As the primary race
heats up for the Republicans, Eric Walberg looks at the “radical centre”
Salafist (excuse me,
“deeply Catholic”) Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum appears back
in the race for chief elephant after trouncing Mitt Romney in Minnesota and
Colorado. But beware: Minnesotans are an unpredictable lot, with the only black
Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, their own Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and
of course 9/11 Truther and wrestler-governor Jesse Ventura (1999-2003).
But Santorum also
won in Colorado (Romney won in 2008) and Missouri , riding a wave
of distrust of Mitt’s conservative credentials and showing Romney’s one-percenter
Achilles heel. Romney’s win in Maine
last week was Pyrrhic, as there were no delegates, and he just edged out
maverick Ron Paul. Romney and Santorum have each won four states, while Newt
Gingrich has won only a measly South
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator and favourite of evangelicals
despite his papism, has hammered the former Massachusetts governor as being too moderate
to satisfy conservative Republicans who distrust him on social issues such as
abortion and gay rights which he has condoned in the past. Rick told CNN that
the wealthy Mitt, a former venture capitalist, “had a great career in the
private sector, but we’re not running for CEO of the country. We’re running for
someone who can lead the country.” Romney was not the best candidate to take on
Obama, who is “oppressing and taking away our freedoms, our political freedoms”.
Santorum smacks of
populism, the little guy’s candidate, thumbing his nose at the rich and (horror
of horror) capitalism itself. Hey, which party is this guy in? Never fear.
Santorum is just making noises. He intends to gut social security, is a fan of
deregulation and torture, and a hawk on Iran: “Islamic fascism rooted in Iran
is behind much of the world’s conflict,” and “effective action against Iran”
would require America’s fighting “for a strong Lebanon (what?), a strong
Israel, and a strong Iraq”. Mind you that was in 2006 and he was opposed to
actually attacking Iran,
so this newspeak may indicate ... nothing at all.
disillusionment of progressives in the past four years, under the absolute best
the Democrats can come up with, once again confirms that there is no real
difference anymore between the Republicrats. This is because left and right
have been banished from the political dictionary, replaced by what has been
called the “radical centre”. This oxymoron has been explored in many
(mind-numbing) treatises to describe the post-Soviet era political playing
This latest Great
Game features a unipolar empire asserting its financial and military hegemony
on a newly “flattened” playing field (as coined by Thomas Friedman to evoke the
joys of globalisation). The empire’s team captain is no longer a left wing or
right wing, but an “extreme centre”, a term which entered the US/UK political
lexicon with Ross Perot’s Reform Party in the 1990s. These extreme centrists
claim to be drawing on the best of both sides in a “post-liberal,
post-conservative, post-socialist world”. UK Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy
Prime Minister Nick Clegg wears the label proudly: “For the left, an obsession
with the state. For the right, a worship of the market. But as liberals, we
place our faith in people. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre.”
So socialism is apparently not concerned with people, who are advised to put their faith in “liberals”/ radical centrists/ extreme fullbacks/ whatever. This bandying about and repackaging of ideological catchwords is the bane of our “postmodern” world, where there are no longer any truths, only interpretations. What we are left with are the Santorums on the “right” and the Obamas on the “left” fighting over divisive social issues, such as gay marriage, abortion, anti-piracy copyright laws, and just how minimal should be state support for health and education, where no candidate (except the court jester Paul) is allowed to question the fundamentals of the system.
And what is this
playing field really? Karl Polyani in the 1950s clearly saw that capitalism, by
turning labour, land and money itself into commodities, was creating a soulless
system which would need strong state control to prevent its inhuman nature from
destroying the world. This advice was irretrievably lost over the past two
decades with the fusion of left and right in the oxymoronic “extreme centre”, extreme in its implicit embrace of neoliberalism (which has
very little to do with Clegg’s idol John Stuart Mills), where traditional
solutions such as socialism or paternalistic conservatism are excluded.
Foreign (read: military) policy is also excluded, as the
empire requires strict obedience by both its postmodern NATO halfbacks and its
neocolonial goalkeepers, so that its market authoritarian team wins. The
game has proved to be lethal for all concerned, with a change of strategy no
longer possible via the electoral process, now the plaything of the so-called
radical centre. According to Tariq Ali, democracy “is being hollowed out” in
the West under neoliberalism, which is hostile to “even social democratic
Whether the Obamas
and Santorums, both supporters of the spectacularly failing tactics of Team
Empire, are “deeply” bad to begin with or merely corrupted by the lure of power
and money is moot. They are blinkered by cheerleader Thatcher’s “TINA!” (There Is
No Alternative). She meant “no alternative to capitalism” – bad enough – but to
make matters worse, AIPAC et al have made sure that “and Israel” was added to
the equation, making the enemy teams all those who
protest the rigged game in the Middle East.
strategy to attack a Teflon Obama (besides gay/abortion charges) has been to
suggest, as did Romney after New Hampshire, that Obama doesn’t believe in
American greatness, and that of course Mitt et al do. That cheerleading is as
close as a US
politician gets to foreign policy these days. But that has been the tired
Republican cheer since Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy Carter.
politically very correct Obama has both begun the withdrawal from the disasters
in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and covered his flank by bumping off Osama Bin Laden and quite a few other “enemies”.
Given the radical agreement among Republicrats on the essentials of empire
strategy both at home and abroad, there is almost no scenario over the next six
months where a Republican can trump this. The chauvinistic cheers fall on deaf
Paul and to a lesser
extent Santorum are better positioned to go for Obama’s one usable weak spot --
his role as the big business/ banker darling. As Paul will never get the
nomination, we can only hope that Santorum does and that Paul runs as an
independent, making the 2012 presidential elections mildly interesting. But
Obama is again trying to outflank Santorum, this week calling for a tax raise
on the rich. Way to go, Team Empire.
The perennial Ralph Nader’s voice-in-the-Democratic-wilderness alone points to the only way out of the crisis: “If you agree that your Republican counterparts in Congress are the most craven, corporatist, fact-denying, falsifying, anti-99 per cent, militaristic Republicans in the party’s history, then why are you not landsliding them?” Well, it should be obvious by now, Ralph.
Sadly, following the US primaries, we can only conclude they have very little value for Egyptians
now reconstructing their political system after a century and a half of
colonialism. Hence, the startling events of the past few weeks in Cairo: even
as the army, parliament and revolutionaries all attack each other as traitors,
they all support the arrests of National Endowment for Democracy funded “activists”,
in the first place, the Independent Republican Institute, the National
Democratic Institute and Freedom House.
In a recent Gallup poll, 74 per cent of Egyptians called for an end to all foreign financing of NGOs and 71 per cent called for an end to all US aid. In a front-page caricature in Al-Akhbar, a seedy Uncle Sam points a Foreign Aid pistol to a confident young Egyptian who calls to his Dignity cannon, “Let’s defend ourselves.” Apparently Egyptians have had enough of US political coaching.