- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Senior Democrats are reluctantly concluding that it’s time to hit the panic button. They understand that it’s not a characteristic of a tsunami to make a U-turn, and the hour is growing late.

Cautious Republicans are rightly wary of “peaking too soon,” which haunts the dreams and wishes of every candidate and campaign consultant, but the tsunami seems to be still building, already capable of crushing everything in its path. You could get testimony to this from both Republicans and Democrats.

Suddenly it’s fashionable in certain skeptical precincts to start being nicer about the “tea party.” Colin Powell, the stalwart secretary of state for George W. Bush who endorsed Barack Obama in ‘08, took to television Sunday to remind Mr. Obama of the error of his ways, and everyone that he’s still a Republican. Jimmy Carter came down from the Democratic attic to say that he understands the gathering tsunami because he rode a similar wave to the White House in 1976.

A party in panic must try to avoid letting the opposition see it sweat, but the White House reaction to a story in the New York Times, headlined “Obama Advisers Weigh Ad Assault Against the GOP,” shows the Democrats suddenly dripping wet. Ladies neither sweat nor perspire, of course, but even Nancy Pelosi is aglow, knocking down speculation that she is beginning to think about retiring. The Times reported that the president’s advisers, “looking for ways to help Democrats alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a national advertising campaign that would cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.”

This is the message of desperation the president has been sending loud and clear from places all over the map for a fortnight, casting Republicans as purveyors of evil little short of mopery, stealing from widows and shutting down orphanages. But an all-out advertising campaign, with shrill television commercials and splashy Internet graphics, would only lift the tea party folk to greater prominence and confirm what everybody knows, that a day of harsh reckoning is at hand. The New York Times stood by its story (“the sourcing was solid”), but tweaked the headline slightly, as if to reassure Mr. Obama that telling tales out of school or not, the newspaper still loves him.

The tea party caravan moves on, continuing to leave frustrated packs of barking dogs in its wake. Accusations of racism, bigotry and other low crimes faded when nobody could offer evidence, only slurs and censures. Now new targets abound. Christine O’Donnell, never to be forgiven by the elites for upsetting an establishment favorite in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware, showed up in Washington and wowed an audience at the conservative Values Voter Conference. With new confidence and showing a little polish, she faced new accusations of what distraught establishment Republicans called her “nuttiness”: She dabbled in “witchcraft” when she was in high school. This follows earlier accusations that she once considered masturbation a sin the equal of abortion. “I was in my 20s and very excited and passionate about my newfound [Christian] faith,” she says, “but my faith has matured and when I get to Washington it will be the Constitution on which I base all of my decisions.”

Alas, the Constitution is often a dirty word, too, in the hysteria on the left. The shock! The shock of high-school hi-jinks will no doubt give way to even more shocking disclosures over the 42 days left until Nov. 2. There are rumors already afoot that she once made catty remarks about the homecoming queen’s hair when she and her high-school chums gathered to gossip in the ladies’ room.

The November tsunami approaching the shore was born not of trivialities but of the rage that millions of Americans, many of whom had put their faith in Mr. Obama’s campaign promises of hope and change, now feel. Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida, calls it “a referendum on national identity.”

Speaking to a tea party picnic in St. Augustine, which claims to be the oldest city in America, Mr. Rubio nailed it neatly. “This election,” he said, “is nothing less than a referendum on our identity as a nation and as a people, [a historic moment] when people were pushed to the brink.” He got his loudest cheers when he warned the “go-along to get-along Republicans” to beware of the wrath to come.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.