ON ELECTION NIGHT last week, I was tasked with blogging from conservative Portland radio host Victoria Taft's Tea Party meet-up in Clackamas. There were some unexpected highlights—a senior citizen blogger clad in denim formal wear, for example—but near the end of the night, I stumbled into conversation with a candidate who quickly overshadowed the rest of the election.
David Hedrick is not only a failed Tea Party candidate for Washington State's third congressional district (which covers Vancouver to Olympia), he's also a self-published children's author hawking his picture book, The Liberal Clause: Socialism on a Sleigh, for $20. I immediately bought a copy and shook Hedrick's hand.
The Liberal Clause is worth reading as a political artifact of this year's vicious election—it's Nazi-grade propaganda pushed by a group obsessed with calling its rivals Nazis. The charmingly illustrated book is a laundry list of key Tea Party stances stripped of political rhetoric and reduced to their simplest fuel: fear and anger. It's an ink-and-paper testament to Tea Party candidates' views of our current political landscape as a battle between good and evil. It belongs in the Smithsonian. Or at least in the Portland Mercury.
The Liberal Clause opens in Camas, Washington, where children have the special responsibility of electing elves to the Great Elf Council. This year, however, the ballots go missing until Elf Peloosi (Hedrick slightly alters everyone's name in the book. Hilarious!) suspiciously finds a box of 'em in a union warehouse. From there it's the fast track to replacing Santa Claus with a "skinny imposter" named Liberal Claus who reads from teleprompters instead of "speaking from the heart" and glares silently "with pure evil in his eyes" when an elf asks if he was even born in the North Pole.
Hedrick's characters tick off the ways liberals want to ruin Christmas, from renaming Christmas trees "Holiday trees" to Liberal Claus' wife, "Lichelle," mandating that snowmen, which had always had "large, jolly center sections," must now be impossibly skinny.
Also, a jackbooted elf shows up at the toy factory and "by order of mein Liberal Claus" forces all the elves to join an eeeeeevil union.
As a kids' book, Liberal Clause is intolerably long and dry. But as a text unintentionally highlighting the unstable mix of blue-collar populism and laissez-faire capitalism that coexist in Tea Party dogma, it's perfect. When it comes to Liberal Claus' birthplace or the global warming debate, "common sense" wins out over those elitist experts who think they know better than the everyelf. On the other hand, programs like welfare and food stamps are candy canes that the public can't be trusted to have too much of because they'll gorge themselves like animals.
In the end of the book, a plucky little girl named Madelynn finds out via Ox News that Christmas is in danger. She rallies the children to save the "Christmastution," and unplugs Liberal Claus' teleprompter, leaving him speechless.
In real life, the Tea Party isn't going to be rewriting the Constitution any time soon. And Hedrick lost the Republican primary nomination to mainstream conservative Jaime Herrera (who then went on to victory last week). Hedrick is also battling charges that he beat his wife. So much for landing on Santa's "nice" list.