ZELINSKY: McMahon bodyslams Conn. GOP

On Point

Come November, Connecticut may have a Republican senator. And that prospect has me — a registered Republican — deeply troubled.

Surprisingly, the Senate race between Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy is close. Now, this isn’t McMahon’s first attempt for a Senate seat. She ran, and lost, against Richard Blumenthal in 2010. It is quite possible that McMahon’s defeat cost a qualified Republican, Ambassador Tom Foley, the governorship, as Republican voters deserted the party ticket and Foley lost by a handful of votes. McMahon may now beat Murphy, a conventional and uninspiring liberal.

In August, McMahon trounced her primary opponent, former Republican Congressman Chris Shays. She outspent him with her own fortune; McMahon ads blanketed radios and televisions. And Connecticut’s once-proud Republican Party apparatus got behind her because of Shays’ record of moderation and bipartisanship. Poor Chris Shays never had a chance.

So what’s the problem with McMahon?

Linda McMahon’s wealth comes from her company, World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE pits personas like “The Dudley Boyz” against “The Undertaker,” ostensibly to wrestle. What actually goes on? Well, in one fight, McMahon herself kicked a guy in the groin. Scantily-clad women are the norm. Other Connecticut pundits have termed WWE’s sexualized brutality “borderline pornography.” That’s a pretty tame description of some pretty bad stuff.

McMahon built a business that teaches young boys two lessons: Violence is okay, and women are objects for brutal sex. The moral seams of the American middle class are fraying for a number of reasons, from declining marriage rates to poor education. And McMahon’s WWE may simply be supplying folks with the entertainment they already want.

But that doesn’t make it any better. WWE is filth — pure and simple. It’s the stuff sensible mothers (social conservatives, feminists and just plain moms) forbid their sons from watching. Just because people watch it willingly doesn’t make it any better.

McMahon and her values do not belong in the United States Senate.

Now, her campaign has an interesting argument. Linda, they say, just handled operations. She never controlled creative content at WWE. She’s just an ordinary CEO. Never mind the fact that she once body-slammed another woman on video.

But, in the August primary, Republicans voters bought it, convincing themselves that McMahon is a job creator, and that’s what matters. They managed to ignore WWE and the message it promotes.

Bizarrely, bigwigs in the state GOP also got behind McMahon, nominating her at the state convention. The Connecticut party is weak and generally ineffectual, but Republican pols could have stopped McMahon. So why did they support her? Because she is an outsider, not a “lawyer or a career politician,” as one her ads so proudly claims.

With the Tea Party came a new mindset for many Republicans: Any current or former public official is suspect, until proven otherwise. And any compromise, any bipartisanship, any deviation from the party line is intolerable. Unfortunately, the thoughtful Chris Shays flunked on both counts, only voting with the Republicans about 80 percent of the time in Congress.

Here’s the ironic rub: On the issues, McMahon is actually fairly moderate, even to the left of Shays in some of her rhetoric. Tea Party Republicans were not getting a more conservative candidate when they nominated her. But they still wanted an outsider.

Some national Republicans warned about McMahon’s unsettling credentials. To their credit, Karl Rove and John McCain both weighed in for Chris Shays. But other conservative mandarins, who should have known better, were noticeably silent. National Review’s Rich Lowry took some well-justified swipes at McMahon in 2010, but the magazine has apparently made its peace with the Nutmeg State’s Hugh Hefner this time around. So has The Wall Street Journal. And the list goes on.

If Connecticut Republicans want to stand for values, they need to disown Linda McMahon.

Nathaniel Zelinsky is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at nathaniel.zelinsky@yale.edu.

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