What the Rest of the World Thinks About the Republican Party
Basically, the rest of the world sees the GOP as that drunk, bigoted uncle you don't hate as much as you should.
Photo via Flickr user gageskidmore
The race for the Republican nomination has been a wild source of entertainment (and consistent source of terror) over the past months—and the fun is just getting started. There's a reason they call it the Grand Ol' Party! As it stands, there's a real possibility that we're going to have a Republican president next year; and while we're pretty sure it won't be Donald Trump, at this point, anything could happen. So, in anticipation of what's sure to be an emotional roller coaster of an election season—replete with all the name-calling, racial slurs, sexist gaffs, and cold hard cash that we've come to associate with American politics—VICE decided to ask our international offices what they think about the Republican Party.
What can you say about the political party that gotThe Terminator elected governor of the richest state in the second richest country in the world?
The thing about Republicans is they remind me of that bigot uncle we all have but can't manage to hate as much as we feel obliged to. Yes, their stances on issues like immigration and foreign policy is kind of a slap in the face to all of us south of the Rio Grande, but they are also a great reality check, especially for us millennials.
The Republican Party reminds us that not everyone is down with gay marriage, open borders, legalization of drugs, and a redistribution of wealth. And in a world where most conversations with your liberal "we are the 99%'' friends end in an agreement about how much the current world order sucks and how corporations, the military, and "The Man" are to blame for it all, the Republican's "let Uncle Sam and the free market handle it" agenda is a welcome challenge.
Republicans are also a great example of what being a world power really means: I mean, what's the point of getting up there if you're not going to remind the rest of the world that you've got them by the balls from time to time?
The Republican Party is a bit tricky. For us, it stands for a lot of things that many Germans loathe about the US: moronic gun laws, homophobia, and a foreign policy that combines heavy weaponry, extreme paranoia, and a blissful ignorance of what people in other countries actually think. A lot of the time, the Republican Party reminds us of Eric Cartman, and we would not like to live in a country run by Eric Cartman. Sometimes it's actually quite hard to understand why you'd even need a Republican Party when even your Democrats are fans of the downright scary NSA surveillance program, support fracking, and think assassinating people in foreign countries with drones is cool.
On the other hand, the Republicans also stand for a lot of things that are great about the US: corn dogs, getting drunk, and shooting guns in the woods (I know this directly contradicts what I said earlier about the gun laws, but it does sound really fun), big pickup trucks, and Britney Spears. At least, I hope that's what they stand for. Those things certainly sound more Republican than Democrat.
But yeah, mostly, the Republican Party seems completely nuts from where we stand. Like, whenever someone says something really wacky, misogynist or dangerous, it's either a Republican politician or Putin.
The Republican Party is one of those organizations that never fails to reaffirm my identity as a European lefty. If I ever feel my faith in socialized healthcare, economic redistribution, or exotic brands of hummus weakening, I know that all I have to do is read about the latest Republican plan to give assault weapons to teachers or privatize American oxygen and I'll be OK again.
The party didn't always seem quite as insane as it does now. When I was growing up, we looked across the Atlantic and saw country club Republicans: old white guys who didn't like paying taxes, called their wives "Mother," and locked up minorities "for their own good." They were a bit like the Conservatives we had then. Now it seems as though those guys are moderates staring in open-mouthed disbelief at an army of shock jocks, Christian fundamentalists, and oil company stooges.
Perhaps in Britain we've always been comforted by the thought that our right-wing guys aren't quite as right wing as your right-wing guys. And as our right-wing guys have become more right wing, so too have your right-wing guys, and so the balance is preserved. The emergence of Donald Trump somehow seems like the inevitable next step in this process. The Republicans may as well have someone who doesn't believe government can or should do anything as their leader. Does the party even care about the presidency anymore? Or are they just happy to win Congress and fuck shit up from there?
I once went—for this magazine—to see Trump talk alongside motivational guru Tony Robbins. One of his key lines was: "I always hang around with people who aren't successful because it makes me feel better." The rest of the show was full of lazy platitudes and clichés about how to exploit people to make money. The whole thing lasted about an hour before he hopped back on a private jet with a fat check in his pocket. It seems like that's what the Republican Party has become: a nightmare collection of lazy, thieving bastards who just want to cash the check and clock out. Our Conservatives aren't too dissimilar, to be honest. It almost makes me miss George W. Bush. But then again, it's probably all his fault.
