When I say there’s nothing in the world like the contemporary Republican Party, I’m being quite literal. This Washington Post piece about the global mainstream and the climate crisis helped drive home the point.
Donald Trump today announced that he’s withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, breaking ranks with 190 other countries on the question of what to do about climate change.
As with so many other issues – military might, moral authority, economic prowess – this appears at first blush to be a simple question of American exceptionalism. The rest of the world does one thing and we do another, because we’re America and we’re Number One.
But climate politics aren’t as much about American exceptionalism as they are about American Republican exceptionalism.
Mainstream views in the United States on global warming are roughly in line with the rest of the world. The same is true of the Paris climate accord Trump just abandoned: polling shows the agreement is broadly popular with the American public.
But regular readers know that as Republican politics has become radicalized, the party has positioned itself as a global outlier to an amazing degree. Our contemporary GOP is the only major party in any advanced democracy on the planet to oppose health care coverage as a core benefit of citizenship. It’s the only major party that believes citizens should have largely unfettered access to firearms.
And it’s the only major party to reject climate science and show indifference toward the escalating crisis.
Sure, there are fringe parties in other countries with extremist and regressive agendas, but they tend to be dismissed as cranks and charlatans. In the United States, however, Republicans are ostensibly a governing party – which happens to control the White House, Congress, most of the nation’s gubernatorial offices, and most of the nation’s state legislatures.
But wait, conservative readers are likely thinking. The GOP may be unusual on a global scale, but at least Republicans are now in line with Nicaragua and Syria – the only two countries in the world that rejected the Paris climate agreement – so Republicans are not completely unusual.
That’s not quite right, either. Nicaraguan officials embrace the reality of global warming and rejected the Paris accord because, as they saw it, the agreement wasn’t nearly tough enough. Syria, meanwhile, may have signed on to the accord, but in light of the nation’s tragic civil war and international sanctions, officials from the Assad regime did not participate in the negotiations.
In other words, the contemporary Republican Party really is without an international parallel. Trump shined a hot spotlight on this fact yesterday, for all the world to see.