America as an epicenter of political and economic prowess has always been a fascinating case study. With a population of over 300 million, the inhabitants of America's 50 States throw up some astonishing yet interesting statistics. Over 1 in 4 is obese, 1 in 4- believes that Jesus will come back to earth in the lifetime and approximately 44 million live below the poverty line.
These dispersant demographics are unsurprisingly shadowed by its polarized politics, now more so than ever. The country has the most Liberal President since John F Kennedy - "Liberal" being synonymous code for what Europeans call left of centre. In Obama, America is confronted with a man who has had the audacity to implement health coverage for arguably the most exposed in society. This is an idea so radical for some in American political culture that the expected socialist intervention chants soon manifested into cries of fascist dictatorship, with the Doctors of death deciding who gets what medical coverage, how and when.
The ascent from the Liberal left was in part caused by the resentment towards a Republican Party led by George Bush and its chaotic two terms in Office. The cozy left wing emergence, not seen since the days of Clinton, has been met with resurgence from the right. Not just typical Republicans but also militant Tea Party member's intent on advancing aggressive rightwing views in the face of what they see as excessive left wing radicalism.
In order to grow tall and distinct as well make political noise, this revamped Republicanism must play the mirror opposite game to the "yes we can" camp. Obama's heavyweight and overcooked PR programme plays to the young, minorities, homosexuals, atheists and of course stereotypical democratic middle class darlings who probably read humanities at Amherst or Williams. In the same attempted vein, the Republicans must play a political melody for some of their hardcore base.
Unfortunately for Republicans, long gone are the days when Milton Friedman and its associated Reganomics programme stood for some intellectual value, a vision of society, the economy and free enterprise. This social and political philosophy was both supported and disputed in academic institutions and at the time given intellectual consideration, particularly by social scientists. This dimension of integrity, sophistication and respect is not afforded to the current Republican Party. The only remaining strategy for the Republicans is to therefore pander to some of their more predictable support, conjuring up both romanticism and emotionality. This is where the political appeal project starts to get outlandish, repetitive, non pragmatic and idealistic to the point where one must ponder if these grass root Republicans are living in the 21st century.
Firstly, we have the small town hockey mom with minimal political experience attempting to run for Government. It is the political version of Disney's Mighty Ducks community mom who won't give up on her cause, only it's not Hollywood that's the desired destination but Capitol Hill. This makes it more discerning and significantly less endearing in the real world. Then we get the prevailing of recycled issues such as Christian extremism towards single sex marriage, not to mention the legality of homosexuality itself, in part, vehemently grown out Bush's electoral campaign for second term aimed at the Bible Belt which of course encompasses attitudes towards abortion, the death penalty and facets of creationism.
This legacy of "traditional" values was echoed at the latest Republican candidate's debate when Ricky Perry received a thunderous applause after the chair presented him with the fact that he has signed more execution warrants than any other Governor in modern times.
Last time round, when John McCain ran, three Republican candidates openly stated that they did not subscribe to evolutionary theory.
This time round the issue is the economy and with hard line tea party activists in the Senate, the dividing agenda is once again between tax breaks and welfare expenditure. However a prominent underlying Republican theme is the obsession with Big Government. The reaction to Government expansion was inevitable following the bank bailout and Obama's Health Care progamme which has started a trend in the Republican narrative, overplaying the message that the State must go nowhere into the lives of U.S citizens. When asked about the State of Texas administering a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, Michele Bachmann did not rationally argue whether it was the responsibility of medical insurers or the State to provide such services or what was a viable age limit for this procedure. Instead Bachman went straight for the highly coveted but predictable answer of State intrusion on its citizens - a spin answer that provided no insight what so ever and further vamped up by a provocative, non scientific claim that it may even produce mental disability.
This Governmental non intrusion and romantic theme is so en vogue for the party that it has given maverick politician Ron Paul a shot at the big time. Paul, a long time sweetheart of the fringe Republican crowd, represents the old Wild West temperament of a free spirited cowboy displaying a drastic appeal to negative Liberty that by European political standards would make him a disciple of J.S Mill and thus an ultra Liberal. Paul however needs a sphisticated PR consultation team, as well as perhaps a historical time check to see what century he is living in. Perhaps telling people to invest in Gold during a financial downturn is an over simplified principle in economic theory and someone should show him what the world's leading Hedge Fund manager's portfolios really comprise of. His previous flirtation with Alex Jones does not bode well for the mainstream either. This is because the company of politicians is often more scrutinized than their polices and being associated with a man who could turn the empirical fact of me buying a muffin and coffee at Starbucks into a convoluted conspiracy theory is a relationship one must avoid. For politicians, like the rest of us, the perception of credibility is more important that actual credibility
These are strange times for U.S Politics, and with the Republicans desperate to overthrow Obama, this has produced a collection of misfit potential leaders who perhaps may not have otherwise been considered; even Donald Trump was viable at one stage. Desperate people do desperate things and the "birther" issue is only one of the latest testaments to the current Republican trend of using romanticism to illicit emotionality, providing a discourse that paints a picture of nostalgic traditional America that once was but probably never existed.