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Madhouse Mess Length: 49mins 58secs
Published: 16 Oct, 2013
As a potential US default ominously looms over the nation, this timely doc explores the increasingly bitter divide between Republicans and Democrats. The combined forces of Tea Party conservatism, Fox News' ideological "mystification" and the obstinacy of the Norquist tax pledge have all come to define politics on the hill. How did it get to this point? And whatever happened to the Republican Party?

More than 700,000 federal workers have been sent home on unpaid leave. Tourists are wandering the streets aimlessly as national parks and museums stand empty. The Statue of Liberty, the iconic symbol of American freedom and prosperity, is cordoned off. An array of government services, including public health and food programmes, have been abandoned. As Congress plays with fire, it is already taking its toll on the lives of ordinary Americans. And if the dreaded default happens, the catastrophic results will impact around the world.

Old school moderate Republican senators have seen the current standoff coming. "The culture of Congress was quite different in the 1980's. The idea was that you opposed what the other party was for, but you didn't throw up insurmountable road blocks..." As former Republican Senator Alan Simpson says, for the Republican Party today, "compromise has become a dirty word. A compromise means you're a wimp".

Almost 2 years into Obama's first term, anger over ballooning debt and a struggling economy resulted in Tea Party members winning a number of senate seats. When the Tea Party then refused to support a routine increase in the debt ceiling, moderates warned of the "inherently fragile institutions of our democracy". As the Republican party has since struggled to find a middle ground between its ultra-conservatives and moderates, the focus has been reduced to party politics rather than the bigger picture. "Senator McConnell said the Republican senate agenda in 2012 was to defeat Obama - is that a legislative agenda?" asks an incredulous former Republican senator, Arlen Specter.

"You've got a Republican party now that think the faith and credit of the United States is as Mitch McConnell put it, 'a good hostage to ransom'", says Ron Reagan Jr. It's a stance that has directly led to the current showdown over Obamacare and the debt ceiling and worryingly is pushing the Republicans even further from the negotiating table. "They cannot plausibly be both on the warpath against debt and on the warpath against ever rising taxes. It's put them in an untenable position...pushing them to the extreme."

A fascinating exploration of the most partisan and least productive period in US political history.


  • 1.  Henry 12 Oct 2013 09:34

    good program

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