The Prohibitionists Are Back!
Recently by Eric Margolis: Blundering Forward in the Graveyard ofEmpires
I do a good deal of writing and broadcasting for international media. But it's not always easy to explain the quirks of our vast, complex nation.
As a native New Yorker, I try to explain how this great island metropolis off the New Jersey coast is physically in America, but it's not intellectually or emotionally part of the United States.
New York is cosmopolitan, educated, outward-looking and liberal — unlike much of the rest of inward-looking America, which considers the Big Apple a den of Godless moral depravity and a cesspool political vice.
In return, New Yorkers look down on the rest of America (San Francisco, Chicago, and the Pacific Northwest excepted) as "flyover country" populated by rednecks, hicks, and holy rollers. Crude stereotypes, of course, but there's some substance to these nasty views.
While at a base in Missouri during my Army service during the Vietnam era, I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut about being a Manhattanite after a sergeant asked me where I hailed from and then yelled out, "hey, guys, we got one of those rich shits from New York." I got pummeled by my brothers in arms from Arkansas and Alabama.
The last debates by Republican presidential candidates disturbingly reinforced the party's lack of interest in or knowledge of the outside world.
Leading candidates Mitt Romney, pizza mogul Herman Cain, and Texas tough guy Rick Perry barely mentioned world affairs, except to heap threats on the wicked Iranians.
The same malevolent Persians now stand accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington by using Mexican drug cartel hitmen organized by a lame-brained used car salesman that strongly suggests the concocters of this melodrama need some new scriptwriters.
One of our dimmest members of Congress — I'm ashamed to say from New York — Rep. Pete King, just called the Iranian-Mexican imbroglio an act of war. On to Tehran!
When the Republican candidates did mention the outside world, it was to proclaim their undying loyalty to Israel, or to bluster, as Romney did, "the 21st century must be an American century." But no mention of where the money would come from to keep the world in the American Raj.
One wishes the candidates had leveled with Americans and talked about the urgent need for a war tax to pay for America's foreign military operations that are now piled onto the gargantuan national debt.
Romney announced a slate of foreign affairs advisors drawn from the ranks of the Bush administrations wildest Islamophobic neoconservatives, wanna be West Bank settlers, and extreme right-wingers. The same crowd that brought us Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq, and now beats the war drums over Iran.
There was hardly any mention of the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are bleeding America's economy, or growing US military involvement in Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, as witnessed by President Barack Obama's announcement last Friday that 100 US special forces where being sent to obscure places in Central Africa. On to Bangui! (where?)
Aside from macho chest-pounding over American greatness, some of the leading candidates made monkeys of themselves when talking about the outside world.
As a lifelong moderate Republican, I cringed with embarrassment at these later-day Dan Quayles.
Former senator Rick Santorum, a darling of the religious far right, thought exiled ex-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf was still in power in Islamabad. Michele Bachmann stumbled around all those strange foreign names and seemed to be talking in tongues.
Herman Cain laughed off his own ignorance of foreign policy, making fun of the name "Uzbekistan." Swaggering Texas governor Perry confused India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers. Such stunning ignorance provoked shudders of dismay abroad, but at home no one seemed to care.
Ignorance has become a sort of badge of honor among many heartland Republicans, as witnessed by the popularity of the patron saint of lower IQ Americans, Sarah Palin.
Knowledge, education, being well read and, God forbid, speaking any foreign language except Mexican Spanish or Hebrew, are only for leftists, gays, and degenerate New York fops. Poor John Kerry never lived down being branded by Republicans as looking "French."
Only two candidates showed a firm grasp of world affairs: Rep. Ron Paul and former US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. Paul is the most honest politician in Washington. He calls for an end to America's foreign wars, eliminating the Federal Reserve bank, lowering America's foreign profile and rebuilding the run-down United States.
Because of these heresies, Dr. Paul, who is hugely popular among the young and independents, is systematically ignored or scorned by establishment media, even during TV debates.
Jon Hunstsman's Mormon faith is demeaned by many Protestants as a "cult." Romney is also a Mormon, a Church Elder and former missionary. Both are unpopular with rightwing Christian Protestants. Cain is a Baptist minister.
Both Paul and Huntsman are far too moderate for Republican party core voters, 44% of whom are believed to be born-again Evangelicals.
As author Kevin Phillips has documented, Republicans have become a theological party of the Christian white far right in America's heartland.These militant Bible Belt born-again fundamentalists are ardent Zionists and backers of America's military-security establishment. One recalls the fateful prediction of Sinclair Lewis,
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
Interestingly, today's small town/rural/born-again Republicans closely resemble and hail from the same roots as America's Prohibitionist anti-drinking movement of the 1920's. Both today's religious right and the Prohibitionists were determined, Taliban-style, to punish sinful city dwellers for having too much fun, as the devilish H.L. Mencken pointed out.
Of course, no one gets to be president by telling voters the hard facts they prefer not to hear. Synthetic, flag-waving patriotism still sells big in America's heartland and rural south. More important, America's political tradition, electoral system and political-media establishment will ensure that no candidate who strays from the party line is ever elected.
Still, looking at the latest crop of Republican candidates is pretty dismal.
America's next president, the world's most important leader, may believe that Earth was created only 10,000 years ago, as the Bible says. He or she may reject evolution and believes in Adam and Eve, and Noah's Ark. And believe, as do millions of Evangelicals, that Christ will return once all Jews are gathered into recreated Biblical Israel and then earth and its non-born again inhabitants will be destroyed by fire sent by God.
I pray New York City will be somehow saved.
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.