Sunday, 19 June 2011

Republican Reptiles for 2012.

Rick Santorum joined the Republican Presidential race on a socially conservative ticket which is opposed to abortion and gay rights. It is worth mentioning that the former Senator for Pennsylvania enraged gay rights activists in 2003 when he compared homosexuality to paedophilia and bestiality. For Mr Santorum the state has the right to ban any behaviour deemed to be antithetical to the "healthy, stable, traditional family". Ironically, Rick Santorum has a "Google problem" which equates his surname with gay sex. The man also clinged to the theory that there were weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq until long after the Bush administration dumped the suggestion. The Santorum brand of conservatism was rejected by voters in 2006 when he lost his seat in the Senate. In the race to the White House in 2012 Santorum lacks connections to the Tea Party, though his conservative outlook is attractive to the Christian Right, he also lacks a 'big persona' which will only mean his "Google problem" will be exacerbated further on the campaign trail.

Mitt Romney has made it clear that he is running for 2012 with his usual lack of sky-high charisma and witticism, which would work well on Fox News if Romney had not passed a suspect health-care reform in Massachusetts. Even though the conservative position used to be for the individual mandate, the Republican opposition to "Obama-care" has been a strictly opportunistic strike against Obama. As the costs of health-care in the US have driven the car industry to bankruptcy the debate over the health system was re-opened in 2008. The fight which took the dynamic of Republicans against Democrats was more like a clash between the interests of health insurance and the car industry, which easily transcended the boundaries of party-affiliation. Even as Romney has lurched further to the Right he is still viewed with suspicion, for he is a Mormon and the Christian Right will not go in for someone who thinks that Jesus Christ was the brother of Lucifer.

Despite all of this, Mitt Romney is a serious contender and it is no surprise he is running as he has basically been in campaign mode since he failed to win the GOP nomination in 2008 and, in doing so, pissed $40 million of his own cash into the wind. On an amusing side-note the announcement was made with a scenic backdrop in New Hampshire which has been subsidised with $1 million from the federal government. Similarly, New Gingrich has presided over a multi-billion dollar boondoggle in Georgia which produces F-22s at tax-payers' expense even though military spending in the US amounts to 50% of military spending in the world. Though it would appear that Gingrich is finished after the controversy over his comments regarding "right-wing social engineering", so the Newt no longer looks conservative enough in a race in which purity matters even more than usual. Then there are the disagreements which have led his campaign team to go AWOL.

Typically, Sarah Palin out-shined the dull Mitt with the credentials she garnered from the McCain-Palin ticket and the links she has established with the Tea Party movement. Combine that with the books, the reality TV show and the work Palin has done at Fox News there is a ready source of support once she has declared she's running. So she can afford to come in late, perhaps just as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are looking especially weak. We might not have long to wait for her announcement in that case. At the same time it might be the case that she has outlived her run as the populist symbol of American motherhood. Especially as Palin was linked with the Tucson shooting, from which Giffords has only just recovered. We also have to keep in mind that it is Corporate America which matters most in American elections and right now Sarah Palin only has a 4% rating, she has been surpassed by Michelle Bachmann at around 8% and the forerunner is still the damp Mitt at 33.5%.

Michelle Bachmann stood out in the recent Republican debate in New Hampshire and may have even upstaged Mitt Romney. She wooed the crowd with the kind of hard-hitting populist rhetoric, early on she declared Barack Obama to be a "one-term President" before promising to repeal Obama-care when she takes office. Bachmann inevitably won a warm reception as she has five children of her own and 23 foster children, which meshes well with working-people who vote out of an opposition to abortion. Just like when she compared raising taxes to the Holocaust, the Tea Party and the conservative shock-jocks loved it. But as Gingrich and Romney have demonstrated, the GOP has not had a tradition of opposition to the individual mandate or state-intervention for that matter. So it would seem that Michelle Bachmann is not a part of this tradition on the American Right, or more accurately that she doesn't wish to be associated with it, for it is an impure aspect of the conservative movement.

Bachmann is still not as prominent as some of her rivals, the attention she has drawn has inevitably led to comparisons with Sarah Palin. There have also been some interesting revelations about Palin recently. We find that she had begged Tony Hayward for a 1,700 mile BP pipeline, which would have stretched across America. This came a year after BP was responsible for the biggest oil spill in the state's history. In 2007 Palin slashed $237 million in funds for around 300 construction projects as she initiated a budget of $6.6 billion - the largest budget for the state of Alaska - before vetoing an additional $238 million in funds for 350 projects the following year. Recently it was announced that Sarah Palin is to visit Britain and Sudan, she has already been snubbed by Thatcher much to the chagrin of Rush Limbaugh and others. Thatcher represents the earlier generation of women politicians, the "iron ladies" who out-manned the men.

