Only in America could a woman like Christine O’Donnell become, in the words of New York Times columnist Frank Rich, “the brightest all-American media meteor since Balloon Boy”.
Rich views “I am not a witch” O’Donnell as a possible godsend for the Republican party as the US mid-term elections loom on November 2. He could not resist adding that the 41-year-old senatorial candidate for the state of Delaware, who is an evangelical Christian, is perhaps best known “for taking a fearless stand against masturbation, the one national pastime with more fans than baseball”.
Laughable as people like O’Donnell and their primitive right wing views might appear, her meteoric rise, like that of Sarah Palin before her, is an indication of the growing hold of the anti-state, anti-government Tea Party movement within the Republican Party (GOP).
O’Donnell provides the GOP with a symbolic figure – a small-town struggler on low-pay with “proletarian cred”. The reality about the Tea Party, though, is that it is bankrolled by the billionaire Koch family who first made their fortune in dealings with the dictator Joseph Stalin. It is making political capital out of the pain being suffered by millions of Americans as unemployment stands at 10% and repossessions leave whole areas of US towns and cities lifeless.
Behind its populist façade, the Tea Party is actually a plaything of massive corporate interests. Amongst its backers are many from the Forbes list of the super-rich. They include oil barons Robert Rowling and Trevor Rees-Jones, and not least, Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation. Through Fox television, Murdoch provides constant favourable news coverage for the Tea Party. Clearly the interests of these super-rich are nothing to do with the Tea Party’s supposed support for small town and impoverished Americans.
The new breed of Republican leaders also include people such as Nevada candidate Sharron Angle. Angle is another Christian fundamentalist who opposes abortion, no matter what, even for incest and rape. She wants to abolish the following: the Department of Education, Social Security, the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Endowment of the Arts, housing agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and Planned Parenthood funding. Perhaps surprisingly, Angle is standing against a Tea Party backed candidate.
So where does this leave President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party? Despite their success in passing healthcare, financial legislation and the Recovery Act, the administration’s “Big State” efforts to rescue the economy from meltdown have not stopped the jobs and homes haemorrhage.
While things have taken a slight turn for the better in the latest popularity ratings, the administration confronts a massive melt-down of confidence in a presidency. It began with the highest of hopes and tears of joy when the first-ever African-American was elected only two years ago.
But as the recession turns towards another Great Depression, that euphoria has turned into disappointment and shock. Obama admitted in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine: “We've seen an increase in poverty, and an increase in unemployment, and people's wages and incomes have stagnated.”
Not only is there a distinct possibility that the Republicans will gain control over both Senate and House of Representatives on November 2. Obama is also weathering a major changeover of White House staff.
Behind these harsh realities facing a president hailed for his skills as the great communicator is the historic weakness of the US economy in the face of ruthless competition from China. What we are seeing is a crisis not only for the Democrats but America’s political system as a whole. Some suggest that America is already “ungovernable” and that is likely to be even more the case after the mid-term elections.
Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward has revealed that last November Obama was virtually threatened with mutiny when he tried to overrule the military brass on withdrawal from Afghanistan. A disgruntled military, a possibly lame-duck president and a populist Tea Party working with big business, is a heady cocktail with unpredictable side-effects.
A World to Win secretary