By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
Dear Wolfgang and Jacqueline:
Always nice to hear from you and to get your queries about politics in the U.S. of A.
To make it easier, I'll copy-and-paste your five inquiries in italics, with my responses below that. My answers will be in the way of informed speculations, since many of us progressive Americans can't believe what we're seeing either. It's like we're caught in a Republican-created whirlpool of crazy: spinning around and around with no way the raging flow can be turned off in time to save the country -- or our battered minds.
Here we go:
1. A MAD VIDEO GAME
So what the f--- is going on? American politics is always a bit weird, but these days it seems even more bi-polar and demented. It's more like a mad video game, points being given for especially ruthless, ignorant, and violent denunciations directed at your perceived opponents. No wonder so many of your citizens stay home on election day. What's the American saying?: "Why should I vote? It only encourages them."
Indeed, the extreme right-wing of the GOP is dedicated to its Manichean, no-compromise ideology, one that could push the country's economy and social structures off a cliff. These HardRightists have gone so far the off the reasonable radar that more and more traditional, stalwart conservatives are coming to realize the likely electoral consequences in 2012: a second term for Obama, and a broken GOP and an intra-party civil war.
Among that growing Republican cohort worried about the ramifications of the party's intransigent positions: conservative NYTimes columnist David Brooks, Governor Hayley Barbour of Mississippi, conservative Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, mostly conservative Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, even HardRight leader Karl Rove, et al. (Rove agrees with the positions taken by the extremist GOP leaders but more important than that, he wants to return the Republicans to power in the White House in 2012 and behaving like tantrum-prone children, he suggests, ain't gonna make it).
2. RISKING A 2nd GREAT DEPRESSION?
We don't understand why the Republicans are risking your country's vaunted credit-rating. Do they really not understand the horrific ramifications of what they're doing, how their approach could lead to a worldwide Great Depression?
Of course they understand it. They (and their corporate masters) simply don't care. Their more important -- and only -- goal is to defeat Obama in 2012. Therefore, he must be denied any possible victory. If Obama were to introduce a bill saying that the sun rises in the east and sets in the West, the extremist GOP would work to defeat it, claiming it's a liberal plot to propagandize the citizenry and that Obama is the "SocialistNaziMuslimStalinistAnti-Christ."
In some ways, the Tea Partiers/extremist-Republicans seem to be afflicted with a kind of Tourette's Syndrome. When they hear the word "Obama" they begin twitching and jerking and saying dirty things. If they were to see him coming down the street carrying a legislative idea they originated, they would immediately disown their proposal, make a 180-degree turn and begin flinging clods of mud at him over their shoulders.
You're right: Anything can be said in the U.S. these days by noted public figures, no matter how crazy. Nearly 80 young Labour Party campers get slaughtered by a rightwing fanatic in Norway, and American rightwing pundit Glenn Beck compares those kids to "Hitler Youth," suggesting they got what they deserved since they were liberals.
No doubt much of this nonsensical, rabble-rousing behavior will subside in America at some point -- perhaps if the Republicans are badly defeated in the 2012 election -- but, as you well know, every country in times of great stress seems to go through periods of mass derangement, and afterwards reasonable leaders re-emerge and socially responsible democracy takes root once again. Right now, America is going through its loony, anti-democratic phase. In all likelihood, you Europeans will have to deal with your own outbursts of crazy in the near-future -- the anti-foreigner, anti-Muslim Norway tragedy may be just the tip of the iceberg: politicians and parties who agree with those sentiments are being elected to various countries' legislatures across Europe, from England to France to Denmark and beyond.
3. THE CLOWN SHOW