Democrats Have a Duty to Mock Tea Partiers

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"The literary critic turned law professor Stanley Fish," writes Mark Schmitt at The American Prospect, recently "invoked Greek mythology to predict that, if liberals treat the views of Tea Party candidates with 'scorn and derision,' voter backlash against our 'snobbery' will bring us 'President Palin.'"

Schmitt begs to differ: Democrats, he argues, have something approaching a civic duty to scorn true extremists.

It's true that no serious candidate for office--even one put on the ballot with the support of just 5 percent of a state's voters, as O'Donnell was--should be dismissed or treated with "derision," since he or she is on the doorstep of a position of serious power. And of course people's personal religious views should always be treated with respect. However, it would be a profound mistake for Democrats and liberals to hold back from showing voters just how extreme and out of touch the views of these candidates really are.

The problem isn't that Democrats are mocking Christine O'Donnell, Schmitt says. It's that for some reason, "it has seemed more acceptable to mock O'Donnell's long-ago flirtation with witchcraft ... than her later incarnation as the founder of a chastity-advocacy group, the Saviour's Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT)." In other words, the left is wary of calling out right-wingers for being right-wingers. That's dangerous, he argues, because "one problem is that Tea Party extremism is so far out and obscure that it doesn't immediately register as extremism." He points to the Tea Party talking point of repealing the 17th Amendment. It's time, he concludes, for liberals, and Democrats fighting for seats this election, in particular, to fearlessly call Tea Partiers "wacky extremists" No need to dismiss them. But, in his view, it's time to call a spade a spade.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.