In 1987, Italian voters elected a foreign porn star to parliament. Anna Ilona "Cicciolina" Staller received 20,000 votes, the second highest number for a Radical Party candidate. Only party leader Marco Pannella got more votes. Cicciolina campaigned on a platform that included the right to sex in prison, decriminalization of drugs, and opposition to all forms of violence, (though you were free to slap her on the rump if you liked). Considering the history of Italian politics, Cicciolina's election was probably a step forward.
Americans have yet to elect a porn star to Congress, but they may get their chance soon. Adult film starlet Stormy Daniels has formed a 2010 Senate Exploratory Committee to determine whether she should run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican David Vitter. And while her proposed run may be just a publicity stunt -- not unlike porn star Mary Carey's run for California governor in 2004 -- the surprisingly well-spoken Daniels has been no bimbo on her so-called "listening tour." In fact, her pre-campaign spiel, delivered in a confident, if slightly breathless tone, sounds like it came right out of an Obama script: bring home the troops. Revise the income tax system. Stop child porn. She demurs when asked about Vitter's transgressions, knowing that her mere presence says enough.
Some conservatives have not hesitated to ride to Vitter's defense. Many are willing to overlook the junior senator's blatant hypocrisy in lauding family values while cheating on his wife with high-priced hookers secured by the infamous D.C. Madam Deborah Palfrey. (Palfrey, you may remember, hanged herself a year ago, after her conviction for various prostitution-related offenses.) Many of these same supporters earlier closed their eyes when Vitter dropped out of the 2002 governor's race after a newspaper accused him of fornicating with at least one New Orleans' call girl.
The adultery, lies and whoremongering aside, Vitter has solid conservative credentials. He is pro-life, pro-gun rights and opposed to gambling, same-sex marriage, funding for abortion providers, the United Nations, and amnesty for illegal aliens. Vitter is also the first Republican U.S. Senator from Louisiana since Reconstruction, so do not expect the Republican Party to go out of its way to draft a candidate for a primary challenge.
In fact, Vitter has raised his national profile in recent months, becoming a leading critic of Obama's bailout plans. Ms. Daniel's entrance on the scene and the attendant publicity will likely cause Vitter to go underground again. Going underground, however, will not mothball Vitter's fundraising machine, which has already raised $2.5 million. (He needed $7 million to win the seat back in 2004.) Ultimately, pundits argue, any real opposition will come in the GOP primaries, perhaps from Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who is considering a challenge. "I'm continuing to get a lot of encouragement from a lot of people," Dardenne told the newspaper Roll Call recently. "I have not decided to run, nor have I ruled out the possibility that I may run." But other high-profile would-be challengers, like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and former Rep. John Cooksey, have already pulled their names from the ring.
Traditional Protestantism, of course, teaches that man is a weak, imperfect, sinful creature, and that includes married U.S. senators with degrees from Oxford and Harvard who pays whores to dress them up in diapers. Despite its French heritage, Louisiana is overwhelmingly Protestant (60 percent), and as long as Vitter is repentant he is likely good to go for another term.
Still it is not out of the question that Vitter may face a challenge from Ms. Daniels. Since Minnesotans elected a professional wrestler govenor all bets have been off when it comes to novelty candidates. Besides, we are talking about Louisiana. Louisianans had no problem with three-term governor Earl "Last of the red hot poppas" Long despite his affair with the stripper Blaze Starr. And morals and mores have loosened quite a bit since the late 1950s. So has America's attitude toward porn stars.
It used to be an article of faith that there was nothing more pitiful than a porn star. Suicide rates were notoriously high among female adult stars. These were women who were, as the saying went, already dead on the inside. The outside could be painted up, enlarged, lifted, medicated, drugged, but the inside was a ruin that could not be salvaged. I am not so sure that is still the case. Today amateur Internet porn "stars" must number in the millions, if not billions. The sad fact is you probably know someone who has made an amateur porn video, and not just for his or her personal use, but has posted it online for all the world to see. Porn does not neccearily diminish one in a lot of people's eyes, at least no more than adultry, lying, whoremongering, or racketeering.
Back in the 1980s P.J. O'Rourke wrote A Parliament of Whores, which detailed how politicians have been prostituting themselves in Washington for centuries. Perhaps it is time to give the real professionals a chance.