I’ve watched, fascinated, as the fringe wing of US Republican Party, the Tea Partiers, have played chicken with a $17 trillion debt crisis.
Astonishingly they seem to have won the stare-down at the cost of not just the president, USA’s global reputation and any attempts at collaborative decision-making, but also at the cost of their own Republican Party which has taken a significant hit to its public standing.
The interesting bit for me is that way this mirrors politics in New Zealand. We also have a dominant right-wing party that treasures its public good will, and a crazed extreme right-wing party. The major difference though is that we have proportional representation (MMP). So while in the USA the Tea Party is embedded in the heart of the more moderate Republican Party, causing all sorts of damage, in New Zealand our crazed right-wingers have peeled off into their own party where they can espouse their own ideas, pull their own crazy stunts, and attract their own corresponding level of public support.
Before MMP we still had those fringe ideologues, but as with the USA, they were embedded and hidden in larger parties. In our case both of them: Labour from 1984 to 1990 as well as National from 1990 to 1996.
I feel sympathy for Republican voters in the States. Many of them get offered a voting choice of a Democrat or a Tea Partier. And they probably don’t know if they have a Tea Partier or just an ordinary Republican who was bullied into signing up to the Tea Party programme for the votes and funding.
The nice thing about MMP is you get exactly what you voted for. It’s very easy to find the ideologues because normally they are not hiding in other people’s parties.