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Republican primaries: Fooling some of the people

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Salafist (excuse me, "deeply Catholic") Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum appears back in the race for chief elephant after trouncing Mitt Romney in Minnesota and Colorado. But beware: Minnesotans are an unpredictable lot, with the only black Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, their own Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and of course 9/11 Truther and wrestler-governor Jesse Ventura (1999-2003).

But Santorum also won in Colorado (Romney won in 2008) and Missouri, riding a wave of distrust of Mitt's conservative credentials and showing Romney's one-percenter Achilles heel. Romney's win in Maine last week was Pyrrhic, as there were no delegates, and he just edged out maverick Ron Paul. Romney and Santorum have each won four states, while Newt Gingrich has won only a measly South Carolina.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator and favourite of evangelicals despite his papism, has hammered the former Massachusetts governor as being too moderate to satisfy conservative Republicans who distrust him on social issues such as abortion and gay rights which he has condoned in the past. Rick told CNN that the wealthy Mitt, a former venture capitalist, "had a great career in the private sector, but we're not running for CEO of the country. We're running for someone who can lead the country." Romney was not the best candidate to take on Obama, who is "oppressing and taking away our freedoms, our political freedoms".

Santorum smacks of populism, the little guy's candidate, thumbing his nose at the rich and (horror of horror) capitalism itself. Hey, which party is this guy in? Never fear. Santorum is just making noises. He intends to gut social security, is a fan of deregulation and torture, and a hawk on Iran: "Islamic fascism rooted in Iran is behind much of the world's conflict," and "effective action against Iran" would require America's fighting "for a strong Lebanon (what?), a strong Israel, and a strong Iraq". Mind you that was in 2006 and he was opposed to actually attacking Iran, so this newspeak may indicate ... nothing at all.

The bitter disillusionment of progressives in the past four years, under the absolute best the Democrats can come up with, once again confirms that there is no real difference anymore between the Republicrats. This is because left and right have been banished from the political dictionary, replaced by what has been called the "radical centre". This oxymoron has been explored in many (mind-numbing) treatises to describe the post-Soviet era political playing field.

This latest Great Game features a unipolar empire asserting its financial and military hegemony on a newly "flattened" playing field (as coined by Thomas Friedman to evoke the joys of globalisation). The empire's team captain is no longer a left wing or right wing, but an "extreme centre", a term which entered the US/UK political lexicon with Ross Perot's Reform Party in the 1990s. These extreme centrists claim to be drawing on the best of both sides in a "post-liberal, post-conservative, post-socialist world". UK Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wears the label proudly: "For the left, an obsession with the state. For the right, a worship of the market. But as liberals, we place our faith in people. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre."

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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games", "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" and "Canada (more...)

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