Once upon a time, in a land that now seems to have been populated by tooth fairies and unicorns, there was a political party that had a set of core beliefs to which they actually adhered.
Among them was that actually balancing the budget, as opposed to just talking about it, was sacrosanct. Slow change, while necessary, had to be balanced against the traditions of the United States, ones that had mostly served us well over two centuries.
Foreign military adventures should be limited to our national security interests. And one of the single most important components of diplomacy was protecting the economic interests not only of an elite few, but of the great many Americans who toiled in our factories and fields.
This party was known as the Republican Party, and while one might have disagreed with them on their policy prescriptions to cure any particular US ill, one could at least see some logic in their beliefs and understand that they - with some obvious exceptions from time to time (ahem, Joseph McCarthy, ahem) - were doing what they thought was right for the United States of America.
Today, this once respectable organization has turned into nothing so much as a collective id the size of a David-Vitter-Pampers shopping spree. When facing changes to this nation that make them uncomfortable, they choose national hate. When facing ideological worship versus the greatness of the US, the former always wins the day. When facing a choice of what is good for the US or their campaign bank accounts, they inevitably go with the latter.
In simple terms: We, the people of the United States, are the maid. The GOP is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Any questions?
The one caveat is that it's not Republicans, so much as the forces of the anti-American, gun-toting, religious and corporate Right that have taken over the GOP who are responsible for papa's brand new bag. The Right is Darth Sidious to the GOP's Anakin Skywalker, Angelina Jolie to foreign-born children.
And yes, sadly, the Dark Lord has also sunk his hooks into quite a few in the Democratic Party, just somewhat less in number and relevance.
Charter members of this anti-American Right include the National Rifle Association, whose executive vice president-cum-Waldo impersonator, Wayne LaPierre, pushes new and more deadly weaponry into the hands of American criminals and terrorists without a first thought of the common good of his country. Giddily referring to US law enforcement agents as "jack-booted thugs", and using fear of a black president to encourage the militia mentality among his most deranged (and armed) followers, his reign at the NRA has facilitated their retreat into revolutionary rhetoric, which has included plans by associated paramilitary groups to kill police officers and government officials.
Not so good for the US, but great for selling weapons to support LaPierre's $1.27m salary, as well as NRA board members who earn a paycheck by owning companies that pay their bonuses based on firearm sales.
It also includes the "pro-business" Right's support for finishing a four-decade quest to hollow out US manufacturing and destroy what was once, as succinctly put by polymath and top-rated progressive radio host Thom Hartmann, "the American way of life". A few elite moneymen get rich, while the United States' ability to create things that don't come with fries or an apple pie, once a source of great pride to, you know, Americans, has gone off clubbing with Casey Anthony.
Last week, China broke the record for the longest sea bridge in the world with the opening of the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge. Quite symbolically, it passed Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which had previously held the record.
You'd think that this, in and of itself, would pain those on the Republican Right and their friends among the Blue Dog Democrats, "patriots" who never hesitate to tout American greatness. But for some reason - perhaps campaign contributions make a soothing bubble bath? - their refusal to fund the slightest hint of improvement or addition to US infrastructure is allowing it to collapse quicker than John Boehner at an all-you-can-drink Margarita marathon at Bahama Mama's.
We used to make big things in the US, often with direct government investment. Whether it was the federal highway system, the Sears Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge - these were not small undertakings. It was a proven method of creating jobs and wealth, as well as a source of national pride.
These days, it's the historical blindness and hatred of any spending contained in a philosophy that underpins simplistic calls for "austerity". Contained in budgets written by small-minded men such as Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, it has seen corporate cybernetic organisms posing as legislators do what once would have been unthinkable: pave the way for Chinese exceptionalism.
Yet perhaps right-wingers' work to undermine America is nowhere as evident as it is in the everyday indicators of how we are doing as a country. Whether it is the World Health Organization's ranking the US in 37th place, our impressive 33rd place in children's ability to navigate math and science, or 39th place in environmental quality (we're still two spots ahead of Cuba!), I simply don't understand how one can claim to love the US and blithely ignore or work to exacerbate these indicators by gutting government every day.
But then again, what should we expect from a movement whose leaders, such as that dimwitted dolt known as Texas Governor Rick Perry, openly discuss secession? Or, as I pointed out in last week's column, the blood diamond-accruing conman Pat Robertson, who has wished Sodom-like destruction on the United States, because gay couples in New York now have the right to marry?
Secession? Destruction? There used to be a term to describe people who wished these tragedies would befall their own country. Today that term is "Republican presidential candidate", whether from the recent past (Robertson in 1988) and potentially - God help us - the future (Perry in 2012).
Lest one think this list is biased, I have not even gone into the details of the outing of an undercover CIA agent (see Karl Rove) or the Right's current crusade to make the US default on its debt (and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's incentive to profit off of this, as he has shorted US treasury bonds in his personal investment portfolio).
Humorist and writer Leo Rosten once said that "a conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead". Today, however, the love for radicals and radicalism is alive and kicking on the Right, and sadly for the US, it doesn't seem ready to die anytime soon.
Follow Cliff Schecter on Twitter: @cliffschecter
An original version of this weekly column was published at Al Jazeera English