The Surly Bartender has spent far too little time slinging mezcal and far too much time watching CNN International in the past few weeks and he has one burning question: Am I the only one who finds CNN International to be physically painful to watch? It’s like resting your eyeballs on a bed of nails while some indecipherably pan-Asian anchor gives you a hot, high-colonic of yachting news. Good God, they’ve got so many shows about rich-guy sports sponsored by Rolex that I think they left one inside of me. Give me back my Bill O’Reilly! Where is my reliably infuriating Sean Hannity? But, as Fox has abandoned my cable provider, I’m stuck with The Most Soporific Name in News as the only available vehicle for following the Presidential campaign back in the States.

And here’s my five-second wrap-up of where we stand: In November 2012, Barack Obama will be reelected, if only because the red meat Democrats are serving isn’t covered in crazy sauce.

I’ve shouted about this before, but the Republicans have morphed, like a no-longer-interesting 1990s video trick, into a party of ideologues who fetishize simple solutions to real and complex problems. Sadly, those simple solutions have the unfortunate attribute of being provably, obviously wrong. I know it’s an unusual tactic for a Progressive to pull a neener-neener and point at Europe, but: LOOK AT EUROPE! If for some reason you think the Keynes in your refrigerator has expired, have a gander at what austerity and “trusting the market” can do to an economic crisis.

Austerity for poor folks and laissez faire for the big dogs as a core governing principle has about as much wisdom as taking a “hands-off” approach to driving the kids to school. “Honey, no one man can understand the complexities of traffic patterns down by Elm, so I’m just gonna let her rip! Oh, and if by the grand collision of rational self-interest on an unfettered roadway I chance to end up at the supermarket, you need anything? Eggs?”

Lately, from the Right, any attempt to regulate markets (health care, financial, or otherwise) has led to hyperventilating charges of SOCIALISM! Republicans shout SOCIALISM! so often you’d think they’re all General Jack D. Ripper clones, warning about the communists coming to “sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids!”

Please, the next time you hear someone crying SOCIALISM!, ask them where the damn gulags are? You’d think we’d have a few by now, as they’ve been flinging the same monkey-plop since the time of FDR. If they can’t tell you, feel free to mock them with Three Stooges slapstick gags. Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop!!!! Beeee-oink!!!

So, anyway, the Republicans are nuts. And we haven’t even gotten to trans-vaginal ultrasounds, the fossil record being God’s way of testing our faith, global climate change as a vast, left-wing conspiracy of greedy scientists, legitimate rape or the national tragedy of poor Clint Eastwood’s Grandpa Simpson impersonation.

The Democrats, on the other hand, aren’t nuts. They’re still too beholden to Wall Street. The banks are still too big to fail. Guantanamo is still in the dark, shadowy business of extra-legal imprisonment. And, excuse me? Secret kill-lists? But they’re not nuts. At least not completely.

Moreover, rather than the self-congratulatory crotch-cuddle of “I Built This!” that has been all the rage on the Right of late, the party of Kennedy (decidedly John and Teddy in 2012) has been making the case that even though times are tough we’re all still in this together. The Surly Bartender hasn’t been to church for a while. But he’s pretty sure that’s the answer the Big Guy upstairs was looking for when he asked Cain about his brother. Just sayin’.

And speaking of God, there was a minor kerfuffle about “Him” being left out of the Democratic platform this year. Obviously (to people who see invisible men) this is more evidence of Barack Obama dragging our once-great nation into a godless, socialist hell-spiral. But have you ever noticed that the Christians who squawk the loudest are amongst the least likely of their brothers to actually behave like Christ? Can’t you just imagine Michelle Bachmann doing a tour of the Middle East two-thousand years ago, and clucking her tongue at that dirty hippie sharing all those loaves and fishes with the masses? She turns to the camera and says, “There it is; that’s the culture of dependency for you. All that man is doing is encouraging lazy Galileans to expect a handout.”

I might be overly optimistic, but I do suspect that Obama takes this one. Even for a population where the remaining swing voters are a very low-information bunch, and where the distortions over the next few weeks are going to warp the space-time continuum so profoundly that the election may already have taken place, I just can’t believe that my homeland, when given a choice between bat-shit crazy and not bat-shit crazy will select column A.

Though, I have been wrong before. I don’t recall when, but I’m sure it has happened once or twice in the past 45 years. So, you know, vote.

But win or lose, there is a reality in American politics that is not going away anytime soon: the pervasive influence of the full-on wackjobs of the far Right. They’re all pretty nutty, but there is a diamond kernel of serious unreason that powers the party’s disassociation from reality — and it has effectively staged a palace coup inside Republican ranks. Mitt Romney, whoever he is at his core (and that’s generously presuming he has a core), is the Republican nominee because of a fortunate coincidence. First, the yahoos down at the hogwaller couldn’t come to an agreement on which Alpha Yahoo should wear the pointed crown, and them fellas with the money up in New Yawk City understood that all of the other options were waaayyyyy too obviously nuts to win in November.

This may be the last election cycle in which a Republican branded for once having a moderate thought can get through the primary process. But we still have to acknowledge that Mitt Romney is little more than the wooden-tittied mermaid at the prow of a particularly nasty pirate ship.

Whatever there once was of a “Republican Establishment” is finally losing hold of the reins. And they deserve what’s happened to them. For decades that establishment (the rich, educated, white, old-line Protestant elite of our daddies’ generation) welcomed the “energy” of their socially conservative, anti-intellectual, superstitious, fact-optional base. But it also repeatedly stiffed them once they got into power. To establishment Republicans, for DECADES, Roe v. Wade was not a court case actually to be overturned; it was an open wound, a bloodstained rag to wave in front of the Christian Coalition every two years. To establishment Republicans, for DECADES creationism in the classroom was another ploy to keep the yahoos hopped up like meth-heads, but no one ever doubted that George H. W. Bush actually believed in evolution. Well, at least until his namesake started strutting around like a damn cowboy. Now the crazies, having patiently body-snatched positions in local and state government (and local party committees) for the past ten years, are overturning the old order. It’s too huge a revolution to be openly discussed by the talking heads on the Sunday shows, but putting the restraining yolk back on the crazy folk is no longer a saleable option. The inmates have, indeed, taken over the asylum.

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