Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney had an overseas trip that, from a political standpoint, was less than a smashing success. Romney caught heat in London for comments about the city’s preparedness to host the Olympics, he caught heat from the Palestinians regarding remarks about how cultural differences explain the superiority of the Israeli economy. And he even caught heat in Poland, normally friendly to GOP candidates, as the Solidarity trade union distanced themselves from him. It’s the latter fact—as well as relations with Poland at large, that should be a greater source of concern for Romney and the country as a whole.
Let’s start by situating Poland within the broader context of the expanding European Union. The Polish government was a ready ally of George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War. This was frequently ignored by prominent national Democrats, including 2004 election opponent John Kerry, who said Bush was antagonizing the entire world. What they really meant was that Bush was antagonizing France and Germany, who in the world of the left wing are apparently more significant than the Poles.
The split between Poland-friendly pols and France-Germany friendly ones can be further placed in the context of that of Western and Eastern Europe. And let’s face it, Western Europe is a paper tiger. The unemployment rate persists in double digits, they are dependent on the U.S. for military protection and in the long haul, and they aren’t even producing enough children to replenish their populations, with the Islamic world moving in to fill the void.
By no means do I intend to imply that Poland and the East are utopias, but there’s something there that’s missing in the West and it’s an actual future. A U.S. foreign policy built on appeasing Bonn and Paris at the expense of Warsaw is about as smart as baseball team that trades its three best minor-league prospects for one aging Hall of Fame slugger well past his prime. We could further add that the U.S. should be orientating its entire foreign policy away from Western Europe and into the emerging Third World, but that’s a much bigger topic and beyond the scope of this post.
The Polish vote in the United States is unique in that it’s gone Republican, even during the immigrant phase, at a time when Irish and Italian immigrants were overwhelmingly Democratic. The reason would be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s unconscionable sell-out of Poland to Josef Stalin and the then-Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference, which divvied up Europe after World War II. The role of Ronald Reagan in bringing about the Soviet Union’s eventual demise only accentuated Poland’s status as a “red state” in Europe.
This is what makes Solidarity’s distancing of itself from Romney alarming and something that should be a wakeup call for the GOP. The trade union, led by Lech Walesa in the early 1980s and absolutely indispensable itself in the winning of the Cold War, did not care for Romney because of his attacks on unions in the United States. Given Solidarity’s support for Reagan, it’s fair to say the Polish union isn’t insisting the Republican challenger morph into a left-wing ideologue, who sees the union as the key to the class struggle. But Romney is most decidedly from his party’s elitist wing and that’s having implications with a country that should be a natural ally.
The Democratic Party’s silent derision of Poland and Solidarity’s disdain for the current Republican candidate are emblematic of the political problem here in the United States—you’re either left with an left-winger who attacks the Catholic Church, or an out-of-touch Republican. It’s time the U.S. found its own Solidarity movement and its own Lech Walesa to lead the way out.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com.