Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 13, 2009

THE LIMITS OF EUROPE-BASHING.... For months, congressional Republicans have compared Democratic economic proposals to Europe -- and not in a good way. The GOP's assumption is that European economic policies represent some kind of dystopian nightmare that Americans necessarily find repulsive. When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said that Obama's budget is "worse" than "Europe's" -- as if the continent has just one budget -- it was meant as the ultimate conservative insult.

As a substantive matter, the rhetoric is silly. As a political matter, the assumption that Americans are repelled by Europe is just wrong.

Research 2000 conducted a poll for Daily Kos gauging public attitudes about San Francisco, New York City, France, and Europe in general. Both San Francisco and New York both enjoy broad favorable numbers, but I was especially interested in the other parts of the poll.

* "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the country of France?"

Overall, 61% of Americans have a favorable impression of the U.S. ally, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. The favorable impression was strong in the Northeast, West, and Midwest, and the only constituency with an unfavorable opinion of France was Southerners.

* "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the continent of Europe?"

Similarly, 63% have a favorable impression of Europe, which also spanned every party. Again, the only group who doesn't have a favorable opinion of the continent is Southerners.

Markos concluded:

This is clear evidence that the GOP has become a rump regional party. Because everyone else in America is just scratching their head at all that hatred directed at these places. They like San Francisco a lot. They love France. They think Europe is fantastic. And not even the New York Yankees can get people to hate on the Big Apple. And the more the Rushes and Becks bash those places, the more out of step with the Real America conservatives appear.

I'd just add that it's striking how badly conservative talking points have been striking out lately. Republicans kept screaming, "Socialism!" which looked silly when socialism didn't poll that badly. They're shouting, "Europe!" which looks even sillier since Americans seem to like Europe just fine.

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Next-up in Republican hate machine: Short-sleeve shirts.

Posted by: rusrus on April 13, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

An effective, centrist, non-crazy President is absolutely killing these snapperheads. What you're hearing is their death agonies. The louder they get, the better we're doing.

Posted by: Cazart on April 13, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Jeepers, I'm starting to feel kinda sorry for these Republicuns.

Posted by: CT on April 13, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I love Europe. If I could afford it AND make a living there, I'd love to live there. I haven't decided yet whether I want to learn Greek, French, Italian or Spanish, though. England and Ireland are good alternatives, but I think one of the Greek Islands would suit me better. Maybe Mykonos.


Posted by: Michael W on April 13, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP doubled down on crazy after the 06 election and was drubbed again in 08. I'm pleasantly surprised that they have doubled down on crazy again after the 08 election. Socialism! European! The name calling has worked in the past but is well past the expiration date.

Sooner or later the GOP will have to regain rationality and make an attempt at productive civil discourse. In the meantime, President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership have plenty of leeway to govern responsibly from the left. Let's hope they take advantage.

Posted by: danimal on April 13, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect people have always felt this way, but why does it takes Repubs destroying the country to kick them out office??

Posted by: r_m on April 13, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

"I'd just add that it's striking how badly conservative talking points have been striking out lately."

Probably, because the right has positioned itself on the wrong side of every issue.

Gay-bashing, environmental bashing, peace bashing, health bashing, minority bashing, science bashing ................ I can't think of any issue I even somewhat agree with Republicans on, save their golden ticket, abortion, and since they're capital punishment zealots, they can't even remain consistent within the 'sanctity of life' argument.

About the only reason I ever hear people say they vote Republican, is abortion and taxes. Too bad they start illicit wars, gas criminals , run up trillion dollar debts, and give the rich 99% of their attention.

Posted by: oh well on April 13, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it, myself. "The Final Countdown" was a great song!

(And now you have it stuck in your head.)

Posted by: Matt on April 13, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

rusrus - They already tried to go in that general direction...remember the outrage ..they were shocked , shocked I tell you that Obama was working in the Oval office without a jacket.

Posted by: John R on April 13, 2009 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Someone is surprised with the result of 10 generations of southern "inbreeding"?? For those Southerners who complain about how the rest of the country thinks reflexively that Southerners are stupid, here's why.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 13, 2009 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Since the majority of whites in this country come from European, French or Scandinavian stock it seems strange that the Rethugs would hate their own ancestors. With a country that is only 233 years old none of us are that far removed from our heritage. My Grandparents on both sides of my family were emigrants to this country. Southern Rethugs make NO sence what so ever.

