The Right Coast

June 07, 2005
 
Own Goals
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The Euro Constitution debacle last week is widely, and rightly, blamed on European leaders who so urgently supported the ungainly charter. Their arrogance, corruption, and general out-of-touch-ness is surely part of the story. But the anti-Americanism deliberately cultivated by Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, and their ilk, may also have been an important factor in the political disaster these people brought on themselves.

The European Union, nee the Common Market, started as a free trade agreement, which in many ways it still is. The EU guarantees free movement of goods, services, capital, and people across the borders of its member states; it enforces rules against monopolies and protectionism. The EU also has counter-tendencies towards command-and-control regulation, bureaucratic centralism, and widespread subsidies, of course. But its internal free trade character is genuine, and has been enormously successful in promoting European prosperity. Free trade, and economic freedom generally, are called "liberal" in Europe, and Europeans rightly associate "liberalism" with the United States.

Come now Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, & Co, appealing to the anti-Americanism that lurks perennially in Europe, on the Right as well as on the Left. (Chirac was almost as much at odds with Clinton as he is with Bush: it's not a question of which party is in the White House.) These Euro leaders hinged their political future on moving the EU towards becoming a full-fledged United States of Europe, and more than hinted that it would be a "counterweight" -- an adversary, to put it plainly -- to the USA.

But voters with a dislike for the US -- a dislike their national leaders have made newly respectable -- now balked at supporting a stronger EU, which after all is "liberal" in some fundamental ways, and hence in tune with values seen as being American or "Anglo-Saxon".

(This evidently happened in France, at least. The Dutch vote against the EU Constitution seems to have been more straightforwardly a vote against centralism, bureaucracy, and subsidies at Dutch expense.)

So Chirac -- and the Euro elite -- have been humiliated. The EU Constitution is almost certainly dead. And it is at least possible that the European Union as it now exists may begin to unravel.

There is a kind of parallel in what happened in the Democratic Party in the US in recent years. Since the 2000 election, Democrats chose to be identified with rage, leftist hyperventilation, and Michael Moore. This surely gave psychic satisfaction to leaders and the leftish rank-and-file alike. But presumably there was also the hope that if feelings were spun up to a high enough pitch, it would help win elections. In fact, Michael Moore and the widespread spirit he embodied only helped ensure Bush's re-election.

As with Chirac, the Democrats weren't just defeated: they ably assisted in defeating themselves.