Don’t mention Europe anywhere near a Republican – it makes steam streak out of their ears.
Europe is another world to them, where medicine is “socialised” and all religion is banned. I heard one Republican apologise to the Today programme’s James Naughtie before laying into this part of the world: “We don’t want to be like Europe,” he said, in tones heavy with the emphasis that being European would be the stuff of his nightmares.
This is quite obviously why a good section of the Republican party like Sarah Palin - because she is nothing like Europe, and is a proper American. And that would be because she likes to carry a rifle around (hurrah), isn’t interested in anything outside her national borders (excellent), and has only just discovered what a passport is (who cares).
Those Palin fans found among the Conservative Christian bunch, really like to spread the word that voting Democrat would be a vote for being a bit more like Europe, or worst of all, France. France epitomises, for them, all that is wrong with the world, and that would be because France, a Republic set up in the late 18th Century, separates church and state, a bit like, err, the United States. Oh yes, but that would be something that founders got wrong.
So if you want to be rude to a Republican – and god knows why you should – then suggest they might look a little bit French.
What is it that European countries have that they don’t want? Well, first off, of course, there is the point that Europe is a cornucopia of countries, 27 in the EU, and others that aren’t; each with their very own culture.
However some things that some European countries have that US Republicans might hate: a lower teenage pregnancy rate; higher social mobility; health systems free at the point of use; contraception.
This anti-Europeanism strain is strong in middle America, where is mixes with a good soupcon of anti-elitism, which is why GW Bush’s Man from Midland act played so well. Very down-home, hogs and all. Maybe these two threads explain why Jimmy Carter was pushed so far out of the spotlight at the Democratic convention.
Carter, a Nobel Prize winner and a man with an in-depth understanding of foreign affairs, didn’t get a starring role with the Obama show. The Democrats don’t have many ex-presidents in their back pocket, but they certainly have found it convenient to forget this one. Carter, an elder statesman, who definitely knows where his passport is kept – keeps himself busy trying to build coalitions in the Middle East, and talking in liberal international relations terms that are frankly a bit too European for many Americans. Mix that with worries about alienating the Jewish lobby, which have been critical of Obama on Israel, but not as critical as they are of Carter on Israel – and the consequence is that the Obama team might be just a bit scared of getting Carter too close to their bandwagon.
If they wanted a bit more foreign policy knowledge – and who is to say they do – then the last person they would be dialling would be James Earl. Not now, not ever. No way.