Tue, Oct 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Tea Party Republicans emerged from a bizarre political culture

The US is on the brink of disaster, brought to it by a movement unique in its startling lack of realism and rigor, despite being occasionally well-polished

By Henry Porter  /  The Observer

A perfectly normal looking couple come to sit opposite you on the train. They seem pleasant enough and you fall into conversation, but you soon note that the man is not making a lot of sense and foam is showing at the corners of his mouth. At every turn, he contradicts his partner or, more weirdly, himself, and you realize that inside he is seething with violent and paranoid fears. You conclude that this character is going to do serious harm to himself, and may hurt other passengers in the process, so you leave and find a seat in another carriage.

That’s our experience of living with the US right — the Tea Party activists who have brought the world’s largest economy to the brink of catastrophe to make one last stand against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The world is powerless to persuade or intervene and we are at the mercy of what seems truly irrational behavior.

This is certainly some kind of high point in the Tea Party’s mission to disrupt, but it cannot simply be written off as delinquency. The movement presents the symptoms of a prolonged infantile spasm, at the same time as a coherent belief that central government and especially

Obamacare are inimical to the liberty of the individual and the freedom of individual states to determine their future.

Liberals will describe this as a failure of consensus politics that has been driven by the lowest suspicion and prejudice available in US society, manipulated by big business, pandered to by lax or demagogic media companies, such as Fox News, and ridden by ambitious politicians who promise a fantasy land that they cannot deliver.

That’s mostly my view, yet I have to concede that it ignores the deep suspicion of centralized power in the US that goes back to the founding fathers and is an essential part of national culture. The checks and balances designed by the authors of the constitution seem archaic in a world that demands swift executive action, but we should not forget that even though Obamacare has been democratically scrutinized and passed by Congress, the restraints are being applied by the Tea Party or TPers — in the name of liberty.


There is still a minority — 18 to 20 — of Republicans in the Senate who oppose the government shutdown and recoil from a default, which would mean the government would stop paying its bills when it reaches its debt limit on or after Oct. 17 , and so cause a greater international crisis than anything we have seen in the last five years.

It’s obviously suicidal, but, for the moment, Tea Party representatives, such as US Senator Ted Cruz, who made a 21-hour filibustering speech attacking everything about the White House except US first lady Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden, are calling the shots.

However, the strategy, if that is the word, is bound to fail, because US President Barack Obama cannot resile on the key reform of his administration and, at some point, the Tea Party has to swerve or risk the anger of the majority of the Americans and so jeopardize the Republican Party’s chances at the next presidential election.

The movement has placed itself in a position where it cannot win and that is going to be very damaging to its Republican host, which has already been greatly distorted by the invasive Tea Party micro-organism. As the Economist points out, Republican members of Congress have become more fearful of being challenged by their own extremists than losing at a general election.

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