Wrong to be Right – American Presidential Race is Full of Nuts
Not as abstract as the old question of ‘how long is a piece of string’, the demarcation of a centrist position on a political sliding scale should exist in practise even if its lack of complete rigidity sees some gentle ebb and flow. The French Revolution that was behind the forging of the left-right labels was a different beast to the modern democracies yet the reflection of the original definitions can still be made out in its current form. As the office of absolute monarchy was rendered obsolete or gradually de-clawed to a point of being little more than a figurehead as most visible in the ageing Queen, the left-right labels evolved together with the political landscape.
The middle or the centre can theoretically be deduced by working inwards from the peripherals, varying by nations but in general sticking to the old delineations. The classic example from 20th century polar ideologies was the red wave of communism and the viral surge of fascist states.
Take these concepts associated with ‘the right’: defined social hierarchies, traditionalism & resistance to change, strong nationalistic pride, importance of religion, and these days unrestrained laissez faire economic policies. Now hold the thought.
Being an Australian citizen and watching the US drawn-out Republican primaries is like having dysfunctional neighbours across the road who never disappoint in the ceaseless and ever more bizarre public shout-matches. You may grab the popcorn and watch the train wreck through your blinds always knowing that a quick shut of the windows will block the noise. But then the impact on the neighbour’s children from all the commotion (let’s call them the American citizens in our analogy) crosses your mind; so you get drawn back to the window hoping for a happy resolution.
When the rat-pack was full we had to endure candidates that should have been rejected from an application to a local grocer let alone be allowed to run for president. Take Rick Perry, who has been compared to George Bush on steroids. It wasn’t long before we saw him take up the banner of long disproven conspiracy theories i.e. questioning Presidents birth certificate, and being a fountain for anti-intellectualism i.e. little regard for scientific consensus and distrust of education, Perry also revels in the record executions his state conducts. Likely Perry’s horse quickly buckled from under him thanks to the increasing number of botched interviews and debates that revealed how under the Texans cowboy hat there was little more than greed and bigotry.
There was also (thankfully in the past) the only female candidate, Michelle Bachmann, who filled more than her share of crazy between the runners. The familiar proverb the eyes are a window to the soul, which generally means we can ascertain the intelligence, character and history of a person, returns a garbled noise from the gaze of the woman. Drinking from the same kool-aid as Perry, it seems she came back for a second serving. If subscribing to anti-vaccinations hysteria wasn’t enough, her call to boycott something as benign yet important as a national census was akin to a schizophrenic imagining that secret messages directed at them are enclosed within newspaper articles.
At the time of writing this in late March the front runner is Mitt Romney followed behind by Rick Santorum. The Republican choice is between an ultra-rich Romney far removed from needs of the people, who infamously equated corporations to people and the hyper-religious Santorum who’s unhealthy obsession with peoples private sex-lives , makes you wonder if he knows anything about actual topics a president should manage.
This is where we get back where we left off from. By any of the definitions I listed earlier it becomes clear that the American Republican party runners are moving themselves further and further right with each step redrawing the centre by taking the difference between them and the president. Just as the orator in Orwell’s 1984 novel changes the name of the enemy mid-sentence from ‘Eurasia’ to ‘Eastasia’, proclaiming that “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia” thus re-writing history, so too are the shifting positions of the gaggle with increasingly jingoistic and hate-mongering rhetoric, portraying their views as ‘restoring America’. Forgetting the past Presidents from their own party who’s positions don’t come close to anything that’s currently being espoused, they are nevertheless quick to depict the current President as the next reincarnation of Stalin. Take the quote from Perry before his downfall “I make a very proud statement and a fact that we have a president that’s a socialist”, partly directed at Obama’s attempt to turn the recession around (with bailouts that began in the Bush administration) but also at the unimaginable gall of the president creating a shadow of a healthcare system that the rest of the developed world already enjoys. Likewise doomsday scenarios can be heard from the remaining candidates – “”They devour you. They destroy you. They consume you.” the words of Santorum in comparing Obama to the mythical Greek Sirens who were said to destroy ships.
Most alarming is the rising repulsive aroma of nationalism and talk of superiority of America. The idea that talking to rogue nations is appeasement and admitting faults are signs of weakness and cowardness has become the accepted mantra. Once again Santorum delivers: “Watching President Obama apologize last week for America’s arrogance – before a French audience that owes its freedom to the sacrifices of Americans – helped convince me that he has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions”.
Them versus us mentality also rears its head in various forms, most distinctly between any other nation that doesn’t parallel ‘American values’, but you can also catch it with the detesting comments about immigration, non-English speaking people, minorities, people of differing religious views and even those who dare to hold an opinion that varies from the party platform. Michelle Bachmann couldn’t utter a more frightening example of this black/white mentality when she declared “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?”, harkening back to the McCarthyism of the 1950’s.
The relief should be temporary knowing that Bachmann has been culled from the race, as she still remains a member of the House of Representatives.
Norsefire, the ruling fascist party in the dystopian book/film ‘V for Vandetta’ regularly display their party motto ‘Strength Through Unity, Unity Through Faith’. One doesn’t have to try very hard to parody the authoritarian regime as Santorum is all too willing to step-up and mimic the rhetoric thought-up by the fictitious Leader, Adam Susan. “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society”, this nugget combined with his other loathsome statements against contraception and private consensual sex, has left outside observers who don’t subscribe to Santorums particular flavour of Catholicism scratching their heads wondering when the plug will be pulled on this Crusader.
Romney who I predict will receive the nomination, is the mildest contestant. Apart from his love of unbridled free markets and business tinged glasses his record appears to be tame. Too bad he is like pappus of a dandelion, drifting with the wind of public opinion.
Our European friends and Australians who take interest in those affairs should reflect on their own countries political parties and feel pleased that the anchors of the constituency doesn’t veer too far from the centre.
Next time the media features a squabble about detention centres, an outbursts of Kevin Rudd, or an out of place 1930’s view of women from Tony Abbott, be thankful for the little bumps the Australian public has to deal with, without chasing the runaway ship.