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Let me take you back to the Year of Our Lord 2012, when President Obama was running against Republican presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney.
During the second presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, the sitting president twice delivered a line that would live in infamy. Obama mocked Romney’s aggressive stance on Russia, which the Republican candidate called America’s “greatest geopolitical foe.” As it turned out the DNC knew that Romney would bash Moscow, and crafted a twitter-ready retort: It read: “The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back.” Democrats in America laughed, and the rest of the world chuckled along with them.
Why the laughter? It wasn’t a particularly funny joke. The delivery wasn’t exceptionally well executed, either. Were they laughing at Putin? Perhaps at a stiff Romney? Were they all disciples of Francis Fukuyama, laughing at Romney for thinking that history is still plugging along—that it had not, in some Hegelian fashion, ended?
Of course, it wouldn’t be long before Romney was proven absolutely right. As the Georgians already knew from their brief war in 2008, President Putin was indeed a geopolitical threat to the west―the Ukrainians found out the hard way. The Eastern and Central European parties, to their credit, weren’t as short sighted as most of their Western European counterparts, who triumphantly celebrated America’s leftward lurch under Obama. The EU in particular showed its true anti-American stance and embraced Obama with a zeal rarely seen in politics.
But why? Yes, the Cold War had ended some decades ago, but the Cold War wasn’t about Russia versus America. The Cold War was about Capitalism versus Communism. Indeed, the western, capitalist countries spent much of the Cold War fighting with one hand tied behind their backs: so-called “mixed economies” of postwar Europe and the United States hadn’t (and still haven’t, really) given way to consistently capitalist social organizational structures. Europe in particular is permanently tilted toward socialism and the Left holds sway.
America’s “Reagan Revolution” and Britain’s Thatcherite ascendancy completely upended postwar politics in both of those countries. Britain, in which wartime rationing was largely still in place (a particularly wasteful kind of centrally-planned command economics) was suffering intermittent power shortages―brownouts, like some sort of developing economy―and was often paralyzed by unionized labor going on strike. The UK even had an International Monetary Fund bailout for a balance of payments crisis in government finances. America itself was suffering Jimmy Carter’s malaise: stagnant growth, price inflation and an oil shortage, which was dealt with by (you guessed it) government rationing of gasoline.
Within the space of Margaret Thatcher’s three splendid terms, the UK again became an economic powerhouse and has remained one ever since. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election would see Republican control of the White House for 12 more years, free market policies, and a renewed Democratic party run by President Clinton’s “new Democrats,” who would have felt at home in the administrations of Presidents Nixon and Ford.
What often escapes notice, however, is that most other countries in the developed West did not experience similar revolutions in their politics.
The transformation of the domestic economy produced such a boom that the great question of the past 200 years now had its answer: Capitalism produced such immense riches that minor forms of socialism became a small price to tolerate for the advancement of humanity. Democratic capitalism in America and around the world raised living standards, cured diseases, led to greater longevity, and allowed peoples to prosper. Countries that remained mired in pre-1980’s social organization could never hope to give their people such standards of living and, indeed, average salaries and unemployment rates in most European countries still reflect this reality.
This story is familiar to most people on the right of the political spectrum. What often escapes notice, however, is that most other countries in the developed West did not experience similar revolutions in their politics. France and Germany in 2017 both fall under this categorization. Indeed, while America and the UK experienced paradigm shifts to the economic right of the political spectrum, France had experienced the exact opposite beginning in 1968. Whereas unionized labor was never again a major political force in America and Britain, French unions are still capable of paralyzing the country at will, and German unions remain some of the most powerful political entities in the world. France sees a majority of its workforce employed by the government and tax rates you wouldn’t believe.
In truth, socialism is what’s wrong with today’s Europe. Present at the creation of all major European institutions were politicians who bore allegiance to political stripes that have since been proven to be subpar, inferior alternatives as social models and ideals. It is pertinent to mention that the mainstream Democratic party is to the right of these European “centre-right” outfits. These “Centre-right” political parties have outperformed European Liberal (read: capitalist) parties in Western European countries every time, especially in the founding signatories of the Treaty of Rome. Today, the western left no longer stands for labor solidarity, while the western right parties have become the parties of the workers. Faced with the failure of socialism and the depletion of their political base, what, really, is the point of the political left?
France, a political universe unto itself, left an exceptionally deep mark on European superstructures, as the most powerful and influential of European countries until it recently was supplanted by the unified (and far more capitalist) Germany. France’s own dirigiste and centralized power structure is mirrored in the lay of the land of the European Commission, the “executive branch” of the EU. Needless to say, if the countries that make up the EU-27 haven’t fully absorbed the post-1989 political order, the institutions they enthroned as the regional integration structures have remained just as stunted. It doesn’t help that America under President Obama was trending in the same backward direction: 40 percent of the American public now prefers socialism to capitalism. A poll of Millennials―a group weaned on the end of the Bush presidency and the eight years of Obama―turned up that a third of them think George W. Bush killed more people than Joseph Stalin.