The Republican Party is like that racist, sexist uncle you see three times a year at family gatherings—you expect him to turn polite conversation about that new apple pie recipe your mom tried out into a rant about how civilization as we know it is going to end "because IMMIGRANTS," but it never fails to shock you when it actually happens.
Except the Republican Party is not your sweaty uncle, but half of your governing body.
It's a delight to see the GOP struggling to appear sane while all the individual crazies try to out-crazy each other in its name. But, all glee aside, why, for the love of all that is holy are you people still letting all these old white guys decide on what women get to do with their uteruses? There is no excuse. Please get it together and either ignore them, or start policing their penises. Honestly, these people wouldn't recognise a uterus if it slapped them in the face and told them it was pregnant. They aren't equipped to make any decisions on the matter by themselves.
The problem isn't the Republicans though, it's your two-party system. If there's only two options, it's not really a choice. You can't choose between your racist uncle and your whiny, ailing aunt. The more options the better. Having a system with more parties weeds out the worst kind of crazy, because people have to work together to make things happen. It's amazing. You should try it.
There's kind of a trick to describe American politics in France. Basically, what we consider right-wing is actually your left. Democrats are the equivalent of our right-wing party, previously known as UMP and now called Les Républicains. So that leaves your Republicans to be some kind of rabid extremists. That's what they are, right?
As a country full of right-wing conservatives historically convinced to be profoundly socialists, we have a weird relationship with your politics. De Gaulle hated you. We hated Reagan. We see your country as completely corrupted—no, completely defined by capitalism. And you might know that we have a hard time accepting that we too, love capitalism. Your Republicans embrace it, they live by it. In French, the word "liberal " is largely accepted in its economical sense. America is many things: driving big trucks, hard work, blockbusters, individualism, what you call food, etc. But above all, America is liberalism. You are all a bunch of proud liberals, and the Republicans are the worst.
The GOP is also really stupid. We mean, really fucking dumb. Even before Donald Trump. You had Sarah Palin, or that guy who led two wars in the Middle East. In the French political puppet show Les Guignols, Georges W. Bush was often portrayed like a stupid kid trapped in the body of a president, sided by militaries who looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's how we see Republicans: dumb guys with big guns, always willing to use them. To be honest, that's how we see Americans in general.
So, capitalists who love guns and themselves—and who hate black people and Mexicans. That's the Republicans as we know them. What a nice model! At least that's what our former president Nicolas Sarkozy thought. He played with the GOP reference when he was trying to seduce people from a more conservative right (read: people who hate those damn unemployed immigrants who steal our money).
All in all we don't know a lot about the GOP. Hell, go ask a random French person who's running for candidacy. Let's say that we don't really care. Stupid people with dangerous ideas. We've got ours already.
American politics is probably the last thing Romanians care about, but that doesn't mean Romanians don't know who Donald Trump is. As a matter of fact, we had our own Trump for a while. His name is Gigi Becali. He used to be a shepherd, then he got rich, bought his own political party, and was even chosen as a European MP. And, just like Trump, he also used to make stupid jokes and idiotic remarks. The main difference is that Becali went to jail for corruption.
Fortunately for us, as popular as Becali was, he never reached a popularity rating as far as 24 percent, as Trump did a month ago, so we're kinda worried. Populism is a menace to a democracy and we learned this firsthand. Remember, we had communism, we know what propaganda, false promises, and charismatic idiots look like. If you want a better example, look at Russia. They have Putin, the mother and father of all populists nowadays. Plus, he's insane.
On a serious note, looking at the geostrategic landscape and Romania being one of Russia's targets—especially because we're a NATO member, a US-trusted partner, and one of the countries that host the anti-missile defense shield—you have to recognize one fact: the Republicans are the bellicose ones in American politics.
Look back at history. During the Obama-McCain race, the latter couldn't wait to go to war. Before him, another Republican, George Bush Jr., went to war with Iraq and got Saddam Hussein killed. His father, George Bush Sr., had his own fight with Hussein, while his Republican predecessor Ronald Reagan also had his own issues in the Middle East. Plus, he bombed the hell out of Libya.
With regards to the Russian menace, we hope you don't get Trump as president and we also hope Jeb Bush would not be an exponent of his family legacy unless it's really, really needed. Hopefully, whoever the next American president will be, he'll be wise enough to act responsibly and try to keep everyone safe. A war with a mad Russian president is the last thing the world needs today.