Posted by: redrover on April 13, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

The reason the right hates Europe is very simple - these countries provide living proof that most of the right's political shibboleths are dead wrong. A few examples:

--Universal health care works! It creates better health outcomes at lower cost. People like it and wouldn't give it up for anything.

--Most countries in Europe have murder rates one-fourth to one-third that of the U.S. This is with sensible gun laws, no death penalty, and shorter prison sentences.

--Some countries have decriminalized soft drugs without horrific consequences.

--Northern European countries tend to be highly secular, even atheistic, and God has not seen fit to punish them. In fact, they continue to lead very good lives.

--U.S. conservatives have been predicting the total collapse of Western Europe because of their bloated welfare states for several decades now. Darn! They somehow seem to keep going.

Posted by: Virginia on April 13, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's time to get down on southerners like they're some kind of alien beings from an outer limits episode. I'm definitely from the north so my defence is as objective as it gets. Most of the southerners I've met have been decent people. They may be misinformed about many issues but for the most part they're still americans and the values that they have in common with the rest of the country far outnumber those that they disagree with us on.

Posted by: Gandalf on April 13, 2009 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

A poll of Southerners would find that they do not like a) New York, b) Chicago, c) anywhere "Yankee". I live in the Deep South and have actually heard people declare that Virginia is not a southern state. Which states are? Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. And everywhere else (except Texas and Alaska) are full of socialist, antiAmerican liberals.

Posted by: VJ on April 13, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

A proposal for the next GOP talking point: Who lost China?

Posted by: davidp on April 13, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Not all Southerners are crazy, of course, but there's an identifiable brand of crazy that is distinctly southern and nearly ubiquitous down there. It absolutely contains an element of inferiority complex that distrusts anything even slightly more urbane than itself.

Posted by: Jon on April 13, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect the reason that "socialism" is polling well is because the wingnuts keep calling Obama one. People want universal health care. If that's socialism, let me have it.

Posted by: butcher pete on April 13, 2009 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we could get Europe to start routing all of its shipping traffic to Democratic ports, and all its transatlantic air traffic to Democratic airfields. If Republicans want Europe's stuff, then they can pay the extra transport costs of moving from Democratic docks and air-hubs to Republican docks and air-hubs.

Democracy---the Affordable Option!!!

And yes---I know I'm inciting Glenn Beck to riot. I want him to riot. I want him to go absolutely berserker-Beck in the middle of a public street, on live tee-vee, right in front of an oncoming bus. The possibility of my being behind the wheel of that bus will only be a coincidence of divine providence, I assure you....

Posted by: S.Waybright on April 13, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently the South for the most part still makes up a relatively coherent and insular echo chamber. It was a lot more so when I grew up in the 50's in Texas, and Texas was one of the more open and enlightened of the Southern states. (The evangelicals had not taken over the Republican Party as a response to integration yet.)

I know that generally the Southern newspapers have been weak on national and international news, and the history taught in the public schools at high school and below is taught as propaganda to turn out good citizens, not to teach historical thinking and understanding. (The comic books we were issued in High School on the Texas Revolution became a lightening rod during the Civil Rights era, for example. And you still don't get honest history on the Civil War and slavery.)

A primary industry throughout the South is and remains the military industrial complex, which is another reason it is so relatively conservative.

The exceptions are largely the large cities. Here in Texas the only major city that did not go Democratic in the last election was Fort Worth, and it is (I think) the largest city in Texas that is very highly dependent on military contractors. Lockheed and Textron/Bell.

So I guess the insular nature of the South doesn't surprise me. But it is certainly regretable.

Posted by: Rick B on April 13, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Real America keeps getting smaller and smaller!

Posted by: RJ on April 13, 2009 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Please remember there are some born and bred Southerners (my husband and I and quite a lot of our friends included) who love Europe and who are just as blue as you are. I'd love to live in just about any European country for at least a few years.

Posted by: gingerpye on April 13, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

As a lifelong Southerner I can't actually agree with the "all Southerners are stupid" stereotype, but also can't deny that I've seen from whence the stereotypes arise. Please realize the South is no more unified than the country in general.