At the same time, the trend on the left has turned: Multiculturalism has become a more powerful force than labor solidarity. Whereas unions across the West opposed liberalizing immigration rules in the 1970s―migrants were seen as competition to unionized labor―the broader left has now decided that fully open borders and sanctuary cities for illegal aliens are to be blessed not cursed. Tellingly, the unions never budged on their protectionist position, and many of them it appears ended up backing Donald Trump for President during the 2016 election. In fact, on close analysis it is how he won!
This, along with many other Trump administration positions, has been horrendously misinterpreted. The Trumpian insight is that globalization can only be free-market if devoid of government intervention everywhere, not just in America. Currency manipulation, impossible non-tariff barriers and outright national preferences will always be facts of life in countries that still have communist parties in power. Europe insists on acting like this position is unacceptable. And yet, the European Commission has itself imposed anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese steel various times.
At the same time, the trend on the left has turned: Multiculturalism has become a more powerful force than labor solidarity. Whereas unions across the West opposed liberalizing immigration rules in the 1970s―migrants were seen as competition to unionized labor―the broader left has now decided that fully open borders and sanctuary cities for illegal aliens are to be blessed not cursed.
Similarly, the media has made it sound like a flip-flop when President Trump said he now supports NATO, which is not entirely obsolete. They must have forgotten (or would like us to forget) that the “NATO is obsolete” rhetoric was replaced months before the election, after NATO changed its position on terrorism issues in response to Trump’s criticism. “NATO is now dealing with terrorism because of me,” Trump would say in nearly every campaign rally after NATO’s change in policy, and it was one of his major talking points. He would also take credit for the NATO secretariat’s more aggressive position on the 2 percent of GDP spending target. But Trump never gets the credit he deserves here. Must he continuously pay lip service to NATO after they significantly changed their position to reflect his views of current security priorities?
The double standard is in plain view: Lest we forget, Victoria Nuland, Obama’s assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was literally recorded saying, “Fuck the EU” and didn’t suffer the pile-on that the Trump Administration has received from the press and so many European politicians.
The fundamental problem is a strident Anti-Americanism that is capable of negating any positive or even negative aspects of the American in question. Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party is a perfect example, where sympathy with Hamas and Hezbollah precedes their nominal pro-gay position and the many other liberal values incompatible with anti-semitic, anti-American Islamic terrorist groups. Sadly, much of the European political Left is infected with this prioritization of anti-Americanism and anti-Israel positions before anything else. That it is a significant problem of the European political Right should tell you how much America’s work is cut out for it in the old continent.
Lest we be tricked into thinking this is only a problem in elite political circles, consider the case of Ivanka Trump. She is the stuff of feminist dreams: a successful businesswoman who runs her own company while raising three children and wielding substantial political power, not to mention her conventional liberal positions on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, childcare, refugees, and the gender pay gap.
And yet no amount of secondary issue purity is enough to overcome the ingrained anti-Americanism in a crowd of angry Leftists in Berlin: heckling Ivanka at the women’s summit—during a speech on female entrepreneurship, no less—is the ultimate act of anti-Americanism, the ultimate act of suborning every positive (in their eyes) aspect for the sake of one impure position. Rather than being the feminist heroine that she deserves to be, the fact that Ivanka is a Trump supporter (never mind the president’s daughter) is enough to overcome every one of her significant feminist bona fides.
This occurs despite Europe’s general agreement with the president’s actions in Syria or in NATO or on economic policy. Press alarmism is still in a bear mode when it should be bullish, and the politicians who are naturally inclined towards anti-Americanism are champing at the bit to keep criticizing this “failed” presidency. The American media must realize they are playing into the hands of a latent anti-American strain in the EU, and that the old rule that politics stops at the water’s edge should count for Republican as well as Democratic incumbents. Empowering America’s enemies around the world is surely too high a price to pay for minor political gains at home.
Most importantly, we cannot normalize this behavior among European politicians. It should never be accepted as the legitimate norm. Right now, it is acceptable to be anti-American as long as a Republican is in the White House. This was the case under President Bush, too. This administration’s priority in Europe henceforth should be twofold: Make better friends, and let everyone know that alliances aren’t dependent on political parties. Either you’re a friend of the United States and pay your fair share of the burden, or you are anti-American, no matter which party holds the presidency.
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