Not having a party

It’s nearly three years since Barack Obama won the US presidential election. To many people outside America, this marked what people assumed would be the return of ‘normal’ politics to America. For non-Americans it had been almost impossible to understand George W. Bush and his retinue; they seemed to be driven by various impulses that, for them, signified US influence and leadership, but which to the rest of the world appeared to be somewhere between zany and dangerous. The Bush administration took on almost unimaginable costs, ranging from the various wars to massive (and unfunded) tax cuts.

Oddly enough, right now US politics are convulsed by two outputs from the Bush era: the amazing deficit that his policies bequeathed the American people, and the ‘Tea Party‘ movement that is a spin-off of sorts from his ideological positions. This dual legacy is so odd in part because the Tea Party are treating the deficit as an Obama creation, which it actually is not. As the graph in this article shows, overwhelmingly the over-spending is a creature of the Bush government, whereas Obama has been relatively frugal; indeed Obama’s main expenditure relates to issues (or wars) that were put in play by Bush.

If you visit America, as I have been doing these past few days, you get a very direct sense of how US politics are now anything but normal. The debate here about raising the debt ceiling is so totally irrational as to have mind-bending attributes. A solution to the by now somewhat real threat that America could default on its financial obligations (though probably not its loans) is held in abeyance by driven ideologues who, when you listen to them being interviewed, clearly do not have an even basic understanding of the economic issues involved. They share the Republican Party with an established leadership that is increasingly aghast at their antics. On the other side is a president who may not be acting as decisively as the situation requires. As the outcome of this drama will affect us all, it has rather chilling properties.

The United States is, and notwithstanding occasional exaggerated predictions about the growth of the BRIC countries will continue to be, the leader and trend-setter of the global economy. This makes it rather important that its economic policies are the subject of rational debate and decision-making, guided by informed analysis. The current battles being fought on Capitol Hill won’t do. It is time to stop humouring the Tea Party ideologues, and to stop pretending that their arguments merit real debate. There are perfectly legitimate differing positions on the economic crisis, but they need to be based on an understanding of the issues. It is time for America to end the ‘tea party’ and to let the adults take over.

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6 Comments on “Not having a party”

  1. victoria Says:

    The fact is that Obama is a failure
    –he made big promises of hope and change

    –but it was just PR– like Murdock

    It is clear that Obama is invested in Obama

    –the triumph of narcissist over competence

    • Al Says:

      Obama was elected to a constitutional office to carry out the duties as set out by that constitution.
      It is designed to be this way.
      However I would be with Frank Rich on where his failings are…

      Rich wrote in the OP/Ed sectionof the sunday NYT and now for the New York Magazine. He called it right through the democratic primaries and those pieces he wrote should be collected into one volume.

    • Victoria, if you want to persuade anyone you need to have a more dispassionate analysis. That just looks like a rant based on personal dislike rather than a proper argument. It kind of makes my point.

  2. Vincent Says:

    Republican parties tend to be populated by sergeants and generals.
    I do think you’ve got the analysis a bit wrong. The tea-party is there because of an absence of valid direction offered by the generals. And for what it’s worth, this noise was being made before the invasions of Iraq. Where a cacophony, like now was seemingly insane, but was beginning to coalesce around a narrative. I was profoundly grateful when Blair decided to enter the war, for if that narrative of martial aloneness gained traction who knows where the end might have been. But I doubt it would have been benign.
    Anyhooos, my tuppenceworth is the tea party exists as a army awaiting a clear workable ideology to replace Reganism, which has run it’s course. Or failing that, a useful enemy with an ideology will do. And they have neither.

  3. Al Says:

    A correction
    The Tea Party movement didnt grow from Bush. Ignoring the Koch funding of the attempt to create a national organisation, there has been a small government libertarian faction with American politics since….
    Ron Paul is such an example.

  4. cormac Says:

    That is a very good summary of how the US political scene has appeared to me over the year, Ferdinand. One caveat is that I think the Tea Party are just the most extreme wing of republican politics. The whole repulican movement seems to have become more and more divorced from reality.
    For example, most republicans I know genuinely believe Obama and his policies are responsible for the recession – they simply cannot accept that this is patently untrue.
    The problem with all this is not just that the US economy, a driver of the world economy, is headed for disaster, as republicans refuse to countenance raised taxes and expenditure needed to get the economy going. The real problem is the same sort of disregard for the facts acts in spheres other than economics, from the politics of the Middle East to climate change. On the latter, it is now inconceivable that a US government will be able to take any meaningful action, at least for the forseeeable future…rather unfair on the rest of the world

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