Once upon a time, the mere whiff of scandal would be enough to prevent voters from supporting a particular political candidate.
Of course, that was before Donald Trump’s success in his first presidential run — occurring despite a litany of obvious moral failings ranging from lustful adultery to greed, narcissism, and just about every one of the seven deadly sins — blew up the standard political playbook and led the morally marginalized to decide that they too had a chance at a lucrative career in the Republican Party.
Now, no matter what soiled linen may be languishing on the floor of their locked closets of dirty secrets, candidates apparently feel immune enough from shame to launch their campaigns for higher office with little risk that their pasts will disqualify them from office.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell is about to put that audacious theory to the test.
Parnell, a former infantry captain endorsed by Donald Trump as his preferred GOP candidate to replace the retiring Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), is facing some accusations that in earlier times would have inspired a potential candidate to drop out of any race that they were considering.
According to an account in The Philadelphia Enquirer, Parnell’s estranged wife, Laurie, “testified under oath Monday that he choked her until she bit him to escape, that he hit their children and verbally lashed out at her with obscenities.”
The tearful spouse of the GOP contender detailed a horrific story of abuse at her husband’s hands, relating how Sean Parnell pinned her to the floor while calling his wife a “whore” and a “piece of sh#t”.
She told the tale of a Thanksgiving holiday trip that turned into a raging nightmare after Parnell forced her out of their vehicle on the side of a highway and screamed at her to “go get an abortion,” a surprising revelation about a supposedly “pro-life” candidate whose website swears that he “will always vote to protect the unborn.”
Laurie Parnell also told of the time her husband “slapped one of their children hard enough to leave fingerprint-shaped welts through the back of the child’s T-shirt,” the Enquirer reports.
It is not the sort of story that is likely to help Sean Parnell as he battles with his estranged wife for the custody of their three school-age children.
Laurie Parnell’s tales of her spouse’s intense rage and abuse towards her, experienced over the course of many years of their marriage, stem from what she believes is the post-traumatic stress syndrome that the veteran acquired during his days as decorated Army platoon leader in Afghanistan.
“It just got worse and worse,” the allegedly abused wife said of her husband’s anger and domestic violence issues.
“He tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him” to escape, she claims. “He was strangling me.”
“We we’re all walking on eggshells,” Laurie said of her time at home with her psychologically-disabled husband. “The minute he walked back into the house we were petrified.”
While she has been able to twice obtain temporary protective orders against her husband, no such option will be available to Pennsylvania voters should Sean Parnell win his primary and go on to win the general election.
For those of us who stick with the apparently now-quaint belief that the character of a politician still matters, news of the alleged behavior of Trump’s candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate race would be disqualifying not just for Parnell himself, but for any party that chose to nominate him.
In these Bizarro World times, however, we can’t even be assured that what some of us see as gross character flaws won’t be perceived as a marketing advantage at the highest levels of the Republican Party.
Original reporting by Jonathan Tamari at The Philadelphia Enquirer.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.