In an op-ed for The New York Times, Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev argues that most Europeans can hardly recognize America anymore as the once shining city on the hill that guides freedom-loving people everywhere, as Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it. Now, he says, Europeans look at America and see their own reflection.
His piece, "America Hasn't Gone Crazy. It's Just More Like Europe," starts off with a bang:
For most Europeans these days, traveling to America is like landing on Mars. Even the most sophisticated political analysts can’t make head or tail of what is happening in the country. They are offended by the rise of Donald J. Trump, puzzled by Bernie Sanders’s democratic socialist appeal to young American voters, and confused by President Obama’s unsentimental, risk-averse foreign policy that decided against punishing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for crossing Mr. Obama’s own red line on chemical weapons.
Krastev, on the other hand, says he believes he understands "exactly what is going on in America" and explains why he believes Europeans are so confused. In his analysis, an angry "barking" Donald Trump would be right "at home in Europe" because of the "political resentment" that often garners the greatest mass appeal in those countries. "Mainstream parties barely get half the vote in national elections," he stated.
Another reason Trump fits the model is with his comments about Muslim immigration. Krastev says he quite often hears Europeans saying similar things in cafes, especially in terms of ridding the EU of Muslims and building walls on their borders to keep them out. Krastev noted that many Europeans also feel threatened that they are becoming "minorities in their own countries."
Bernie Sanders would also "be familiar to Europeans as well," said Krastev, because of how most young people there "view capitalism as a rigged and unfair system." Socialism is not a dirty word to them, he added.
That's funny because even Krastev pointed out that half of the young people in socialist governments like Greece, Spain and Portugal are unemployed college graduates who loathe free trade. It doesn't sound like that worldview is working out too well for them. But that sounds very much like what Millennials in America want: free college and an end to capitalism, and they expect it to work out and turn a blind eye to what is happening in Europe!
Krastev pegs President Obama as a major driving force in making America more like Europe:
He says he has thrown out the “Washington playbook,” and that has surprised and frightened America’s allies in Europe. Mr. Obama’s infamous policy dictum, “Don’t do stupid” things, has been the sole organizing principle of Europeans’ foreign policy for years now. He’s simply making explicit something that we’ve known a long time — that America is becoming more cautious in its foreign policy, more European. Americans are no longer from Mars, and Europeans are no longer from Venus. Perhaps we are all on Saturn together, trying to keep the dirty rabble from sullying our beautiful rings.
It's Americans that don't "get" America these days, Krastev continues. They fail to see "their country is rapidly becoming 'normal,'" not exceptional as it used to be. He quotes American historian Richard Hofstadter who said, "It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies, but to be one."
Krastev suggests Americans have been too complacent in believing what happens in Europe, namely socialism and fascism, "can't happen here." He warns that the American democracy is in doom of being "upended" in it's current polarized state and Europeans are starting to notice and wish for the old exceptional, lead-by-example America to come back:
Now, when the “normalization” of America unfolds before our eyes, I have the feeling that many Europeans are getting nostalgic for the America we never really understood. This is the America that keeps so many of its young black people in prison, but that elects a black man president. An America that may still countenance the death penalty, but also protects the rights of immigrants. An America that doesn’t simply try to order the world, but that was once passionate to change it. An America with its blemishes, but also its promises. An America that was more ambitious, and less ambivalent. We are already missing it.