A tie decorated with elephant mascots at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Fla.
Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

When the GOP is odd on an international scale

Back in February, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) sat down for a Q&A at the Chatham House foreign policy think tank in London. Towards the end of the discussion, the interviewer said he had a question that he enjoyed posing to “senior Republicans” when they visit England.
 
The question was, “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it?” Walker refused to answer, stunning the moderator, who replied, “Any British politician, right- or left-wing, would laugh [at the question] and say, ‘Of course evolution’s true.’”
 
Walker’s reticence was rather embarrassing, but the question came up because of the realization that Republican politics are, even on an international scale, unique. When non-GOP officials visit the Chatham House, the question isn’t considered important.
 
This obviously isn’t limited to modern biology. The New York Times reported last week that American Republicans also lag behind conservative parties worldwide “when it comes to accepting the reality of climate change.”
[A study reported by Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard] examined the platforms of the top conservative parties in each of nine countries – the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Canada and New Zealand – and found that the Republican Party here was the only one to deny the existence of human-caused climate change.
 
Conservative parties in other countries aren’t necessarily committed to fighting climate change effectively, the study found. “Still,” writes Mr. Jacobs, “once you agree on a premise – climate change is happening, and it’s worrisome – you can debate over the best technological approaches to tackle it, or what combination of government regulations and market forces will be most effective. That sort of substantive debate between political parties is, sadly, not possible in the U.S., at least for now.”
As the radicalization of Republican politics becomes more obvious, the list of issues like these grows. Jon Chait noted over the weekend, “Rabid opposition is not the only quality that sets the GOP apart from other major conservative parties. The fervent commitment to supply-side economics is also an almost uniquely American idea. The GOP is the only major democratic party in the world that opposes the principle of universal health insurance. The virulence of anti-government ideology in the United States has no parallel anywhere in the world.”
 
This extends to foreign policy, as well. We learned last month, for example, that in nearly every major democracy on the planet, conservative hawks were satisfied by the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
 
And then there were American Republicans, who were not only actively involved in an organized campaign to kill the international agreement, but who also took deliberate steps to sabotage their own country’s diplomatic efforts while they were ongoing.
 
Indeed, on the issue of global warming, American Republicans have duplicated the model, urging foreign leaders not to trust the United States when American officials enter negotiations on reducing carbon emissions.
 
There are, to be sure, radical political parties in other democracies, but they’re not considered major parties and they’re not in a position to shape national policy outcomes.
 
Putting aside value judgments, and whether one finds the news encouraging or discouraging, our Republican Party is like nothing else in any democracy in the Western world.
 
 

Climate Change and Global Warming

When the GOP is odd on an international scale