Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mad, Mad American Politics

If you think that politics in India is crazy and that our system allows either the crooked or the unsuitable to win, you haven't been following American politics in all it's technicolor madness. Most of you are aware that the Republican Party out there is in the process of selecting a nominee who will take on Barrack Obama in presidential elections due this year in November. Till recently, it looked as Mitt Romney will easily win the nomination and perhaps even beat Obama who is quite unpopular because of the hard times that Americans are facing. But hard core and hard line Republicans detest Romney because his ideas are not as whacky and crazy as theirs. Like the one about climate change being a hoax, like the one about Charles Darwin being a charlatan and his theory of evolution of species a hoax, like the one about women who have been raped not being allowed to abort the baby and like the one about always lowering taxes for the rich because they create jobs and wealth. So in South Carolina, that has a lot of Republicans with such crazy ideas, they humiliated and gave a thumping victory to Newt Gingrich, who is more their type.

Now who is Newt Gingrich. Well he is the man who hated Bill Clinton so much he shut down the government in the mid 1990s because he thought Clinton was spending recklessly. Of course, he didn't bat an eyelid when fellow Republican George Bush spent money so recklessly between 2001 and 2008 that a federal surplus ended up as a record deficit. He is the man who virtually led the campaign to impeach Bill Clinton because Clinton allegedly slept with an intern called Monica Lewinsky in the White House and lied about it. Of course, even as Gingrich was trying to railroad Clinton out of office for the alleged crime of an extra marital affair, Gingrich himself was merrily cheating on his wife. That doesn't matter to the hard core Republicans who think it is ok to sin as long as you repent and stay committed to the cause. Gingrich is now a serious challenger to Romney and the wackos are excited!

Don't for a moment think that it is only Republicans who are capable of such duplicity. There is this guy called Elliot Spritzer who is a Harvard Law School graduate. As Attorney General of New York, he relentlessly went after people who he claimed "betrayed public trust". Elliot became the quintessential family man who symbolized integrity and fidelity. He prosecuted many Wall Street types and even broke up a prostitution ring that masqueraded as an escort service. Elliot was so successful that he ended up winning elections and became the Governor of New York in 2006. And then the penny dropped. It was discovered that Elliot himself was paying a prostitute to, what else, have sex with her. This upholder of public morals had to resign and seems to have disappeared from public view.

I have given the examples of Gingrich and Spritzer to show how hilarious American politics can be. Of course, the Indian public and media is far more considerate when it comes to the sexual prowess and preferences of its politicians. We mostly nudge and wink and then, in a manner of speaking, let the sleeping dogs lie! Unless it comes to a point where even we find it difficult to ignore. Like N.D Tiwari frolicking with three nubile nymphets in his official mansion at Hyderabad when he was Governor of Andhra Pradesh. And yes, Tiwari was more than 80 years old when his antics became public. Now you know why Indian politicians never retire!. Then again, there was a minister cum strongman called Amarmani Tripathi in Uttar Pradesh who got embroiled with Madhumita Shukla. Or, in recent times, the Jat leader cum former minister Mahipal Maderna who took a fancy to a lady called Bhanwri Devi.

Coming back to America, the problem is not just about politicians sleeping around. It is about the ideas they espouse the frightening number of cow belt Americans who believe in those ideas. Abortion, science, evolution and taxes, to name just a few. Let me give you a parallel of that scenario in India. What if Uma Bharti suddenly starts saying that sati is actually a good and honorable practice and remains electorally relevant and powerful? What if a fellow BJP traveller announces that the Manusmriti is as relevant as the Bible or the Qoran and remains electorally relevant and viable? What if Pratibha Patil publicly announces that astrology and planchette calls are as good as science as is reflected the President of India?

Thank God for small mercies!


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