NEW YORK – This great city is physically in America but it’s hardly 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 moral and political depravity and vice.
In return, New Yorkers (I’m one), look down on the rest of America (San Francisco and Pacific northwest excepted) as “flyover country” populated by rednecks, hicks, religious fanatics and know-nothings.
Last week’s Republican debates reinforced the party’s lack of interest in the outside world. Leading candidates Mitt Romney, pizza mogul Herman Cain, and Texas tough guy Rick Perry barely mentioned world affairs.
When they did, it was to either get on their knees to proclaim their 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.
Romney announced a slate of foreign affairs advisors drawn from the ranks of the Bush administrations wildest anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, anti-Iranian neoconservatives and far right-wingers. The same crowd that brought us Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq.
Aside from the macho chest-pounding, some of the leading candidates made monkeys of themselves when talking about the outside world. As a moderate Republican, I cringed with embarrassment.
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 Bachman stumbled around all those strange foreign names. 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.
But no matter. Ignorance has become a sort of badge of honor among many heartland Republicans, as witnessed by the popularity of the patron of low 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 New York city slickers.
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. He supports a Palestinian state.
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 is a Mormon, a faith 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 born-again Christian Evangelicals. 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 the famous US author 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.
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 Earth was created only 10,000 years ago, as the Bible says. Who rejects evolution and believes in Adam and Eve, and Noah’s Ark. Who may believe, as do millions of Evangelicals, that Christ will return once all Jews are gathered into recreated Biblical Israel and then earth will be destroyed by God.