He would see a party desperate to find someone, anyone, who can defeat its most credible candidate, Mitt Romney, who is clearly last or nearly last in the hearts of his fellow Republicans.
After Romney’s thin victory margin in Michigan, he is still next to last in the heart of his party, and Rick Santorum, the latest contender to jump out of the box, is very much alive … and so the show must go on.
To the amazement of British observers, accustomed to their tidy system, they have witnessed one after another of the suitors to the role of non-Romney take their turn on the stage … and flop.
First came Rick Perry swaggering out of Texas to save the GOP from Romney, but it turned out the governor couldn’t count to three. Then it was the turn of the author of politics as blood sport, Newt Gingrich, whose grandiosity and serial adultery got him booed off the stage.
Now comes polite, pleasant-looking Rick Santorum, so recently and soundly rejected in a Senate race in Pennsylvania, who said a puzzling thing: parents’ ambitions to send their children to college is “snobbish.”
His views on life, death and birth are of such monastic purity as to chill British sensibilities. If abortion would save a woman’s life, he would prefer she die. His view of when life begins, in effect, sanctifies the male sperm.
Though there are degrees of difference on some social issues, in general all of the potential nominees are acolytes of the demigod of conservative politics, Ronald Reagan, but none of them has his sunny personal charm.
They do, however, cleave to the Reagan ideology of supply-side economics, the failed theory that more and more tax cuts for wealthy corporations and individuals will create such fabulous growth that income will more than make up for the cuts.
At the time, Reagan’s own budget director, David Stockman, predicted that the theory in practice would lead to debt and deficits as far as the eye could see.
With the exception of Bill Clinton’s eight years when the budget was balanced, Republican administrations have held to that philosophy … until the crash came in 2008.
The first commandment of supply-side economics to which all GOP candidates wish to return is that taxes, including taxes on those who can most afford to pay them, shall not be raised for any reason — ever.
Consequently, both the budget proposals of Romney and that of House Minority Leader Paul Ryan would increase national debt over time, according to independent analysts.
This obsession with no new (or old) taxes puts the party in the dubious position of asserting that America can cut its way to prosperity; a patriotic motto for such a policy might be: Shrink or Die.
British reporters would not find that policy strange. It is the official policy of the Conservative Party, where growth has stopped. The consequence in Britain seems more like Shrink And Die.
That is where the similarities end. A British reporter would find it peculiar and even unpatriotic for an American party to label its own government … “the No. 1 Enemy.” What nation has ever pretended to greatness asserting its own government is the “enemy”?
Today’s Republicans are so far right of the British Conservative Party as to render the GOP incomprehensible. A British journalist would agree with analysts from the conservative American Enterprise Institute and non-partisan Brookings Institution, who concluded:
“One of our two major parties, the Republicans, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
When the candidates turned their attention to foreign policy, there were so many inaccuracies, so many shallow judgments, it was almost as if Michele Bachmann was still a candidate.
Any informed British reporter surely would have chuckled when he heard her exhibit toughness on Iran. “I will close our embassy in Iran,” only to be informed that we have no embassy in Iran.
A reporter for The Guardian covering the foreign-policy debate concluded, “As the GOP race narrows towards the nomination, the Middle East will be looking more closely at the statements of Republican presidential hopefuls. It is still not too late to learn about the Middle East for what it is, rather than what Republicans think it is.
“Obsessing with bombing Iran is not a solution: being less of an embarrassment and a liability to Iran’s opposition could be more helpful. That way, when the mullahs may fall, Iranian democrats will want to be allies of the west.”
Foreign observers have often found American politics baffling, entertaining and slightly loony, though seldom has there been an opposition that by its behavior seemed determined to re-elect the incumbent.
H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.