The United States is now reminiscent of countries that at various periods of their history have been either been paralyzed by minority extremist groups; or worse, have elected them to office.
The rise of the Tea Party right is a classic case of how a small, extremist faction seizes control when the political mainstream fails to solve deep national problems. It is an amalgam of a far-right that has always hovered around one-fifth of the electorate, swollen by the frustrations of previously apolitical people.
In much of Europe today, far-right populist parties now typically get 20 or 25 percent of the vote. With Europe’s parliamentary and multiparty system, however, they don’t get to govern, but in several countries they are now the second of third most popular party.
These parties represent about the same share of public opinion as the Tea Party in the US. But in America, with our two-party system and our constitutional machinery of blockage, if a determined minority gains control of one party it can bring responsible government to a halt. That is what has now occurred, and it will color our politics between now and the 2012 election, and quite possibly beyond.
Robert Kuttner, The Goons of August 8/2/11
Robert Kuttner is a reasonable man who substantiates his opinions. He is not given to hyperbole, so his alarm here demands notice.