The New Adventures of The Old Christine

CREW is calling for a criminal investigation into her use of campaign funds, so it looks like Christine O’Donnell will have a lot of explaining to do.

But last night I interviewed a high school classmate of hers, a 37-year-old immigration attorney in Texas named Laurel Scott who gave me a new perspective on O’Donnell’s candidacy — or “Chris,” as she called her

“We both came from large families. My older sister was friends with her, her little sister was in my class. The person I knew in high school was a wonderful, wonderful person. She’s a sweet person. Even though I don’t agree with what she stands for politically, I have to say that,” she said.

She said O’Donnell’s family was “very liberal, I’m surprised she’s gone over to the Tea Party. Moorestown a town of progressive Republicans, very feminist. You were expected to excel in math, for instance.”

But, as she points out, “It was a very wealthy town, and she was not from a wealthy family. I know there were situations where that was uncomfortable for her.”

She also knew Christine because they both hung out with the “very liberal” theater crowd. “The whole witchcraft thing has been blown out of proportion. If she did anything, all she did was dabble. She wasn’t into anything dark or illegal, very open, very honest very sincere – and I’m a Democrat,” she reminded me.

“I always found her to be very inclusive, she didn’t shut anybody out. She may have dabbled, but she may have done it and then just stopped. I think in your late teens, early twenties, it’s healthy to try things,” Scott added.

“I disagree with her [positions], but I think her personality would be very refreshing in politics. She’s not a millionaire like most of the people in Congress, she doesn’t come from money,” she said. (Well, I can’t argue with the idea that it would be refreshing to have someone in politics who relates to being poor.)

“She was not the smartest,” Scott said. “Not unintelligent, but it wasn’t one of the attributes you’d ascribe to her. But she had some very strong leadership qualities.”

So here’s what I’m thinking: Due to the many economic hurdles presented by the elite Democratic classes, it’s almost impossible for working-class activists to move up to the policy and strategy ranks. The only realistic route for lower-class people with leadership qualities are via conservative Republican politics.

And the Republicans do walk the talk. Their organizations have numerous programs to develop leadership qualities among the bottom ranks, programs where people don’t have to worry about having the money to pay for it. The difference, I think, is that Republican donors are willing to subsidize that kind of long-term strategy — and most Democrats aren’t. Democrats seem to think you can only be a leader if you’re a lawyer, a member of the military, or a college professor.

So whenever some attractive new populist face comes along, it’s almost inevitably a Republican — and that’s a problem. What are we going to do about it?

4 thoughts on “The New Adventures of The Old Christine

  1. Love the title of the post. I, too, have been wondering when the Democrats will be serious about this. We’ve seen so many minorities who were actively recruited by Republicans. I predict it’s just a matter of time before we hear of a new upcoming openly gay Republican star (once they figure out how to work that angle). I don’t know why Dem funders don’t think about this kind of stuff. Do they really just take all of us for granted?

  2. I live in southwest Ohio — Mean Jean’s district — so I know this area well. I just read (I think on TBogg’s site) that John Boehner grew up in Reading, which is a nearby, very working class, older and somewhat rundown city (actually, just drove through it this afternoon, on a shortcut I often take). Boehner seems to be the outlier in his family, most of the rest of them are still in Reading and several of them are currently umemployed.

    I list all this by way of saying, I wouldn’t assume that just because someone grew up working class or poor, once they’re elected they’ll relate to being poor. But I’m not following the O’Donnell story all that closely, so maybe she’s the exception.

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