Monday, July 4, 2011

Time to End the Tea Party

It is supremely stupid that the US election cycle seems to be never-ending. Congressmen, restricted to their two year terms, are campaigning virtually all the time. The President's office isn't much more secure, usually by the time the four-year term is half over, people on the opposite side are lining up to take a run as are people from the ruling party, if the president is in his final term.

Sadly, Republicans seem intent on making sure that people from both sides will be lining up for the 2016 election. They do not seem to have a single candidate who is electable to the actual office of president.

We have seen this before, or at least Canadians have. After the Conservatives were handed a monumental ass-kicking in 1993, the party split in two. One half became the Reform Party - headed by evangelical Christian Preston Manning. The other continued to hold itself to the party's more centrist leaning faction. Predictably, they split the right of centre vote during several elections, handing easy victories to Jean Chretien and his Liberal Party. It was only after common sense prevailed and the right reunited under the capable stewardship of Stephen Harper in the early half of the last decade that they were able to challenge and eventually defeat the long-governing Liberals.

Manning, it must be said, wasn't a complete knuckle dragger but he did have knuckle dragging tendencies. I don't think he denied evolution but he would have denied you an abortion or a same-sex marriage. On the general scale of mixing religion with politics, he'd rate about a 7.5.

The darlings of the tea party, people like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, rate about a 9.5 on the knuckle-dragging scale. I'm giving them the half point benefit because, frankly, both of them are too good looking to be complete neanderthals. And, since the tea partiers now seem to hold the balance of power - or at least enthusiasm and probably money - for their chosen candidates, it would seem quite possible one of their beloved seizes the Republican nomination for 2012. If not, it's entirely feasible they will not vote for the Republican candidate and would either forward a third party or independent candidate or just stay home.

Either way, the Democrats win and Barack Obama's confused, meandering presidency gets another four years, including two where - if history is any indicator - he'll be a complete lame duck incapable of getting anything done. This is, by any reasonable standard, absolutely not what the United States needs right now.

It may already be too late. By indulging, or being overrun by, the Tea Party, the Republicans find themselves in a sticky situation. Some tea partiers, no doubt, are very sensible people who really are interested in nothing more than lower taxes/deficit, greater accountability and less intrusion in the average citizen's private life - areas where Obama, as the latest in a growing list of 20th/21st century presidents, has failed badly. But the vast majority seem to reject simple facts like evolution or what should be simple rights like a woman's control over her own body.

There is a split in the United States right now - or, at least it seems so from 15 minutes north of its border - between those who would run the country on semi-theological lines and those who would run it along semi-ideological lines. What is desperately needed is someone interested in running it along practical lines. With an ever-increasing deficit, three wars, a still-stagnant economy and an ungodly mess of a foreign policy, the Obama administration is ripe for the picking.

But, it won't be by Michelle Bachmann or those of her ilk. The Republican party needs a quick adaptation to the realities on the ground and a candidate who can forward a platform to reduce the deficit and bloated government, take a pragmatic, 21st century approach to a range of social issues and produce a cohesive foreign policy.

Sadly, I'm wagering my dashboard Jesus that this won't be happening in 2012. Rather, I think the Republicans are well on their way to turning the campaign into a year-long farce. And, as depressing a thought as that is; the alternative - they nominate and Americans elect someone like Bachmann - is just so opposed to common sense that it causes a small brain such as mine to produce a major headache when even contemplated.