In all honesty, MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews often annoys and creeps me out, but there are those valuable times when the man has a point. In a recent exchange with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Morning Joe, Preibus accused President Barack Obama of “looking to Europe for guidance” on issues like healthcare, spending, and economic stimulus. In response, Matthews appropriately questioned “what’s this European thing of yours?” and whether following Keynesian economics made someone European, to which Priebus only responded in evasive, nonsensical answers.
But this “European” epithet, this “foreignization” of President Obama and his policies is not new. It has become a regular line from the Romney campaign and the political Right. And, being that the Right uses as many “foreign” ideals and theories as the Left, it’s an asinine one, deployed to rouse nativist, xenophobic sentiments among the populace.
It’s difficult to know where to begin in eviscerating this talking point since it stands on a number of fallacious assumptions. Not only does it assume that all the countries of Europe speak and act in one voice and mind, supporting the same political policies and ideologies, but that this Borg-like European mind is liberal or leftist in nature. This latter assumption ignores the blatant reality that many governments of Europe are dominated by conservative political (in economics, social policy, or both) parties. For instance, a conservative Christian Democrat, Angela Merkel, serves as Chancellor of Germany, which boasts one of the most dominant economics in Europe. While the United Kingdom recently elected the free-market-friendly David Cameron, a member of Britain’s Conservative Party, as Prime Minister.
Yet, Priebus may retort, countries like Germany and the UK still retain national healthcare systems where the government exercises considerable control, more similar in nature to Obamacare’s (relatively minute) expansion of government power in healthcare than would the Republican Party prescribe (this is ignoring, of course, the similarities between Obamacare and Romney’s healthcare policies in Massachusetts, which the Republicans, unsurprisingly, seem to never want to talk about).
This would be a valid point; that is, if it weren’t for the obvious question: why does it matter where an idea comes from? Is not an idea good or bad depending on its own merits? What matter is it from whom it originates?
If the Romney campaign truly possesses a principled revulsion to European or other “foreign” ideals, then what does that say of its views on democracy, capitalism, divided government and political liberalism, all of which originated elsewhere and prior to the creation of the United States of America? If this stance is truly heartfelt, then why doesn’t Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan renounce the foreign, European philosophies of Austrian economics, Ayn Rand, and Friedrich Hayek, all of which he has praised and supportedthroughout his life?
That is not to say that a European origin tarnishes the validity of these three aforementioned Ryan-supported ideologies. Personally, I find these ideologies abhorrent for their empirically-lacking assumptions and views/treatment of the lower classes of society.
In their criticism of Obama’s “European” ideals, the Romney campaign and the Right are as guilty of ridiculous thinking as those on the Left who insist that promotion of “western” concepts of democracy and political liberalism in the developing world are imperial undertakings that will never truly take root in the native population.
A good idea is a good idea. A bad idea is a bad idea. It matters not where it comes from, despite what the Romney campaign wants the American people to think.