The Republican presidential debate held September 12 in Tampa, Florida was co-sponsored by a major television network and an ultra-right group, Tea Party Express, one of a half-dozen organizations, lavishly financed by right-wing multi-millionaires, that posture as the “grass roots” of the Republican Party.
The debate was the first time that one of the main television networks had formed a formal partnership with sections of the Tea Party movement, who invariably demonize the media as “liberal”, except for the openly right-wing and pro-Republican Fox News.
The effect of the whole presentation was to appeal to those who would once have been considered the lunatic fringe of American politics and to portray them as a legitimate and even “mainstream” trend. It is these forces, which represent a tiny minority of the population, that set the tone for policy, not just in the Republican Party, but in the entire political establishment … //
… One incident in the debate took the measure, not so much of the candidates, as of their right-wing audience. CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul, a practicing physician, a hypothetical question: “A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?”
Paul responded by condemning “welfarism and socialism,” where someone “expects the government to take care of him.” He said that the government should take no responsibility.
“Are you saying that society should just let him die?” Blitzer followed up. At that point, according to press accounts, “Several loud cheers of ‘yeah!’ followed by laughter could be heard in the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds in response to Blitzer’s question.”
This echoed an interchange at the previous debate, where a question to Perry about his record of approving more executions than any other US governor touched off a spontaneous round of applause.
This vicious reaction is characteristic of a thin layer of the ultra-right, those whose attitude to the victims of American capitalism—the unemployed, the poor, the sick, the elderly—has more than a touch of fascism.
Such layers are deliberately promoted and inflated by the media and the Democratic Party as a mechanism for shifting the entire political establishment even further to the right. From the moment he took office, President Obama has done everything to rehabilitate the Republicans—who suffered a crushing defeat in the 2008 elections—by insisting on the need for “bipartisanship.”
That the Republicans can generate any electoral support—outside of the most right-wing and unstable elements—is only testimony to the reactionary pro-business character of the Obama administration and its indifference to tens of millions who are falling victim to the economic disaster.
On the questions most central to the interests of the ruling class—particularly the attack on federal health care programs and Social Security—the differences between the Republicans on the one hand and the Obama administration on the other are one of degree, not principle. (full long text).