Today’s Republican Party: A Dystopian Carnival


Not everyone is freely invited into the Republican circus tent

Tom Engelhardt

(Courtesy of

Here is what’s grimly fascinating in this year’s dystopian carnival of a Republican presidential primary. When it comes to what can be said in America, all bets are off. These days, the concept of “beyond the pale” couldn’t look more wan. All of a sudden, there’s nothing, no matter how jingoistic or xenophobic, extreme or warlike that can’t be expressed in public and with pride by a Republican presidential candidate. You want torture back in the American playbook? You’ve got it! Just elect Donald Trump or Ben Carson — and our future torturers don’t even need to justify its use in terms of getting crucial information from terror suspects. Employing good old American-style enhanced interrogation techniques to inflict pain on “them” is fine and dandy in itself.

When it comes to refugees from the grim war zones we had such a hand in creating in the Greater Middle East, if you want the Statue of Liberty to hold a “Christians only” sign, welcome to the worlds of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. Should you prefer a registry for either Syrian refugees or American Muslims and mosque closings aplenty, you’ve got it from Donald Trump (and the closing of any facility “where radicals are being inspired” from Marco Rubio) — and no matter how much politically correct liberals may complain, Trump’s not walking either of those proposals back far. (Where, by the way, are all those religious freedom types now that mosques are at stake? Can you imagine the uproar in this country if Bernie Sanders were to call for the shutting down of a few right-wing Christian churches?)

If you have the urge to compare Syrian Muslim refugees to “rabid dogs” and thought you had to keep your mouth shut about it, step into the universe of Ben Carson and speak out!  Should you want to claim that, on September 11, 2001, crowds of thousands of Muslims cheered and tailgated in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from the smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers, and that it was all recorded on video that only Donald Trump and maybe Ben Carson saw, then you’re in just the right exceptional nation at just the right moment. I could go on, but why bother?

In 2016 there is evidently no longer anything, no matter how extreme or offensive, that Donald Trump and the rest of the crew can say to the Republican base that will affect their popularity negatively. Quite the opposite, such statements, along with the promise to be “tough” on the Islamic State, are now the equivalent of popularity meters. In a country where public opinion not so long ago seemed down on more boots-on-the-ground interventions in the Greater Middle East, you can’t threaten to send in too many boots and planes these days. The attacks in Paris and threats of them elsewhere are clearly God’s gift to Republican extremity. And right now, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his caliphate pals seem to control the electoral fate of politicians in both the United States and Europe.

In the midst of this Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to election 2016, lest you think that the category of extreme and perverse is confined to foreign policy, and refugee or immigrant bashing, climb aboard TomDispatch’s campaign tour bus and let Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power, take you on a wild, Hunger-Games-themed ride into the wilderness of Republican economic policy in the ongoing campaign from hell.

(Editor’s Note: Be sure to read Nomi Prins’ latest article at  It gives new meaning to the term “hunger games.”)

Tom Engelhardt is the founder of and the author of several notable books, most recently Shadow Government, on America’s increasingly militarized world. His writing, Studs Terkel once noted, hits with the power of “a Joe Louis jab to the solar plexus.”


3 thoughts on “Today’s Republican Party: A Dystopian Carnival

  1. The irony of this Republican bashing is that the Democrats are as beholden to Wall Street and a foreign policy of agendas that are totally harmful to the nation. The recent wars have had bipartisan approval costing trillions of dollars and enormous loss of life and bodily injuries.

    President Bill Clinton signed legislation eliminating the safeguards of Glass-Steagal Act which contributed to the economic collapse of 2008- though he and his “economic” advisers deny it. There are so many harmful laws passed in a bipartisan fashion one wonders why it is so rare the both political parties have not been discredited allowing more power sharing with the admission of other political parties. There is a two party lock on power exhibiting a bipartisan carnival of appetites leading to financial reward, such as delayed compensation for legislation and policies. Government has become their prize and tool for the advancement of narrow interests over national interest often for financial benefit or even favoritism. What political party dare change the current equation of the status quo?

    The two political parties are locked in a contest delivering legislation to the same powerful constituents with some differences around the margins. The “culture wars” of same sex marriage, abortion and gun control are not pivotal economic issues but emotional ones. Where is the a focus on actual government and the results of its enormous expenditures, wars and legislation?

    Our wars are a stage of darkness for the mainstream news never illuminating the carnage and human displacement in distant lands. Our vaunted media-especially TV network and cable news- ignores the nation’s foreign disasters shielding a two party carnival whose legislation and policies benefit private interests masked as national interest. In this huge and diverse nation why are there only two political parties as stewards of the nation? Maybe more political parties will have the opportunity to check two party excesses and corruption. It is a risk of maybe that two political parties cannot afford. These two political parties are not fighting primarily for the American people, they are fighting for powerful vested interests that often have little regard for what is best for the nation.

    Which of these two political parties has supported whistle blowers who expose malfeasance in government?

    • All true, Henry. But at least Democrats aren’t calling for mass deportations of immigrants, registering all American Muslims in a database, the closing of mosques, the return of tens of thousands of U.S. troops to ground combat in Iraq/Syria, and so on. Both parties are deeply compromised, but one is tending toward batshit crazy.

      Yes, we need more parties — more voices — in America. No doubt about that!

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