Eeeeeek! A human-mouse hybrid!

Can we mobilize Christine O’Donnell’s fear of science as a wedge issue?

The Tea Party movement has largely downplayed most of the Christian Right social agenda. That was a wise tactical decision. Anti-gay prejudice is running out of steam, and the Terri Schiavo affair and the stem-cell debate demonstrated that lots of people who like “small gummint” when that means “not taking my money to give to people who don’t look like me” also don’t want the government to get in the way of relieving suffering, no matter what the preachers think.

Sarah Palin is no fool. She’s a creationist and a politician, but she’s not a creationist politician. She’s solid enough with the fundamentalists not to have to waste her political capital saying things that appeal to them but freak out the soccer moms.

But the mini-Palin running in Delaware isn’t nearly as clever. Christine O’Donnell, back when she was between campaigns and pursuing her full-time career as a wingnut talking head, told Bill O’Reilly:

American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.

That’s nonsense, of course, not only about the present but about the future. A mouse brain weighs about 2% of what an adult human brain weighs; there’s no way a mouse body could support a “fully functioning human brain.”

(To be fair to O’Donnell, perhaps she has a different idea than you and I have – not wrong, mind you, merely different – about how “fully functioning human brains” operate.  That would explain a lot.)

Forget the Delaware contest, which now seems well in hand. There’s a bigger objective here. Pinning Palin to O’Donnell, and all Republican candidates to Palin, and doing it on stem cells and the whole Republican anti-science agenda, mobilizes an important piece of the Democratic coalition and de-mobilizes the educated swing voters who have been drifting back to the Republicans since 2008.

Even though Judge Lambeth’s anti-stem-cell-research ruling is on hold pending appeal, it provides the occasion for the Democratic leadership to force stem-cell votes before Congress goes home. That would be a terrible opportunity to waste.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

9 thoughts on “Eeeeeek! A human-mouse hybrid!”

  1. To be fair, social analogue to the observer problem might be her excuse – if your brain functions on the level of a rodent's, how are you going to judge?

  2. Eeeeek indeed! Erbitux (cetuximab) is a mouse-human hybrid monoclonal antibody which is being given to patients with advanced colorectal cancer and with head and neck cancer! This is happening right now!! In America!!! With Obamacare!!!!!! We must get Sen. O’Donnell to put a stop to this the minute she is elected!!!!!!!!

  3. From Mark's lips to God's ears.

    But I don't think he is right. "Educated swing voters" is not quite a null set, but doesn't have much in it. It basically means wealthy people who usually vote their pocketbook (R), but are afraid of being deemed ni kultiyurni (again, R) by their peers. Their watchword: "I'm not a conservative; I'm a libertarian."

    In 2006 and 2008, they didn't think that the Rs were all that much better for their pocketbook, so their weaker cultural preferences could kick in. But Obama has engaged in some antibank rhetoric (if not action.) Worse yet, he has pretty much promised them that he will raise their taxes, and this promise is near and credible. Even though the Republicans' Elmer Gantry side is increasingly obvious, they'll swallow their class biases, and vote their pocketbook.

  4. There was a discussion on NPR this morning between two Tea Partiers, one of whom wanted to keep the focus on taxes and spending, while the other (from the Family Research Council) wanted it to incorporate “social issues.” The latter conceded that this would cause the Tea Party to lose the libertarians, but thought that that would be a small loss in exchange for the gain to be realized from making the Tea Party an arm of the religious right.

    This may or may not make a big difference in election results. There are many libertine libertarians who want lower taxes in order to have more after-tax disposable income, so that they can go off and commit fornication with the Whore of Babylon. I suspect that Joe S. is correct, and that they will vote what they think to be their pocketbooks, not caring whether their liberties will later be curtailed by the religious types. They may be making a sound bet, that the social conservatives will be as ineffectual in the next 30 years as they have been in the last 30.

  5. As long as the scientists marry the mice before copulating, and there are no gay or self-pleasuring mice or doctors involved, what's the problem?

  6. Ed Whitney: it depends on which social issues you're talking about — lots of soi-disant libertarians are perfectly comfortable with restrictions on things other people might want or need to do.

  7. Gay marriage has lost every time it was put to a vote, even in blue states like California & Maine. Libertarians are small irrelevant minority. The smart thing for the Tea Partiers to do would be to adopt a populist stance, saying those coastal elitists need to drop their freakery and that the middle class should pay less taxes and receive more services. Work children somewhere into the message, everyone loves children. Bang on immigration, it's the issue with the widest discrepancy in opinion between the general public and D.C. Crime is a great issue to demagogue, but unfortunately it is down and not as salient as it once was. The silver lining is that public perceptions of crime haven't fallen nearly as much as our data on actual crime.

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