I love it when a magazine with a decidedly conservative bent takes the American right to task for some of its idiotic tactics.
It is sad to report that the American right is in a mess: fratricidal, increasingly extreme on many issues and woefully short of ideas, let alone solutions.
At a time when redesigning the state is a priority around the world, the right’s dysfunctionality is especially unfortunate.
The Republicans at the moment are less a party than an ongoing civil war (with, from a centrist point of view, the wrong side usually winning). There is a dwindling band of moderate Republicans who understand that they have to work with the Democrats in the interests of America. There is the old intolerant, gun-toting, immigrant-bashing, mainly southern right which sees any form of co-operation as treachery, even blasphemy. And muddying the whole picture is the tea-party movement, a tax revolt whose activists (some clever, some dotty, all angry) seem to loathe Bush-era free-spending Republicans as much as they hate Democrats. Egged on by a hysterical blogosphere and the ravings of Fox News blowhards, the Republican Party has turned upon itself.
In 1994, propelled by Mr Gingrich’s small-government manifesto, the “Contract with America”, the Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in 40 years. As speaker, Mr Gingrich then launched an immediate guerrilla war against President Bill Clinton, culminating in a budget battle that led to a prolonged shutdown of the federal government. But the drama did not end as scripted. Most voters chose to blame the debacle on the Republicans rather than on the president. Mr Clinton was elected for a second term in 1996.
With the help of the tea-party movement, Republican politicians are once again embracing the most radical wing of the party. A new manifesto, the “Commitment to America”, is in the works. Republicans promise that the guerrilla war they have been waging against Mr Obama from opposition will merely intensify if the mid-terms produce a Republican Congress. Obamacare will be repealed—if necessary, says a Mr Gingrich unchastened by what happened last time round, by shutting off the money and engineering a crisis.
That could be a perilous strategy. By 2012 the economy may well be pepping up, and familiarity might make Obamacare, and indeed Mr Obama himself, look less frightening. Besides, although Americans say they hate big government, they are also quick to defend their “entitlements”. By the time they come to decide whether Mr Obama is to stay or go, they may prefer the president they know to the small-government radicalism today’s Republicans appear to have embraced.
If and when the tea-party radicals commit to renouncing all of their benefits provided by the government, including unemployment insurance, social security, Medicare, public education, access to public libraries, and any and all other social services (especially since none of the preceding are enumerated in the Constitution), then perhaps I’ll consider looking at them as having committed strongly-held beliefs.
Until then, I’m going to continue to think of the tea-baggers as hypocritical crackpots.