2012-02-04 "Republican candidates veer into extremism" by Haroon Siddiqui
You run for the leadership of the Conservative party from the right and the leadership of the Liberal party from the left but you try and govern from the middle. In America, the same axiom applied to the Republican and Democratic parties. But no longer.
In Washington, poisonous partisanship has left no middle with which to strike governing compromises. This is frightening because the American system, unlike a parliamentary democracy, is designed to function mostly on give and take between the executive and legislative branches. Absent that and you get gridlock.
Barack Obama heads a government that no longer governs, especially on domestic issues. His most decisive, and successful, moves have been on foreign policy where he has more manoeuvring room — the pullout from Iraq, the beginnings of a pullout from Afghanistan, the killing of Osama bin Laden, support for the Arab Spring, etc. But on the issue that matters most to voters, the economy, he has been stymied.
You may say that Washington was always hyperpartisan. In 1995-96, didn’t Newt Gingrich, then House speaker, shut down government rather than deal with Bill Clinton? Yes. But he did go on to work with the president on a series of economic and social reforms. That’s unimaginable today.
Whereas private money always influenced American politics, it never did to the extent it does now. The Supreme Court’s infamous 2010 decision against limits on corporate electoral funding has let rich individuals and corporations hijack the electoral process.
Gingrich gets $10 million from a pro-Israeli Los Vegas billionaire who liked his false assertion that Palestinians are “an invented people.” With the donation, he resurrected his candidacy in North Carolina and won.
Candidates say what donors want to hear. Sometimes they say bizarre things to attract donors. They do so not because they are dumb. They are performing for their paymasters.
Gingrich rails against “gay and secular fascism” or, alternatively, the “secular, liberal, socialist machine.” Both pose “as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.”
He, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry don’t like Muslims, either. Sharia is around the corner, as was communism in the 1950s.
Santorum says young Muslims should be profiled — “absolutely.” America should dread all Muslims, not make the same mistake as Europe, which “is on the way to losing.” How so? “Islamic Europeans” (sic) have a higher birth rate than “westernized Europeans.”
“There is an existential threat out there. It is a threat that has challenged western civilization for 1,300 years. . . . In its most virulent form, it is back.”
To Perry, four Marines urinating on the bodies of three Taliban was just fine. “The idea that the administration would go after these young people for a criminal act is over the top.”
All candidates are for Israel all the time. Perry: “There should be no space between the U.S. and Israel, period.” Santorum: “All the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis.”
All candidates think Iran is the gravest threat to humanity. It should be bombed, its nuclear program subjected to more covert sabotage and its scientists assassinated.
Turkey, which has dared challenge some Israeli policies, is led by “Islamic terrorists,” Perry says. Its membership in NATO should be reassessed. (A strong western ally, Turkey responded curtly that it joined the alliance in 1952 “when Perry was 2 years old.”
Herman Cain couldn’t care less for foreign affairs. “Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.”
As conservative commentator David Brooks says: “The Republican party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has (become) more of a psychological protest than a practical governing alternative.”
This year’s presidential and congressional elections will cost $6 billion. That’s not coffee and doughnut money. Most is going into promoting corporate and other interests, and in deceitful propaganda to demonize opponents.
In this cacophony, voters can’t quite keep track of the truth, let alone discern inconsistencies. Mitt Romney, who pioneered Obama-like health care in Massachusetts, is against the president’s plan. Gingrich who was for curbing carbon emissions is now against it.
In this field of bomb throwers, Romney is deemed a moderate. Yet he wants to recriminalize abortion, outlaw same-sex marriage, “double Guantanamo,” authorize torture, nearly outlaw tax increases and axe financial regulation.
Take all of the above and think which of those trends are creeping into Canada under Stephen Harper.