NEW YORK - America has come back, at least politically, to where it was in the far-off 1950’s when Communist-scares and the modern fascism of Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy kept the republic in a state of anxiety and deep fear.
“Reds under our beds” was the slogan in those days of paranoia and witch-hunting. Today, the new scare is: “Muslims under our mattresses,” and “Iran threatens the world.”
In the McCarthy era, his Republican Party was run by East Coast moderate conservatives from New York, Boston and Washington who were well educated and worldly.
The Republican elite eventually became sickened by McCarthy’s lies and alarms that the government was filled with Communists and Soviet spies.
The Soviets and their fellow travellers were a real danger, but not to the absurd degree of McCarthy’s fevered claims. But for a while, his anti-Communist campaign intimidated American and held it in thrall.
Last week, we witnessed the rebirth of McCarthyism in the Iowa presidential caucus (an informal vote) as five Republican candidates struggled to outdo one another in warning of the peril of Iran and Islam – the new Red Menace.
The only Republican candidates who spoke responsibly about US foreign policy were Congressman Ron Paul and minor candidate Jon Huntsman. The other Republicans issued blood-curdling threats against Iran, and salaamed Israel without stop, heedless of the awful image of America they were presenting to the rest of world.
Iowa, a remote farming state filled by fundamentalist born again Christians, accounts for only 1% of US voters. These Bible Belt religious zealots get much of their view of the outside world either from extreme right-wing Christian radio networks, or equally right-wing, pro-Israel Fox News.
Over the past 30 years, the Republican rightwing has become joined at the hip with Israel’s hard right Likud Party, hence the emergence of so-called “Christian Zionists” who are cynically exploited by Israel’s Likud Party even though a generation ago their fathers may have belonged to the racist, Jewish-hating Ku Klux Klan.
In short, fertile ground for the Republican party’s far right. We are reminded of the great American writer Sinclair Lewis, who wrote in the 1930’s “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
Accordingly, Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Texas governor Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann vied with one another to proclaim themselves the most devout Christian, ardent patriot, social conservative and advocate of war against Iran and its friends. Prostituting oneself to radical special interests may be good politics in rural Iowa, but it bad, bad medicine for the nation these politicians claim to represent.
Almost as bad, the calm, reasoned, sensible words of candidate Ron Paul were barely heard thanks to a conspiracy of silence by the mainstream media which bitterly opposes his calls for an end to foreign wars and big government built on a mountain of debt.
No wonder. The 76-year old Dr Paul speaks for many Americans, particularly younger ones, who are sick of war, propaganda, the growing police state, and seeing government dominated by Wall Street and special interests.
Dr. Paul asked me to Washington to brief him on Afghanistan. After, I wrote that Paul was the most honest and bravest political leader I’d met in Congress.
Dr. Paul’s strong finish sends a potent message of anti-war, rebellious sentiment to Washington and President Barack Obama. There is intense disgust and dismay among Democrats, independents and even some moderate Republicans that Obama has caved into Wall Street and Israel’s American lobby.
Obama’s stealthy signing of a bill over Christmas that allows the Pentagon to indefinitely lock up American citizens accused of “terrorism” without trial has deeply alarmed many Americans. Even George W. Bush didn’t do this.
The Republican presidential contest now moves on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, both relatively conservative states, though very different from one another. Bachmann has dropped out.
Mitt Romney leads in both states. But most American’s don’t trust him and think he’s a phony. So the race remains open and boisterous. The Republican establishment continues to look over its shoulder in fear at the candidate who really represents the true values of America, Ron Paul.