By Dmitry Babich
Mitt Romney, currently the frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has raised many eyebrows not only in Russians, but also in other European states. The problem does not lie in his Mormon background or his views on education. The problem is Mr. Romney’s worldview, which he proudly shares with his supporters at primaries and which appears to be dangerously detached from reality – at least as far as Europe is concerned.
“I don’t want Europe here”; “Europe doesn’t work at home. It isn’t going to work here” – these are just a few of Mr. Romney’s statements. They are backed up by equally wise remarks made by other Republican candidates. One of them, Rick Santorum has claimed that no elderly person in the Netherlands can feel safe now that euthanasia has been legalized there. The third Republican strongman, Newt Gingrich, continued the string of GOP discoveries, seeing a “European Socialist” in none other than American president Barack Obama. And of course this black European harbors some evil intentions, namely, a desire to impose on his fellow citizens a “European ideology” which is “hostile and foreign” to pure American hearts.
“No, Holland is not a killing field for aged persons; no, Europe is not a zone of social disaster; and no, president Obama is not a Socialist!” the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant exclaims emphatically, beseeching the Americans not to make a scarecrow out of Europe.
There are suspiciously few calls in the European press not to reserve the same fate to Europe’s eastern half, Russia. Although Mitt Romney’s idea of, say, the recent Russian election is no more realistic than Santorum’s vision of Dutch pensioners in the hands of euthanasia’s enthusiasts.
“What the world witnessed in Russia yesterday was a mockery of the democratic process,” Mr. Romney is quoted by the New York Times as saying on Monday. “Instead of stating that it ‘congratulates the Russian people on the completion of the presidential elections,’ as the Obama administration has done, it should have condemned the flagrant manipulation and media restrictions that marred this election. With the dimming of democracy in Russia, a better label for President Obama’s Russia policy is ‘set back’ rather than ‘reset.’ ”
The irony of the situation is that those Americans who have had an opportunity to live in Europe or at least to travel there, do not share Mr. Romney’s dim vision of the old world. There was, for example, a whole flurry of reactions to Adam Davidson’s story in the New York Times declaring Europe a disaster zone – at least, economically.
Those readers who had some firsthand knowledge of Europe, stressed the fact that one should not judge the situation by rosy statistics, putting a mythical “average American” above an equally mythical “average European” in terms of per capita income. A reader who introduced himself as simply “an American” expressed a general opinion when he wrote that pockets of American poverty are deeper than European ones and that it is easier to fall into one of those “black holes” in the United States once one loses his or her job.
“I had lived in Europe (Germany) for years and am now planning to return for good. I consider myself a good American but my (our) America has left us! I have witnessed the decline of the middle class and it angers me,” an American wrote.
“This country is going nowhere until the deck is reshuffled so that the common man (woman) can again expect to have a reasonable level of living standard through their hard work, loyalty to their employer, things are not perfect in Old Europe but jobs there are largely real jobs, Talk all the economics you want but compare the average European to their American cousins and the difference is quite large”.
Now the question is: what world is Mr. Romney living in? Obviously, the one where Europe “doesn’t work”; and where Russian elections do not work neither. The only thing that appears to work in this world is Mr. Romney’s set of stereotypes.