Eric Margolis: The current Republican Party appeals to fear and prejudice
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington, and joining us again from Toronto is Eric Margolis. He’s the Author of American Raj. He’s been an international correspondent for many, many years. He has a website, EricMargolis.com, but he also went—in the ’60s had volunteered to go to Vietnam, although, if I understand it correctly, wound up stateside, working for the US Army, and was a member of the Republican Party—I don’t know if you still are, but for most of your life. Thanks for joining us, Eric.
ERIC MARGOLIS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Good to be back with you. I’m a somewhat fallen-away member of the Republican Party, but I still call myself a Republican.
JAY: And you just told me, off camera, that you have a plaque on your wall from Donald Rumsfeld for your contribution to the Cold War against the godless Soviet Union.
MARGOLIS: That’s right. I’m a real live, genuine, cold warrior. And I tell you, I used to have a Russian girlfriend, and she said to me, she said, “Eric, I know that every day you wake up and you miss Cold War.” And I said, “It’s true.” I said, “I do miss the Cold War. It was fun. We had a honorable opponent. We had a great time with the Cold War. Today the fun has gone out of international relations.”
JAY: So tell us a bit about your take on the Republican Party and where it’s at and where you think it’s going.
MARGOLIS: Well, I’m a New Yorker. I grew up in the East Coast Republican Party. I started a run for Congress on the Republican Party, on the New York conservative party ticket in the 17th Congressional District many moons ago. And I believed in the Republicans. I consider Eisenhower the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln. And I believed in Republican principles of small government, low taxes, and trying to avoid foreign entanglements. But today’s Republican Party is no longer the real Republican Party. It’s some kind of ersatz creation of—and that I often compare more to the Soviet Union’s government than to the Eisenhower principles of Republicanism. We have—Bush inflicted a catastrophe on the United States in many ways. Huge debt spending. Bush presided over the biggest increase in the federal government since Franklin Roosevelt, or at least since Lyndon Johnson. He plunged us into two idiotic wars that we’re paying for forever and generally abandoned all the principles held dear by Republicans. And what we’re ended up with today is a rump of the old Republican Party, made up of hicks and holy rollers, as I sometimes call them—exaggerated, but certainly the party’s become taken over by a very strong Southern and heartland influence. It’s narrowminded, it’s inward looking, and increasingly, as we see with Governor Palin and the leading Republican members of Congress now, it’s a party that is speaking to the lowest IQ level of American voters and has become a dumbed down party that appeals to fear and prejudice.
JAY: What do you make of the ability of the Republican Party since the election of President Obama to make a comeback? It’s kind of surprising that within a year a Republican Party that seemed in disarray and people were talking about generational rule by the Democrats are now apparently poised to retake 50, 60 seats in the House, maybe some more in the Senate. And they’re even talking about a one-term presidency for Obama. How do we get from there to here?
MARGOLIS: There’s constant fear mongering that’s going on, including that ridiculous Christmas Day alleged attack on the US. Americans are still scared. They’re scared of joblessness. Obama obviously not in charge of the situation. So in a period of fear, look at Germany in the 1930s: everybody turns to extremist groups. Right now it’s turning to the far right of the Republican Party. It is mounting an extremely vicious hate campaign against the presidents, much of which is just errant hate propaganda. It’s fear mongering. To see Americans advocating torture and waterboarding and assassinations and more bombing and don’t close Guantanamo because they’re going to come to Springfield, Illinois. It’s repulsive, and as I said, it appeals to the smallest minds of the country and the most frightened voters. But the Republican voters are scoring, and the question is: how far are they going to get with this? Because there are still a lot of reasonably intelligent voters in the center who have not responded to all this hate and fear mongering.
JAY: Now, some of this alienation that’s felt by the tea bag movement and others that are still in and around the Republican Party, one would have to think some of that is legitimate, to say this feeling that government is corrupt. In our earlier part of our interview we talked about the size of the military-industrial complex budget, and how it’s so sacred it can’t get touched, the role of lobbying. I mean, a lot of what’s pushing this movement seems to have legitimacy, at least in terms of the substance of it.
MARGOLIS: Well, it is. People are angry. Rightfully—I’m angry as hell too. I don’t like to see Goldman Sachs calling the shots for the United States and making billions and billions of dollars out of this messed up so-called financial rescue program, which only rescued the gambling bankers from their gambling debts and left the rest of Americans in the lurch. So people are right to be upset. But throw in angry racists who don’t like Obama because he’s a man of color and people who just hate Democrats and Ku Klux Klan people and every kind of kook on the extreme right, and you mishmash them all together, and you get the teabag movement, [inaudible] teacup movement, butter or teacup movement, whatever it’s called. But there was only one good sign came out of a recent straw poll in Washington: the man who came out as number one most respected was Representative Ron Paul, who I keep calling the most respected and the really only honest man in the whole federal government.
JAY: The Ron Paul movement doesn’t seem to be able to make too much more headway than 7 or 8 percent in the primaries in the Republican Party. So does this all lead to a third party and a split in the Republican Party, or not?
MARGOLIS: It may; the Republican Party may indeed split. I think that would be a very good thing. I’d like to see all the right-wing crazies shipped off to North Dakota to rant, fulminate in the cold out there and leave Ron Paul’s sensible supporters there. But we know the third-party candidacies always do poorly in the United States, and American voters, like voters everywhere, prefer to be lied to by mountebanks, deceitful politicians, [than] be told the truth by people such as, you know—. My main point: you want the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Pay for them, ’cause right now we’re putting them on the national credit card. And I’ve been advocating for a long time that we should pay a war tax: every American should have to chip out to pay for these foreign wars. And let me tell you, if everybody had to pay $2,500 a year for these foreign operations, those wars would end very quickly.
JAY: Thanks for joining us, Eric.
MARGOLIS: My pleasure.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And if you’re in the United States and if you like this interview, you can get your mobile phone—and here’s my mobile phone—and you can text to 85944, text the word “news”, and you’ll send us $5. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.