Matthew Norman: What world are the Republicans living in?

There isn't space to catalogue the recent hilarities provided by GOP presidential wannabes


In honour of yesterday's 48th anniversary of JFK's assassination, the Republican Party continued its work on refining his most revered soundbite. "Ask not what your country can do for you", runs the GOP message to an impoverished electorate. "Ask what you can do for your country's billionaires."

The congressional "super-committee" of 12, six from each party and established to find a bipartisan solution to American debt, announced its failure to do so, with potentially horrendous results. Argument will rage over apportioning the blame for this latest deadlock. But in the real world from which the Republican establishment has been driven into exile by the coalition of plutocrat-manipulated stooges known for brevity as the Tea Party, the answer is plain.

The Republicans simply would not countenance any reversal of George W Bush's tax cuts – the ones which, along with those two splendid wars, account for almost every cent of the $15tn national debt – for the very rich, the obscenely rich and the richer-than-Croesus-the-day-he-landed-that-nine-chariot-accumulator-at-Corinth-Park.

As ever, the Democrats tried to compromise. As ever, the Republicans chose to inch their country and the world that crucial bit closer to the economic abyss. And, as ever, you gaze across the ocean wondering how they came to be here at all, these visitors from a parallel universe in which their President is variously a Communist, a Nazi, and an Islamist sleeper; where nothing damages the sick like treating their sickness; and where worsening the poverty of the penniless to protect the Gulfstreamocracy makes perfect moral and economic sense.

To their credit, the GOP presidential wannabes do their unwitting best to leaven the gloom. Sadly, there isn't space to catalogue recent hilarities from TV debates, interviews and transparently mendacious campaign ads. Readers with a taste for the surreal-macabre are directed to the "Speculatron", Jason Linkins's indecently funny weekly round up of their activities in the Huffington Post.

Suffice it for now to report that the latest threat to Mitt Romney's inevitability confirms how inevitable his victory is. Sharing the lead with Romney in national polls is Newt Gingrich. Yes, that one. The one who, as Speaker in 1995, shut down the federal government in umbrage after Bill Clinton seated him at the back of Airforce One. Wouldn't you kill to be next to him on a Ryanair flight to Magaluf?

The thrice-wed Gingrich, who left one wife when she was stricken with cancer, was an adviser to the hated mortgage giant Freddie Mac. He claims to have been paid $300,000 to act as its "historian", though Bloomberg cites the amount as $1.6m-$1.8m, which seems generous for a historical appraisal. Newt roused a debate audience, by the way, by lacerating politicians who took money from Freddie Mac. No wonder Romney seems relaxed about this challenge.

Gingrich is at least extremely clever, which gives him an edge over predecessors in the Anyone But Mitt role. First came Michelle Bachmann, who believes that the people of Iraq should pay huge reparations to the US for being invaded against their will and deprived of such luxuries as running water and electricity. Then came Donald Trump, whose aggressive birtherism gave him the lead before the production of Obama's birth certificate allowed reality a rare intrusion into the Republican alternate universe. Next up was Rick Perry, who undermined the nostalgic presidential appeal of a folksy, good ol' boy Texas governor with his celebrated "oops" brain freeze... one Mr Cain quickly and cunningly impersonated when vainly trawling his head for talking points on Libya.

And so, barring a miracle, the nomination belongs to Romney, a man so mistrusted by Republicans that he remains marooned at about 25 per cent despite facing the electric shock therapy-scrambled half of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest's supporting cast. Here, the GOP base shows signs of belonging to the real world, because this must be the slimiest, phoniest opportunist to run for president since... well, ever.

Currently parading as a feel-yer-pain conservative hardliner, this erstwhile liberal Republican with the $250m private fortune has never met an issue on which he is unhappy to take two, and, where applicable, three sides. Not content with a flip and a flop, he occasionally lobs in a flup. He kinda disowns the health care plan he introduced as Massachussetts's governor – what brand of arrogant monster wouldn't beg forgivness for saving poor people's lives? – and sorta claims it was intrinsically different from the Obama version so closely modelled upon it. That'll stand him in spiffing stead in the general election. That, and defending his Mormon beliefs, which frankly tend towards the outré. That, and having once driven to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof rack. And he's the reassuringly normal one.

On reflection, that latter masterstroke contained the kernel of a fine idea, albeit decades ahead of its time. Looking at the GOP today, many Americans may think that JFK line needs even more tweaking. Ask not what your country can do for you, or what you can do for your country's billionaires. Ask what the quickest route to the northern border is, and what the requirements for Canadian citizenship might be.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015