.
The tragedy is that we need people like Elaine Marshall to be running for office right now. And I don't mean that in a partisan sense. We need Republicans and Democrats to elect mature leaders who are willing to sit down with the opposition and hammer out solutions. In a country increasingly divided on everything from gay rights, to immigration policy, to how we should respond to religious extremists trying to attack us, we cannot afford to elect the most petulant personalities to do this critical work. It is time to put the adults back in charge of our country.
As a pastoral counselor it is not difficult to tell which individuals who seek my services are going to make progress. They are the ones who are serious about overcoming the obstacles in their lives. They are willing to own their mistakes, but more than that, are unwilling to let the drama created by others distract them from moving ahead. Their focus and determination are the key ingredients in their healing.
As a nation let us regain our focus and determination in addressing what ails us as a people. If we demand it of ourselves, and our leaders, the healing can begin.
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