As Jacques-Alain Miller pointed out Palin is a break with this in that she displays her femininity and motherhood. The imagery has a "castrating" effect on male opponents, it is not that she is more manly than them but it is the use of the sarcastic put-down of male authority. She knows that the phallic authority of her opponents is just a posture which can be mocked for her gain. Note the way in which Palin mocked Obama as a "community organiser", exploiting the sterile aspects of Obama's appearance - diluted black skin, slender features and big ears etc. As Slavoj Žižek goes on, in Palin we find "post-feminist" femininity without a complex and the roles of mother, prim teachers, public figure and sex object converge. All the while Todd Palin is displayed at her side as the First Dude of Alaska, a phallic toy if anything. The implicit sting which adds insult to injury is that it is a Republican woman who has ran for the Vice Presidency and may even run for the Presidency in 2012. So it should be a surprise that the Palin effect offers false liberation.

At this point it looks unlikely that Sarah Palin will run for President as she was notably absent at the debate in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Michelle Bachmann has drawn considerable attention from the shock-jocks and support from the Tea Party. It remains questionable whether or not the Right would put forward a woman candidate. The Tea Party movement sprung out of the legitimate grievances of working-class Americans, but it was also manifested as an expression of a feeling of loss. The white man had finally lost his majoritarian status in America, along with the appearance of loss in power over the state and the privilege derived from that. The consequent anxiety and fear collides with grievances that go back decades in a classic instance of displaced class struggle. The idea that a Republican woman could ride this wave into the White House seems delusional. If anything the Tea Party functions as a bulwark against the Left, not a spring-board for a particular candidate.

Then there is the man who took over where Bush left off in Texas, who has been elected three times and has ran the state for over 10 years now. Rick Perry has not declared whether or not he is running yet. If he were to run he would automatically become a serious contender for the Presidency given his 10 years  as Governor of Texas. Perry supports the Arizona immigration act, which could have been written by the American Nazi Party. Rick Perry supported the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia, which was opposed by his cold predecessor. It is worth noting that Rick Perry has signed over 200 death warrants in his time as the Governor of Texas, whereas George Bush executed 152 people in his time as Governor. In 2009 Rick Perry joined in his own special way and started to spew secessionist rhetoric in response to the stimulus spending by the Obama administration. This kind of rhetoric is still popular in Texas, where even the liberals wouldn't mind a Republic of Texas.

The rhetoric Perry came out with was welcomed by the Right and he has cultivated a rugged image with tough talk and going for jobs which culminate with the shooting of coyotes. He has courted the Christian Right and the Tea Party movement successfully, but he has also held onto his mainstream status as a conservative. So Rick Perry is capable of the rhetoric needed to rally the crazies around him, but he can do so whilst holding onto his ties with Corporate America from which he derives his "mainstream" status. Without the close links with corporate power Perry could find himself in the right-wing limbo where Glenn Beck, Ron Paul and Michael Savage can be found any day of the week. It is a balancing act of bringing together the most reactionary elements of the working-class together with the political forces of capital. This is what the fusion of economic liberalism with social conservatism was designed to accomplish. The slogan of which might be "Tax-cuts for the rich, no rights for fags!"

It is possible that Rick Perry is the "dark horse" of the GOP. Just the other day Rick Perry gave a rousing speech on conservative principles at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans and it is plausible that he was posturing as a conservative heavy-weight just before he makes the "decision" when Texas wraps up legislative business at the end of the month. Perry then went on to detail a four-point prescription for the economy which began with "don't spend all the money" which followed with an emphasis on low taxes, legal reforms to prevent frivolous lawsuits; a fair and predictable regulatory climate. The crowd then showered him chants of "Run, Rick, Run!" He received the greatest applause from the audience, at an event attended by Bachmann and Gingrich. It is clear that he would immediately become the forerunner given the banality of the Republican line-up and might actually give the incumbent a run for his money.

As President Rick Perry might repeal the "Obama-care" reforms as a populist gesture, deregulate further and impose greater anti-union legislation where it is necessary. In regards to taxation it remains unclear whether Perry is a part of the Goldwater tradition, which cuts spending in order to cut taxes. As the Bush tax-cuts have been renewed the spending cuts will be enormous and may even be bigger than the cuts seen under Clinton. This is true regardless of who is elected in 2012. It is also true that the next term will still be dominated by the fiscal stratagem known as "starve the beast". The justification for which comes in the form of trickle-down thinking, tax-cuts will lead to the investment necessary to create jobs. It will also be defended on the grounds that it will lead to less spending. In actuality the tax-cuts will lead to another enormous deficit in years to come and will only function to facilitate even greater cuts in the long-term. This is the reason we will probably see the privatisation of social security within a few years.

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