What do people outside America think of the hulking beast that is the Republican Party? Obviously, the quick and easy (and accurate!) response is that the party's dedication to opposing science and logic would be laughable if it weren't so disastrous, and that sometimes someone in the GOP says something so ludicrous that it does, for a brief moment, become funny again.
But it's impossible to have just one opinion about the Republican Party. Decades of faux-populist and real-bigoted campaign strategies have empowered the most extreme wings of the party to the point that they are now capable of bending the party proper to their will, as the Tea Party movement demonstrated. For the moment, Donald Trump is a legitimate presidential candidate who will push out any number of more qualified candidates before he finally fizzles out, and his main appeal is his anti-establishment posturing. During the recent GOP candidates' debate, Marco Rubio was forced to say he doesn't support a rape-or-incest exception for abortion bans, which is contrary to his former position.
The institution of the Republican Party is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. It's just a bunch of politicians being handed truckloads of cash and encouraged by both donors and voters to engage in a mad dash to the bottom, espousing ever more radical anti-immigrant, anti-woman, racist, just-plain-nonsense opinions and policies. It looks like the most powerful Republican Party structure is Fox News, and even that is falling apart. Trump won his brief feud with Fox CEO Roger Ailes, refusing to apologize for offensive remarks about Fox correspondent Megyn Kelly.
The Republican Party is, in short, a distillation of everything that's wrong with American politics: an obsession with individualism that borders on religious zealotry, obscene amounts of money being allowed to influence people and policy without accountability, and the most powerful people and groups holding tight to baffling persecution complexes.
Good luck with all that, though.
In Mexico, US politics tend to be judged through the prism of what Mexican politics mean to Mexican citizens. Republicans and Democrats are summarized and usually wrongfully understood based on which tends to be on the left, center, or right political wing. For Mexicans, Republicans are almost always identified with what we call the right: nationalism, liberal economics, opposition to a welfare state and equal sexual rights, supported by religious groups. But what distinguishes American Republicans from the right in Mexico is that the GOP is mainly a white and Protestant homogenous group that will always fight for their status quo, at any cost. Even if this cost is denying international realities that have already happened.
Take immigration, for example, and the Republicans' recurrent (frankly racist) response, like Donald's recent episode and what he thinks of us a nation. It's worrying that this is probably a result of a programmed agenda to win the vote of a large part of the electorate in the US. That means there are actually people who think it's a good strategy to deny a natural economic process with the country's second most important economic partner, the country that supports the largest increase of jobs inside the US associated with exports.
It might not be totally accurate anymore, but to non-Yanks, America still stands for guns, big cars, tycoons, trailer parks, fast food, and not believing in evolution. And to us, these are all Republican things. The GOP seems to represent America much more than the democrats ever could. Everything over there exists either because or in spite of them. To hate republicans therefore feels like hating America, and that's the opposite of what we want to do. But your crazy conservatives don't make it easy.
I guess the most confounding thing about Republicans is their stance on guns. We really don't get the right to bear arms argument. Surely the right to not get shot takes precedence. People can have guns in Australia, they just can't walk around with them and I believe we have fewer people being killed with them because of that.
Also, why do poor people love Republican presidents so much? Don't they know that the poor are the first people to get screwed by rich conservatives acting in their own interests? What kind of person would try and vote themselves out of affordable healthcare and education or improvements to minimum wage? That's insane.
To be fair, we have conservatives here too and one of them is running the country as we speak. It sucks.
In the same way as our feelings for America seem to be a mixture of love and hate, the way we see the Republicans goes from the party we like to loath to the one we adore: It is a bunch of old geeks in cashmere sweaters who mysteriously decide on New World Order and global dominance. But hey, it was not them who sent warplanes and bombs on us, it was Clinton, that Democrat. The Republicans are all family-loving and respect traditional values, which is great when confronted with so much sin and dirt. Reagan was a two-bit actor, a proof that anyone can become a president, but he did help "tear down this (Berlin) wall."
It was also the Republican administration (Reagan's and George Bush Senior's) that had their hands and brains in dissolving the former Yugoslavia. We like the Republicans' toughness and obsession with military, but not when it's our skin in question.
But if Donald Trump gets the nomination, we have several tips for you. We had our own tycoon presidential candidate, multimillionaire Bogoljub Karic, who gained stars with his freaky slogan "I will ban imports of lettuce," which no one understood, but as he was incredibly rich, he had to know something, didn't he? But we can proudly say that he has a better haircut.