Judging from what the seven Republican presidential hopefuls said — and didn't say — during New Hampshire's recent primary debate, it is hard to escape the conclusion that they are a group of uptight bigots. They are also either ignorant of economic reality or exceedingly skillful liars. And while there is plenty of room to disagree with many aspects of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, their assumption that Obama is selling out our allies in order to bolster a free-form anti-Americanism is a fiction as insidious as anything concocted by the birthers.
Since Ronald Reagan left the White House in 1989, the Republicans have become increasingly radical, right wing, and reactionary. The latest bunch, as represented by the New Hampshire seven, are extremely scary. It is true that they all displayed their best country-club manners at the debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney certainly solidified his position as the front-runner. And there is no doubt that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota got the biggest boost. But with the exception of Texas congressman Ron Paul's hymn to anti-interventionism, the pack sang within such a narrow register that they all more or less sounded the same.
Religiosity may be a long-time staple of American politics, but this tight-assed crew spoke as if only "Christians" (translation: gay-hating, Bible-thumping Protestants and Vatican-worshipping Catholics) voted. Jews, as in Judeo-Christian ethic? Forget about them. Muslims? Make that lot take loyalty oaths. Give us that old-time religion. Let's go back behind the barn, bite the head off a snake, and vote Republican.
As for minority concerns, well, there aren't any. And if anyone were to think the Saint Anselm Seven were racist, the presence on the stage of Herman Cain, the African-American pizza tycoon, should put that notion to rest.
Anti-immigrant? Not by their book. It makes perfect sense to call the National Guard back from Iraq and Afghanistan and station them along the Mexican border. That way immigrants — documented and undocumented alike — can feel safer in their adopted country.
Nobody expected any of these Republicans to support same-sex marriage. But it was instructive that there were not even any nods to civil unions, let alone a neighborly word or two along the lines of, "We may disagree about the politics of sexuality, but we understand that, straight or gay, we all salute the same flag." Fat chance.
The candidates were at their most obtuse when it came to economics and jobs. That comes as no surprise. The Republican Party has not had an original economic idea in 30 years. The platform is simple and consistent: cut taxes, roll back regulation.
The deficit these clowns worry about is, to a very large degree, the result of the Bush tax cuts and the government's decision to finance its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through deficit spending. Meanwhile, the killer recession that is strangling the nation was facilitated by deregulation.
It would be easy to dismiss all the hot air expended in New Hampshire as a fantasy exercise in futility, if it were not for one thing: the most recent polls show that if the general election were held today, Romney would more or less fare the same as Obama.