Sunday, May 01, 2011


Republican rightwingers Live in World of their own Make-believe

We tend to be a bit snootily unfair towards Americans this side of the Atlantic, suggesting that they are ill-informed and irrational.It might be the fact that 20% of them believe that aliens walk among us, disguised as humans, or that 55% believe a 'guardian angel' has helped protect them when in danger. But in my academic discipline, on the contrary, the USA boasts its most distinguished practitioners. As well as political science you'll find Americans dominating many other disciplines and scooping up a fair number of Nobel prizes every year. No, Americans are a clever nation; I now realise it's probably just the Republican right who are responsible for the stereotype we like to entertain.

The Guardian journalist Gary Younge, a few weeks back explored this phenomenon:

Polls suggest there are between one in three and one in four Americans who would believe anything. More than a third thought President George Bush did a good job during Hurricane Katrina; half of those thought he was excellent. Throughout most of 2008, as the economy careered into depression, just over one in four believed Bush was handling the economy well. As Bush prepared to leave office in January 2009, bequeathing bank bailouts, rampant unemployment, and Iraq and Afghanistan in tatters, a quarter of the country approved of his presidency.

Given this level of irrationality and misinformation, it's hardly surprising that they give respectful credence to Donald Trump, the absurd property developer and TV celebrity who makes Alan Sugar seem like Ludwig Wittgenstein. The basic plank of his apparent run for the presidency was that Obama was not born in Hawaii, and hence not a US citizen, despite much evidence that he had acquired the presidency on false pretences. It is rather shameful to Americans that Obama had to issue a copy of his full passport to finally scotch this malicious rumour. Like Ed Pilkington in the Guardian last week, one is put in mind of Jonathan Swift's observation that: 'You can't reason somebody out of something they were never reasoned into'.

Younge shrewdly observes, 'what you need to say and do to be credible within the Republican party essentially deprives you of credibility outside it.' It seems natural, that given this reality distorting lens Republicans have not been able to unearth an credible candidate to stand against Obama next year. The best they can come up with is Mitt Romney, and other losers from the last contest. Trump's candidacy, if that is what it is, has certainly added colour and energy to the party's deliberations, but should you ever just ever so slightly think Donald might be the boy for the White House, just consider his views on Libya, as reported by the Observer's US correspondent:

On Libya, Trump bluntly said the US should just take the country's oil, rather than assist rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi. "We don't know who the rebels are, we hear they come from Iran, we hear they're influenced by Iran or al-Qaida, and, frankly I would go in, I would take the oil — and stop this baby stuff," he told Fox News. It is a sentiment he has gone on to repeat several other times.

It should however be noted, in fairness, that McCain had to put up with equally peculiar claims that he was not an American citizen in 2007-8. These seemed to be based on the premise that he was born in a military barracks on the Panama Canal.

I think that this is less about nutty Republicans than nutty Americans. The only reason Obama's birth certificate is still an issue while McCain's isn't is because the Republicans are sore losers and can't quite believe they were beaten!
For one delicious moment I thought the picture accompanying this post was the original dyed-in-the-wool King of the Comb over fantasists, one Scargill A.

And would it be too much to expect you to expand your knowledge of American politics from that which is provided by the single of the Graun ?

Kind regards
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