Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during a 'Celebrate the 2nd Amendment' event. Photo / AP

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during a ‘Celebrate the 2nd Amendment’ event. Photo / AP

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called it “the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history”. Was he referring to:

The outbreak of the Civil War.
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy or Martin Luther King.
The 1929 Wall St crash.
Pearl Harbour.
9/11.
The realisation that the immensely costly and destructive Iraq War was launched on the basis of a lie.

None of the above: according to Cruz, America’s darkest day was when the Supreme Court decided not to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. Thus the extension of health insurance, previously the preserve of the rich, and marriage, previously the preserve of the straight, is worse than war, depression, assassination and mass murder.

And what does fellow Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee believe will “bring death to America”:
Bird flu.
Climate change.
Isis.
North Korean nuclear missiles.
Obesity.
Psychopathic gunmen wrapped in the Confederate flag.

Again, none of the above: Huckabee was referring to the just-announced nuclear deal with Iran. He wasn’t alone. It appears all 17 Republican presidential hopefuls believe the treaty painstakingly negotiated by the US, Russia, China, Britain, Germany, and France is not merely not worth the paper it’s written on, it’s positively catastrophic.

It will – Huckabee again – “wipe Israel off the map”. It’s worth pointing out that Israel, itself often accused of being a terrorist state, has a nuclear arsenal whereas Iran doesn’t and, by virtue of this treaty, won’t have for at least a decade.

So apart from bringing death to America and Israel, are there any other flaws? You bet: it will lead to widespread war in the Middle East.

Leaving aside the fact that war in the Middle East is the current and normal state of affairs, this assertion begs the question of how the critics would deal with Iran and its nuclear programme. Well, by making war in the Middle East even more widespread or, as the 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain put it, singing along to the tune of the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann, “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”.

Fittingly, given that the Republicans are now essentially a party of religious fundamentalism, their candidates are partly taking their lead from Zionist Israel and Wahhabist Saudi Arabia who are terrified – hopefully with good reason – that the Iran deal foreshadows a seismic realignment which reduces their malign influence on US Middle East policy.

But their kneejerk denunciations also signal a frightening abandonment of diplomacy as a means of defusing tension, avoiding conflict and managing international affairs. The mindset seems to be that diplomacy should be reserved for friendly nations with whom you have interests in common. That they remain disposed towards armed intervention which has accelerated rather than suppressed Islamic militancy shouldn’t come as a surprise since persisting with policies that achieve the exact opposite of what was intended is something of an American speciality.

The takeover of American conservatism by evangelical Christianity, Fox News and a handful of shadowy billionaires has transformed the Republicans into the party of wilful ignorance: doctrinal purity is more valued than intelligence; tolerance has been supplanted by persecutory moralising; paranoia has replaced realism.

This process may be reaching its logical conclusion with the emergence of property billionaire Donald Trump as the front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination.

Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandisement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.

You might expect a tycoon/buffoon cross to be a political player in some Latin American failed state or backward former Soviet republic, places with no democratic tradition or public institutions that have stood the test of time and no such thing as “the people” in the sense of an educated, civic-minded citizenry.

The fact that so many Republicans are comfortable with the thought of this monumentally unqualified individual in the Oval Office shows how warped the party has become. To borrow the rhetoric of their candidates, the party is now an existential threat to America’s leadership of the global community.

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