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The Republican Campaign for 2012

September 19, 2011

As the campaigns for the US 2012 election kick off, I thought it might be useful to take a quick look at how the Republican Party – also known as the Grand Old Party (GOP) for reasons passing my understanding – is getting on.

The past fortnight has seen two live GOP debates take place, in which the Republican candidates have ‘battled it out’ between themselves to show just how capable (or more likely incapable) they are to become the Republican nominee for leader of the free world. My live-tweeting of the debates seemed to prove quote popular with many and quickly attracted some of the more vitriolic members of the Republican faithful to defend their saint-like ambassadors, cutely adopting British colloquialisms such as knob to describe my efforts.

The influence of the Tea Party faction was certainly noticeable throughout, with many candidates having signed a pledge not to raise taxes as requested by supporters of the movement. The debates failed to feature any significant conflict, as in reality little exists to separate the candidates, though they did reveal several small disagreements.

What soon becomes clear once you look at the opinion polls is that Rick Perry and Mitt Romney (whose strikingly similar appearance leads me to believe they were artificially created from Ronald Regan’s DNA and forged in the generic mould of an angry middle-aged white male) are the front runners at present, though I suppose there is a chance this could shift in the future depending on who else decides to enter the race.

Perhaps the most prominent issue raised in the debates was the Republican party’s overwhelming opposition to President Obama’s universal health care bill, dubbed ObamaCare by its critics. The legislation aims to extend a basic level of  medical cover to all citizens, as opposed to the present situation where 46 million Americans go without any form of health care .

To those of us raised in a nation with a healthcare system free at the point of use – in Britain’s case the NHS – to hear our much-adored system (which even the most right-wing of politicians are fearful to criticise) referred to as socialist, unlawful and even a hideous abomination from hell is rather disconcerting. However, it should be understood that much of the opposition stems from the dominance of the private healthcare providers, whom the GOP is certainly not willing to make an enemy of.

Another key issue was immigration, something which many of us in the UK can identify with. Immigrants into the US face much of the same victimisation and scapegoating as in Britain, yet the GOP candidates seemed prefixed with the idea of building fences and putting boots on the ground to defend the Mexican border – ignoring the obvious economic factors – in a strange paradox to their textbook small-government agenda.

The discussion frequently descended into extended periods of Obama-bashing led by Newt Gingrich, evidently safe ground for all the participants, along with a variety of carefully crafted but ultimately hollow sound bites from Herman Cain and John Huntsman. One aspect which I found particularly interesting was that those who had held the higher offices in government were subjected to harsh criticism from the more idealistic candidates who had yet to be tainted by the experience of living in the real world. Some of the more troubling moments included Rick Perry being attacked for implementing an admirable programme of HPV vaccination (which Michelle Bachmann somehow believes can cause mental retardation) along with frequent calls to eliminate the minimum wage.

To anyone who observed Britain’s anticlimactic leaders debates last year, the reaction of the (overwhelmingly white, middle-class) audience throughout these GOP debates could not have been more different, and certainly not in a good way. They wildly applauded following the revelation that Rick Perry had executed 234 inmates in Texas, more than any other governor. Furthermore, during a discussion on whether those without private health insurance should be left to die, screams of Yeah! could be heard from many of those present.

As I have written before, whilst I am certainly no big fan of Barack Obama, I don’t believe that the Republican party possesses anyone capable of beating him, which judging by the candidates currently being fielded by the GOP, is probably not such a bad thing.

[Photo Credit: eschipul on Flickr]

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