Better 999 than 666: the 2012 Republicans may be mental, but at least they’re not evil

The Cain Train just keeps on rolling. The former CEO’s tax plan of “Nine-Nine-Nine down the line”, which would involve cutting personal and corporate taxes to 9% and replacing most federal taxes with a 9% sales tax, has not resulted in ridicule but a Republican race to the bottom over rates reform.

For Rick Santorum “Zero-Zero-Zero is better than Nine-Nine-Nine” while Ron Paul has suggested that America should do away with income tax altogether. Not only do these ideas appear to make little economic sense – Mitt Romney, before his rightward shift, called them a “tax cut for fat cuts” – they’re also likely doing damage to the various candidates’ White House chances.

Admittedly, many on the right do salivate merely at the mention of tax cuts. However, the majority of voters prefer the Obama administration’s proposed tax increase on those earning over $1million a year, particularly with the recent revelation that the richest 1% of Americans’ share of national income has doubled over the past 30 years.

Despite this, the field of Republican candidates has continued its tack to the right. The “We are the 53%” movement, which demands increased taxation of the 47% of Americans, often living below the poverty line, that currently don’t pay any federal income tax, is indicative of the continued conservative slide. The above views on taxation, and the cheers that met Rick Perry’s defence of the death penalty, naturally lead one to question the mental state of many Americans.

There is one consolation to be drawn, however. Mad though the current Republican Party may be, it has not yet displayed the malevolent instincts of its predecessors. In particular, current campaign managers have not yet sunk to the depths inhabited by the Beelzebub of the right, Lee Atwater. Most famous for his management of George Bush senior’s 1988 election bid, two incidents serve to illuminate the malice of Atwater.

In 1980 Atwater oversaw Republican Floyd Spence’s congressional against the Democrat, Tom Turnipseed. Atwater’s notorious tactics included making fun and political capital out of the Democrat’s child. After using a plant in a press conference to raise speculation about the issue, Atwater then told reporters off the record that “Turnipseed got hooked up to jumper cables.” Turnipseed would later relate, “Lee seemed to delight in making fun out of a suicidal sixteen year old who was treated for depression with electroshock treatments”.

These dirty tricks were part of the reason why George Bush Snr. selected Atwater as his campaign manager in 1988. Again, Atwater used the mental health issue and insinuated that the Democrat nominee, Michael Dukakis, was not fit to govern. More famously, Atwater was also central in exploiting the Willie Horton, that is race, issue. Atwater ensured that voters were aware that Horton, a black prisoner who murdered a white family while on day release, had had his parole sanctioned by the then Governor Dukakis. While Atwater’s actions helped Bush to overcome his summer poll 17-point deficit, the wounds he inflicted on the Democrats have not healed.

These actions contrast with the campaigns of the current Republicans. Herman Cain’s latest ad – wherein his campaign manager, Mark Block, struggles to form sentences, and Cain does his best impression of a panto villain – is almost laughable when compared to the Willie Horton infomercial.

This is not to deny the existence of figures on the American Right that possess the qualities of banality and evil that so transfixed Hannah Arendt. Roger Ailes, head of Fox News, scares even Rupert Murdoch with his right wing views. Indeed, Ailes once shut down an entire building when he interpreted a Latino cleaner outside his office as a bomb threat. He’s not running though. Thank God.