I very seldom comment on politics in the US. I grew up there and left in 1990 because I just saw no future in the country. It is a dying neo-colonial power that I thought would, like most colonial powers, fail to cope with its decline in a constructive way. Time has, I believed, proved me correct and I have watched the US tailspin into a decline largely of its own making as it actively destroyed its own manufacturing base, destroyed the unions that actually kept the nation strong, and pushed greater amounts of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
Amid the nation's decline we have watched the Republican party go into hyper-decline as it is more and more the voice of the fringe elements of religious extremists and know-nothing Tea Party wackos. But a great deal is being written in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media about how today's Republican party is a new animal and not the party of the past. People are particularly quick to say that the Republican Party has abandoned the example of Reagan.
However, I came out of my US slumber to say that much of the noise concerning the Republican Party is just nonsense. The GOP of today is exactly the inheritor of the Reagan legacy in both style and content. Ronald Reagan was really the beginning of the modern extremely divisive, nasty partisanship of today's politics. But more importantly Ronald Reagan's philosophy is exactly what the GOP represents today - a party that claims to be about a strong nation, a good business approach, individual liberty, and small government, but is actually anathema to all of these things. In Reagan's acceptance speech he famously said "government is the problem not the solution," but he (and almost no republicans after him) ever actually acted as though they believed this. They only believed that the problem of government was it tried to create more equality instead of less. Thus the Republican Party built bigger government with more power and less individual liberty. But unlike the traditional democrats who thought government could be a large institution which helped average people, the Republicans stood for big government that wants to help corporations (and not necessarily American corporations, just any large corporation). And this political approach not only had no interest in keeping the government out of people's bedrooms (a place where republicans continually want to go) it systematically bankrupted the US by actively promoting the movement of capital and manufacturing out of the country without any interest in replacing traditional manufacturing with a modern, smart, hightech economy (as many European countries have attempted to do). Even the so-called Tea Party supporters who talk about smaller government with more individual liberty have no real interest in such approach to government. Instead they are just hyper-Reaganists who want to impose their sexual and religious morals on everyone else while continuing to promote a big government that acts in the interest in a global corporate elite.
Thus I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that, though the rhetoric today is more extreme and more religious, the Republican Party today is just a natural extension of the Reagan Republicans of the 1980s. The only reason that people think it is different is because they are foolish enough to believe the totally disingenuous spin of the Reagan Republicanism.
And the reason that it is important for us in Canada to think about is that a great deal of what the Republicans represent are the core impetuous of the Conservatives here. Though the religious rhetoric of the Harpercons is milder thanks to very different histories of the two countries, Harper, and many of his strongest supporters are Born Again Christian Dispensationalists just like Bush and his ilk. But, perhaps more importantly, the present Conservative Government has no interest in small government or personal liberty (though they will use this front whenever necessary) their only real interest is in creating a government that furthers the global corporate agenda much the same way Reagan did.