But I believe there is an irony here in that France was an ally of the Confederacy during the War Betwixt the States. This seems to contradict that old bumper sticker of the little confederate soldier saying, "Aint Fergettin'".

Posted by: Capt Kirk on April 13, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Capt Kirk,

I too know where the stereotype comes from. I have many family members who fit it. But a lot of these commenters are painting with way too broad a brush when they imply that all southerners fit the stereotype.

Posted by: gingerpye on April 13, 2009 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

In the movie "Right America Feeling Wronged", at a McCain/Palin rally one young man complete with southern accent and cowboy hat claimed that Detroit, Pennsylvania etc with most other cities weren't "real America", claiming "this is God's country, this is real America. Obama has never been to real America".

He represents many people in the south who only feel their counties are America, that the "cities" (and a majority of the population) aren't American when exactly the opposite is true but the constitution be damned they cannot understand this is a democracy and they are the minority and exclusive segregationists who are very far removed from what America is and who lives here. They demonize words and personalities and have learned to direct their hate at these "demons" which the republican party refuses to correct but instead cultivates this mentality believing it is possible to have a democratic totalitarianism.
Welcome to the Money party where greed and selfishness is disguised as compassionate conservatism

Posted by: bjobotts on April 13, 2009 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

so why are southerners' opinions so widely promoted by our television and media overlords?

Posted by: karen marie on April 13, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

As a young soldier on furlough in 1950 I got into a conversation in the club car of a train with a medical doctor who later informed the FBI that I was a subversive in uniform, a communist or socialist no doubt, which led to their opening a file on me that was updated annually for the next thirty years. My offense was defending President Harry Truman's proposal for a national health care plan.

Mr. President ... it's going to happen.

Posted by: buddy66 on April 13, 2009 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

I propose the US allow the South to secede (you know they still want to), provided they agree to call their new nation Ignorantmotherfuckerland.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 13, 2009 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

But a lot of these commenters are painting with way too broad a brush when they imply that all southerners fit the stereotype.

The other sure thing is a stereotypical defensiveness when people generalize about the South. The poll clearly finds that the GOP's narrow minded appeals only really resonate in the South by a much larger percentage than anywhere else. And a poll is basically a generalization of belief. It's obviously not a monolithic description.

Southerners are so sensitive.

Posted by: Jay B. on April 13, 2009 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

I know that generally the Southern newspapers have been weak on national and international news, and the history taught in the public schools at high school and below is taught as propaganda [...] -- Rick B, @ 16:44

In my small town in south-western VA, history -- except for history of US -- was an *elective* in highschool. And it was "taught" by a guy who had been hired, primarily, as a football coach. He knew less about the world history than my son did. I don't think he'd have been able to teach it as propaganda; to, effectively, teach something as propaganda, you have to know the subject first and then to have good spinning skills.

Vis the newspapers. When I first came here, I was appalled to see that the Washington Post hid its international news on a couple of pages towards the back, with both national and local having precedence. It seemed parochial to me, even coming from a commie country, where the news we were permitted to see were very carefully preselected for us. And I was told it was one of the two-three most important/best papers in the country...

Posted by: exlibra on April 13, 2009 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

As a sailor in Europe (Late 1996 to late 1998), my ship stopped at a port in France and we allowed the inhabitants to tour the ship. I was standing watch at a turn in one of the passageways when a Frenchman asked me what I thought of the French people. It was asked in a bit of a challenging tone, as though he expected me to say "Ah, you $%#@&!!!!"
Obviously, it would have been a bad idea to have insulted our guests, but I searched around in my head for opinions on France, couldn't find anything really negative to say and told him honestly that yeah, I thought the place was pretty nice, with nice weather, attractive women, interesting architecture, etc. He seemed pretty satisfied at that.

Posted by: Rich2506 on April 13, 2009 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

I suggest focusing on basic health numbers (life expectancy and % of GDP spent on health care) instead of poll numbers. Many Americans are under the impression that we are number 1 in the health care world (we're a pathetic #30 for life expectancy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy), but way ahead in spending).

Rep. Paul Ryan is right in saying that US budgets on health care are much worse than Europe's. We piss away a bunch of money on CEO's and their lobbyists to get third rate health care. Worse than Bosnia and Jordan.

Posted by: Owen on April 13, 2009 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK



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