2012 was a year marked not by soaring philosophical rhetoric and political oration that will become the grist of history’s mill. Far more, it was marred and mutilated by emotive dystopia in the bastions of power.
The election campaign mounted by the Republican contenders was notable only for the lack even of mediocrity in its ranks. The quality of candidates could easily have been outranked by the regional debate team from any one of the states.
That one of the only two political parties in the United States, on its face the greatest democracy in history was represented by a group of men so derelict in intellect, so impaired in rational discourse as to make the nation an international joke, a tragicomic burlesque whose only purpose was farce.
The group ranged from Hermann Cain the ex-CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a man who surprisingly has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Despite his scholastic accomplishments, a more parodic caricature I cannot imagine. For someone with a degree to be unaware of where Libya is, or to mock a question about Uzbekistan, and yet want the Presidency demonstrates just how low the Republican brand has fallen. Whether he was there as the sole representative of people of African descent,, as an ironic figure, or for some other hidden purpose, it was difficult to determine.
The most moderate of the group, Jon Huntsman, a sensible centrist, was never in the running. If anyone of the Republican field could have beaten Obama, he was the one. As it was, his Republican Party no longer exists except in the nostalgic rear-view of the old party faithful. At no point, despite the continual change in leadership position, was he ever in the running.
The group was memorable for its long slide to the right, with each candidate attempting to show himself, or in the case of Michelle Bachmann, herself, as more conservative than the next. Bachmann’s wild-eyed fanaticism and incoherence ought to have disqualified her from any public office other than psychiatric ward inmate. Perhaps I am a little harsh. She was, after all, indoctrinated by the political voyeurism that passes for conservative debate.z
Rick Perry was vaguely reminiscent of the high school quarterback that was immensely popular while he was competing against college players, but entirely out of his depth even in a field of political ineptitude. It is astounding that he was governor of Texas, but considering the state of politics in that state, perhaps not unbelievable.
Newt Gingrich is supposedly the Republican Party’s intellectual luminary, the ideas man. Yet some of his ideas were either worthy of any genius, or so far from being rooted in reality as to be dismissed out of hand. His promise of a moon colony was worthy of Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov, but irrelevant to the pressing problems right here on Earth.
Rick Santorum exemplified the religious extremists that hold sway over much of the conservative electorate. His views on abortion, birth control are so far from the center of the nation as to be a fringe element in American society. A nation under his control would not be a pleasant place to live. His stance on social issues harken back not to the nineteenth century, but rather the Middle Ages.
Mitt Romney, the putative Presidential candidate was the parties compromise choice, a man who appeared incapable of placing himself in any political milieu. He chased all the candidates to the right-wing fringe, flirting with a regimented despotism in which each candidate must obey the party line, and march in lock step along the edge of the absolutist precipice.
It is only by the grace of a somewhat informed electorate that we managed to avoid the ominous economic and social catastrophe that would have marked a Romney Presidency.
The election of Barack Obama for a second term allowed the nation, and most of the world, save perhaps Pakistan, to breathe a little easier, for markets to stabilise somewhat with the realisation that there was some semblance of sanity in Washington for a little while longer.
Liberals were allowed very little breathing space. For much of the Presidents first term Republicans held him and the nation to ransom, doing little legislative work, preferring instead to obstruct any agenda the President might have had. Every piece of legislation, and there were few enough of those, appeared mired in the bog of implacable peurility, the only ambition of this comatose Congress to impede any progress at all.
The perilous advance on the debt ceiling in 2011 by Republicans threatened to derail a fragile, albeit recovering economy in which they demanded spending cuts to essential social programs. Support of Congress plummeted along with the stock market, decimating the savings and pensions of many. This self-inflicted trauma threatened not only the economic security of the United States, but that of much of the world. Fault lies entirely with this truculent Republican-led Congress.
The latest fiscal calamity, courtesy of Republicans in the House, is the battle over the Bush Tax cuts, due to expire at the end of 2012. Republicans once more hold the nation and the World economy to ransom over their manic obsession with spending cuts across the American economy.
The insanity of spending reductions in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in eighty years threatens a financial collapse that would potentially dwarf any seen before. Conservatives once more want to impel the nation to the edge of the fiscal abyss at metaphorical gun point.
The extortion that cascades from the conservatives in negotiations with the White House do nothing to solve the long-term problems in the economy. The complete refusal to raise taxes on anyone, regardless of the reason is a myopic exercise in economic malfeasance. The wealthy have benefitted from the package of economic stimuli introduced after the financial collapse to an inordinate degree, and yet refuse to pass any of their good fortune on to the hard-working citizens that propel their wealth.
The wealthy refusal to countenance even the slightest increase in their taxes places a burden on the Middle Class and the poor. This is the scenario that has unfolded in Washington over the fiscal cliff in the final days of this year. Negotiations have continued in Washington up to and passed the deadline that will cause automatic increases in taxes and draconian spending cuts to programs across the board.
President Obama has been more than tolerant of conservatives, continually giving away more than his own caucus wants in an attempt to compromise with conservatives. Republicans again and again have shown themselves to be resistant to any attempt to reach a compromise. They are demanding more and more of what they want, all of which is at the expense of the poor and the Middle Classes.
The President started his negotiations at no new taxes for people earning under $250k. Republicans countered with $1m. Now, the President said that he would not balance the budget on the backs of the workers, while allowing millionaires and billionaires to get away without paying their fair share. Anyone earning $1m per year, is a millionaire by any measure, with even a modicum of saving. $250k was a fair deal. The wealthy have benefitted far more than workers, and should pay their way.
The president has moved his goalpost to $450k, which includes more than 98% of Americans. This is not what he campaigned on. The conservatives clearly want the budget to be balanced through the sacrifice of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Conservatives will accomplish this through spending cuts, which means cutting into programs in government that will cause Middle Class workers to lose their jobs, or benefits, or experience dramatic cuts in pay.
In addition, Republicans want to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare, for which workers have paid. These are not entitlements, they are earned benefits, for which people have worked their entire lives. They have a right to receive the benefit of their work.
The Republicans, as usual, are putting their ideology first, regardless of the impact on the country, on hiring practises in business, and on the stock market. They will be using the debt ceiling, which is coming in a few weeks as another tool to enforce their vision on a reluctant nation.
Republicans are obsessed with the idea that America has a spending problem, not a tax problem. Higher taxes are absolutely not the answer, according to them, even if higher taxes would solve the problem. They would far rather destroy a fragile economic recovery and get their way, than compromise.
On climate change, Republicans refuse to contemplate the idea that the planet is warming due to human activity, regardless of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the worlds scientists agree. Their claim that it will cost too much to tackle the problem merely kicks the can down the road, to the point that it will be too late to do anything.
On such issues as evolution, again supported by the majority of scientists, conservatives refuse to accept its veracity, and would prefer to run their lives using a book thousands of years old, written by wandering bands of sheep herders.
Conservatives plainly want to destroy the underpinnings of representative democracy and return to an earlier state of autocratic rule. They cannot accept that Obama won the election, that Democrats won the senate and took the majority of votes in the House, despite not getting the majority. Republicans will strive to make this country ungovernable, which has been their goal since Obama’s first election win.
None of this bodes well for the nation. We are being forced down the road of political nihilism by a party of intellectual indigents. We can only hope that in 2013, someone will see reason. This commentator is not hopeful.
Subscribe to our RSS feed!