Wednesday, April 4, 2012


The Grand Old Party, as we knew it, is no longer. It tried to survive in its former glory through the "beatification" of President Ronald Reagan, but the miracles did not follow. Since then the party has gone downhill, no longer able to come up with a Messiah who could oppose the usual chaos within the Democratic Party with a coherent alternative. President George W. Bush happened to be the wrong man at the wrong time. The pre-election Republican campaign focusing at random, indifferently on voters of all creed and color reveals a party which has lost its direction. Since Senator McCain fished Sarah Palin out of the fishpond in Alaska, the party went in a downward spiral.
Following the Romans, the establishment preferred to hide in the Capitol, leaving the Aventine in the hands of the Tea Party, radio hosts, and evangelicals. Governor Mitt Romney, who is basically a gentleman, is under pressure to downgrade style and content as to avoid the fate of Jon Huntsman, former (Obama) Ambassador in Beijing, who was too patrician for the "Zeitgeist". It is still possible that a race between Romney and Obama might overcome the current mediocre mindset, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Something strange is happening in the United States. Charles Murray in his book "Coming Apart" describes America as coming apart for reasons of class. It is clear that the gulf between privilege and alienation widened and that the fabric of society weakened as a consequence thereof. I do not suggest that the United States is a country in decline -as many commentators do- but it is undeniable that the the three branches of government are deadlocked because they have allowed themselves to become hostages of a populist, partisan tidal wave. President Obama has not been able to apply his eloquence to a disease which worsened after some of his overburdened policies followed the disastrous inroads of his predecessor in countries and conflicts that were unknown to most and bungled by all. Napoleon brought with him a legion of specialists to Egypt. The Americans instead trusted the word of the shady Ahmed Chalabi and from some neo-cons, who are AWOL since those costly, inglorious and sad (in human cost) events. Americans are fed up!
Until now the Republican campaign has avoided talking too much about Iraq and Afghanistan or about the financial crisis which started with the Lehman's debacle on their watch. They dig the Founding Fathers out of the graveyard of mistaken memories, using Jefferson -- who was close to Thomas Paine -- or Hamilton --who was in favour of a strong central government -- for causes which are in contradiction with the ideas of mostly secular or deist ancestors. It would be unfair to generalize, but the fact is that the GOP is dominated (for how long?) by its more reactionary wing. The Democrats have not lived up to expectations either, but they have been generally able to rein in (up to now) the populist plague.
The United States is not used to sharing, negotiating, or dealing with third countries on an equal footing. The Americans are experiencing for the first time that they now have to consider opposite forces, in the first place China, which is an unreliable player. The BRICS are a new headache, which further complicates the workings of the international order. The middle-American is often unaware of the existence of this new global shared governance. Consequently, he does not always pay attention to the enemy who is at his doorstep, be it by a new warfare, spying, hacking, stalking or modernizing armaments. The United States has largely given up on Europe (EU). Sooner or later NATO and the EU risk becoming irrelevant. This does not imply that the American public opinion is obsessed by the East but political thinkers are, and they make innovative and sophisticated arguments in this regard. Both the President and the Secretary of State are aware of the new direction, to the chagrin of the Europeans mostly.
The future Republican candidate has a difficult task seeing what is coming, while realizing the forces that are pushing him.  Intellectual arguments are almost absent from the Republican debate. The (often) amused complicity between intelligentsia and the political domain is a thing of the past. The same phenomenon happened in Europe but is more inconsequential. The thousands of Asian students in America will go back with a sobered view of the American dream Obama had the torch, but he forgot the matches. Romney has the matches but he carries no torch. Religions have occupied the chairs left empty by most intellectuals. The creative individuals, which the US has in abundance, prefer to battle "in camera" rather than in the open, as was the case during the Nixon years. The void is awesome and demagogy rules in the corridors of a power structure which has lost its lustre. The last of the real great commentators, Gore Vidal, is silent and the majority of intellectuals of the new generation seem to be more concerned with building a firewall rather than by engagement. Still there is no reason to be overly pessimistic. Democracy often leads to messy overreaction, fed by freedom of expression. The non democratic world -- China in the first place -- can, rightly so, take pride in almost Herculean achievements, if one wants to believe that Potemkin equals Hercules. The present state of affairs in America is morally worrisome, but this land remains nevertheless the place for invention and creativity. As Churchill said -- I paraphrase -- the country is in need of a prophet with a message, not for a politician groping for a platform.

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