Curiously, while climate sceptics have been resurgent in Australia since the election of the Rudd Government, they have been unusually silent here in the United States since Barack Obama took office.
Perhaps there is a natural limit to the nuttiness a polity can accommodate at any one time and the space in the United States is being filled with gun fanatics.
Gun sales have boomed since Obama arrived in Washington. The Smith & Wesson share-price has skyrocketed and dealers have run out of ammunition.
The gun world is rife with rumours that Obama is going to confiscate their weapons. In the real world, the Democrats are spooked by the belief — call it a myth — that the National Rifle Association caused them to lose control of Congress in 1994 after the ban on assault weapons.
At least eight mass shootings across the United States already this year have not had much political effect.
Others say it’s the economic crisis driving up gun sales (including pink revolvers, which are said to be popular among women because they can be sure no man will steal them). “You could imagine if we truly had a collapse of the economy and it was hard to find food”, one gun rights spokesman told CBS, “those that did manage to hang onto food might find themselves in a precarious position.”
In places like Virginia it’s all part of the culture of suspicion of the Federal Government, those “puppets in Washington”. Turns out there are quite a few candidates for puppeteer, but one of the more insidious is the United Nations, the same outfit that climate denialists believe wants to take away US sovereignty.
Gun nuts have been expecting the UN invasion for a while, beginning with the disarming of the militias and the creation of concentration camps. In recent times there has been more sighting of the UN’s “black helicopters”, presumably out doing recess.
Road signs have been discovered bearing secret markings to guide the invaders. A few years ago the Indiana transportation department actually had to change the state’s road signs after they were defaced by patriots determined to thwart the UN invasion. In Oklahoma, the Legislature felt the need to petition the Federal Government to cease its support for the “new world order“.
This is the territory of the Republican base, to which the party is retreating. Last month it began testing out new forms of populism with its anti-tax rallies dubbed “tea parties”. Although ignored by most of the media, Fox News has been fanning the flames of the people’s revolt against “Obama’s socialism”.
The defection of long-serving Senator Arlen Specter (R, Pennsylvania) to the Democrats shocked some, but had many on the right saying “good riddance”. Rush Limbaugh — the shock jock who makes Alan Jones look like James Dibble — told Specter to take John McCain with him. “The Republican Party is moving left and that is why it is in trouble”. He could be correct; after all, if the Republicans moved any further to the right they would find themselves in a Munich beer-hall.
The defection of Specter, who is less enamoured with guns than his wall-of-sound namesake, confirmed that the remaining Republican representatives know they are a rump whose seats are secure against Democrat competitors, but vulnerable to challenge from the right of the GOP. Specter was candid enough to admit that he probably would not survive a challenge from the right and would rather chance his arm on the other side.
It’s perilous for the Republican Party because the moderates — who managed to survive the era of Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and the neo-cons — are still being driven out. Olympia Snowe (R, Maine) opined as much in the New York Times: “In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide.”
The GOP is a party disappearing up its own fundamentalism. Paul Krugman began his column on the state of the Republican Party with the words: “it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people”. But how else to characterise a party whose base is in love with Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin?
Here’s Megan McCain on why she loves guns, published in The Daily Beast this week: “In the days after my dad lost the election, my brothers and I went to shoot rounds at the local shooting range. Partly because—as anyone who knows how to use a rifle and can do so safely understands—doing so is hugely stress-relieving, and partly because, we half-joked, it might mark the beginning of the end of our Second Amendment rights under the Obama administration…”
These various forces converge neatly in the figure of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R, Outer Wingnuttia) who first came to national prominence during the last election campaign when she urged the media to investigate Barack Obama and other Democrats so as to expose their anti-American views. Last week she suggested that Democrats are behind the swine flu outbreak.
It’s to be expected that someone with Bachman’s politics would reject the science of global warming, but she may be the first to invoke the authority of Jesus in support when she attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her “global warming fanaticism”, declaring: “She has said that she’s just trying to save the planet. We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago”.
Bachman seems to be trialling the Republican’s new tactic of “speaking crazy to power”, as Jon Stewart calls it. In March she called on her constituents (somewhere in Minnesota) to get out their guns to resist the Obama Administration’s climate plans. Invoking Thomas Jefferson’s endorsement of periodic revolutions to remind government who’s boss, she wants Americans “armed and dangerous” when Obama arrives with his energy tax.
Gun rights, a power-hungry UN, Jesus, climate denial and Rupert Murdoch’s media — somehow it all seems to fit together so neatly. Back in Australia, should we expect to hear an announcement that the Lavoisier Group and the Shooters’ Party have announced a merger?