(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Watching the storm-battered Republican convention at Tampa, Florida, does not reinforce faith in democracy or the Grand Old Party (GOP).
American political conventions traditionally mix back-room horse-trading with tasteless hoopla in which mostly white, overweight, middle-aged delegates wear funny outfits and make fools of themselves. Once upon a time, candidates for president and vice president were actually chosen at conventions by state delegations.
No longer. The Republican convention's outcome was decided months ago. Candidate Mitt Romney was merely anointed at Tampa as Republican standard-bearer. A young, talented Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan, became his running mate.
The Tampa event was one long TV commercial designed to beam the Republican party's message to Americans: lower taxes, banning abortions, more military spending, gutting President Barack Obama's national healthcare plan.
But a ghost haunted this year's convention. Dr. Ron Paul was not allowed a prime time speech. The sensible policies he advocates " small government, an end to empire and foreign wars, reducing the mighty influence of Wall Street and Israel over government policies, breaking the power of Big Money " were all shunned by the party.
Dr Paul's delegates, about 10 per cent of all primary votes cast, were sidelined or excluded. His many ardent supporters, a good part of them young, were furious and lashed out at the king-makers of GOP's fixed convention and business as usual policies. A lot of them said they would not vote Republican in November. This loss of votes in what promises to be a tight race against Obama could spell defeat for the GOP.
Foreign policy has been a minor campaign issue so far, except for ritual expressions of fulsome adoration for Israel.
Americans are focused on the sick economy and job losses, not overseas issues. Romney has assembled a foreign policy team chock-a-bloc with retreaded neoconservatives who often sound like members of Israel's hard-right Likud Party. All the neo-con fanatics who created the hysteria leading to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now back and ready to work their magic on promoting wars against Syria and Iran. Destroying Iran is their key goal.
Romney's foreign policy advisors are now so far over to the hard right and so warlike that some senior Republican Party foreign policy veterans, like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, are deeply alarmed and are actually backing Obama's policies. We see a deep split in the GOP between the new right and traditional East Coast moderates. This is because 44-50 per cent of self-described Republicans today call themselves born-again Christian fundamentalists from the nation's heartland who support far right domestic and foreign policies and consider a Greater Israel as part of their religious credo. Israel has co-opted almost the entire American Protestant conservative religious movement.
Behind all the fanfare over Romney lurks the key question: Republicans call for greater military spending (today already 50 per cent of total world arms spending), confronting China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, expanding US influence in Africa and the Pacific Ocean. Yet, contradictorily, they vow to cut taxes and shrink the monstrously bloated government created by Republican George W. Bush (a despised figure kept away from Tampa).
Washington taxes its citizens at the level of a small nation yet supports a huge global empire. The US has borrowed billions over the past decade to cover the difference between low income and vast spending. This can't go on much longer. Debt threatens to capsize the US economy.
Romney is trailing Obama in the polls. But if he somehow wins in November, he will be forced to either raise taxes or cut military and social spending. The latter threat terrifies older Americans who rely on government medical plans and pensions.
Women are furious at Romney over the abortion issue and dumb remarks about abortion made by a Republican senatorial candidate from backwards Missouri. Independents, swing voters who could determine the election in key battleground states are fleeing the GOP in growing numbers.
The once mighty Republicans, the party of Abe Lincoln and the great Dwight Eisenhower, may be facing their hurrah. If they lose the 2012 election, the party could splinter and stumble off to irrelevance as a fringe of rural and suburban white right-wingers and religious extremists.
Eric S. Margolis is a veteran US journalist