At his year-end press conference on Friday, President Obama was asked about the future of his climate agenda, given the possibility that he may have a Republican successor. Obama responded by talking about his eagerness to campaign for the Democratic nominee, and the recent progress on the issue, but he wrapped up his answer with some thoughts on the modern Republican Party itself.
“Keep in mind that, right now, the American Republican Party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it’s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal come from center-right governments. Even the far-right parties in many of these countries – they may not like immigrants, for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us we’ve got to do something about climate change.“So my sense is, is that this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short-term politics and a Republican primary. It’s not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long term.”
The unscripted comments struck me as especially relevant today: Lindsey Graham was the only Republican out of 17 GOP presidential candidates who acknowledged the reality of climate science, and he quit this morning.
But Obama’s point about the U.S. Republican Party being an international outlier is both true and under-appreciated. The GOP is, in fact, the only major party in the advanced world – a paper was published in the fall comparing conservative parties from the Western world on the climate crisis, and it found American Republicans as the only major party that proposes doing nothing to deal with the problem.
But hearing Obama talk about this got me thinking about other ways in which the contemporary GOP is an international “outlier.”
For example, the contemporary Republican Party is the only major party in the advanced world that remains staunchly opposed to universal health care.
The contemporary Republican Party is the only major party in the advanced world that believes citizens of its country should have largely unfettered access to firearms.
Other than Israeli parties, the contemporary Republican Party was the only major party in the advanced world that opposed – and actively tried to sabotage – the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
This isn’t necessarily a pejorative description. If you’re anti-health care, pro-gun, and anti-science, what makes today’s Republican Party unique is what makes it the greatest major party in the world – precisely because it stands alone. The GOP, on a global scale, is one of a kind.
But for those who take issue with the far-right ideology, it’s worth appreciating just how different Republicans are – not just from their pre-radicalized past, but from other conservative parties around the globe. There’s just nothing else like it in any democracy in the Western world.