Listening to the exchanges among the main Republican presidential candidates, it is easy to think that the debates are a television "reality show."
Newt attacks Mitt for his role at the private equity firm Bain Capital. Mitt assails Newt for his ties to Fannie Mae and his dismal performance as speaker of the House in the 1990s. And Rick Santorum when he gets a word in edgewise claims that neither Romney nor Gingrich is the real deal, that is, a true conservative. That tag belongs to him, he says - only he has a franchise on it.
Oops! I almost failed to mention Ron Paul, who is no better than the frontrunners, but he is more of a footnote in the primary contests at this point.
But there is more to these debates than political theater, more than attack and counterattack. What is striking, but goes unnoticed in this clashing free-for-all, is the similarity in basic policy positions of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls.
When it comes to rapid and broad expansion of domestic oil and gas exploration regardless of environmental damage, they are for it.
When it comes to deregulation and discredited "free market solutions," they want it.
When it comes to broad-scale privatization of education, they support it.
When it comes to tax breaks for the wealthiest, they can't get enough of it .
When it comes to repeal of Roe v. Wade and with it women's reproductive rights, they are chomping at the bit to do it.
When it comes to aggressive projection of military power in the Middle East and elsewhere, they strongly advocate it.
When it comes to stacking the courts with right-wing judges, they champion it.
When it comes to the elimination of racial and gender inequality, they want none of it.
When it comes to drastic slashing of the federal budget, they are all for it.
When it comes to immigrant and gay rights, they are against it.
When it comes to overturning the Obama health care act, they salivate over it.
When it comes to disempowering people's organizations, they are determined to do it.
When it comes to climate change, they deny it.
And when it comes to economic relief ... on jobs, foreclosures and food insecurity ... they do nothing about it.
In other words, even though they trade charges and counter-charges (usually true), Romney, Gingrich and Santorum (and Ron Paul too with a few variations) are of like mind. They are on the same page.
If any one of them is elected and if the Republicans gain control of Congress, they will set out to complete and consolidate the counterrevolution that Ronald Reagan initiated.
Reagan began this counterrevolution three decades ago. Its aim was to employ the state to shift the balance of political forces to the side of the most reactionary sections of the capitalist class.
Everything that was won by an aroused people over the course of the 20th century was to be eliminated hook, line and sinker. Nothing of the edifice of rights and social gains was to be left standing. The people were to be rendered impoverished as well as defenseless against the monster of a corporate-controlled market and state.
Beneath the discordant sounds of the current Republican Party debates lies a shared vision that would throw the country back to the Gilded Age when corporate elites did as they pleased and the people had no rights that corporate capital had to respect.
Some suggest that there is no difference in vision between President Obama on the one hand and Romney, Gingrich and Santorum on the other. But this is not only wrongheaded, but also politically dangerous.
Only yesterday I read an article by Chris Hedges that goes in that direction.
It sounded militant and righteous, but if taken seriously it's a fool's errand and will isolate the left from the broad currents of American politics this year. And nobody who cares about social progress should want to do that.