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"Europe" is a Dirty Word in the United States

Mitt Romney's Anti-European rhetoric is stronger than the Anti-American statements by leading German politicians in the last few election campaigns. Romney seems to assume that Republican voters are so stupid, uninformed and Anti-European that he can get their votes with scaremongering.

His Europe bashing seems to be his response to the criticism of his "socialist" health care policy in Massachusetts and his French language skills. (Newt Gingrich released the attack ad "The French Connection".)

In Iowa Mitt Romney accused Obama of turning the United States into "a European-style welfare state," saying Obama's policies would "poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God," according to the Washington Post.

In his New Hampshire Primary Victory Speech he said Obama "wants to turn America into a European-style social welfare state society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. This President takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America." (See video at 6:30 minutes.)

Well, Norway, Finland, Denmark and even Germany and France deserve the title "land of opportunity" more than the US does because social mobility is higher. The NYT writes about five such studies.

Romney continues at 10:40 min: "I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become."

WTF does that even mean? What has "Europe" "become"? The Soviet Union? Zombies? The White House "reflects" that? 

See also Politico's article "Europe, Europe, Europe" and the Global Post's Romney's inequality gaffe in New Hampshire and NYT columnist Nick Kristof's Why Is Europe a Dirty Word?

AP has interviewed several European think tankers about Romney's attacks:

Romney's rhetorical attack - on Obama, and on Europe - made clear that he's running for president of the United States in part by running against European values.

European analysts with experience tracking the interplay between Europe and the United States say this tactic has been tried before, but may be effective at a time when many American voters know Europe is gripped by a financial crisis with frightening global overtones. (. . .)

The anti-European vitriol came not just from Romney, but from all the Republican candidates, said Willem Post, an American politics expert with the Dutch Clingendael Institute of International Relations who returned from New Hampshire on Wednesday.

"It is turning into something dangerous," he said. "The way 'socialism' is used is totally out of place and wrong. Now in Europe, you see a decline of the welfare state and increased privatization, so it is factually wrong."

He was also in New Hampshire eight years ago, when anti-Europe sentiment centered on the Iraq war and France's opposition to the U.S.

"At the time there was a specific reason for Euro-bashing," he said. "Now it is woven into the campaign of every (Republican) presidential candidate. One remark isn't that bad, but now there was something fundamental about the Euro-bashing." (. . . )

Professor Stein Kuhnle of the University of Bergen, Norway, who researches the welfare state, laughed when he heard Romney's comments. "It's amazing that this kind of rhetoric works," he said. "But I think it plays on ignorance to some extent. Most American voters don't know very much about Europe." 

Five years ago I wrote about German journalists Using the United States to Scare Germans and how "Amerikanische Verhältnisse" ("American conditions") is a quite popular phrase to scare Germans about hire-and-fire capitalism, poverty, crime, health care etc. Davids Medienkritik blogged a lot about this. Now the Republican presidential candidates are using the same scare tactics to win supporters and get elected.

Romney and the others won't succeed. Americans are smarter than these guys think. American voters know that bashing Europe will not fix US problems. Americans will vote for the person with the best plan to solve their economic problems.


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