It is hardly unprecedented for mid-term elections to swing against the party that holds the US presidency -- and even the paranoid style animating the Republican surge is an American tradition in itself. As one Tea Party leader put it: "Some people say I’m extreme, but they said the John Birch Society was extreme, too."
Well yes, they do. And they also point out that like the John Birch Society, the Tea Party movement receives significant financial backing from the wealthy Koch family.
New Zealand has experienced the occasional bout of John Birch-style political fever, most notably At the hands of the bizarre Scientology spin-off Zenith Applied Philosophy. A few ZAP veterans, most notably former party vice president Trevor Loudon, live on in the Act Party, but the movement deviates significantly from the neoliberal consensus that defines the political and economic right in Western countries.
For a start, the Tea Partiers have little time for the free movement of capital and goods across national borders – it smacks too much of world government for their tastes.
The Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, believes in the "Nafta Superhighway", a mythical 10-lane road supposedly being secretly built to help erase national borders and create a single North American state under a collective currency called the Amero. Did I mention he's fucking crazy? Crazier than his dad? And that he's going to enter the US Senate this week?
And yet legions of hipsters have had to swallow the news that even a really cool person, former Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker, is now a Tea Partier with giant sack of grievances, not all of which seem particularly reasonable.
Tucker, like her fellow travellers, believes President Obama is ushering in a dictatorship. By the same token, America's liberal left believes he has shirked his mandate and lacked the courage to enact real change (at times the likes of AmericaBlog have pressed this belief to the extent of screaming stupidity). Both sides seem to have an unreasonable idea of what the president can and should do.
Enter the Rally to Restore Sanity, whose message of reasonableness drew about 215,000 people to Washington this weekend – nearly three times the crowd that Glenn Beck's Restoring Honour rally at the same place in August.
Which is nice, and it seemed that a lot of nice people had a good time, but how helpful is to have the political debate staged by duelling media corporates? And, even if it gave a hint of the groundswell that got the president elected, and even if a surge in early voting is giving Democrats some cheer, the "enthusiasm gap" will not close enough to prevent the Democrats losing their majority in the House of Representatives.
A country that the world needs to take strong political and economic decisions will likely be hamstrung. And worse, political momentum will come from a group of new entrants whose ideas are not only not shared by other modern nations, but whose ideas actively militate against America playing a useful role in the world.
And you know things are getting weird when a previously-thought-sane Washington Post columnist declares that the President's best hope for a second term is to spend is to spend the next two years "orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs" of Iran. Of course. There's nothing that could go wrong there, is there?
Anyway, this will all time out reasonably well for this week's Media7 recording on Wednesday evening, where I'll be joined by Paul Buchanan and Tim Watkin to talk about what has happened and what happens next. The show will open with Paul solo discussing the latest Wikileaks document dump from Iraq, and then Tim will join the panel and we'll swing into the midterms. Should be fun.
If you'd like to join us on Wednesday for the recording, we'll need you to come to the Victoria St entrance by 5.30pm. Drop me a line to say you're coming if you can.