By now, we’ve absorbed it almost as a total truth that Europe is unequivocally more liberal than the United States. This is perhaps forgetting the rival histories of Europe and the U.S. since the U.S. constitution was an inarguably liberal (for its time) and revolutionary document the founders signed knowing they could be executed by a conservative monarchy. But I would also argue that the U.S. isn’t necessarily more conservative today than Europe is, it’s just not equally represented at any level of its government.
Okay, so my answer is going against the grain but really try to hear me out. Please keep an open mind…
If you look at actual polls of Americans, 75% support abortion rights, a majority hate the U.S. healthcare system and wish it was cheaper, you’ve heard Democrats say forever that “85% of Americans want background checks for gun sales and other reasonable gun reforms,” the vast majority also want rich people to pay more taxes, marijuana legalization (and other legalizations), a better social safety net, paid family leave, better workplace protections, a cleaner environment, the tackling of income inequality and climate crisis, and the vast majority support almost all of what Biden’s trying to do from the stimulus package to infrastructure.
So why the disconnect between the United States and Europe if most Americans want many of the same things?
Because rural areas in the United States have an unholy amount of power, and the way votes are counted just simply aren’t the same. When Europeans vote on President, they just do a popular vote. The United States has the bonkers Electoral College system, which put W. Bush and Trump into power. Keep in mind, a majority of Americans have never voted for Trump, just like a majority of the French didn’t vote for Marie Le Pen and the Germans for whatever Nazi-lite they put up against Angela Merkel. There is absolutely a far-right wing in Europe, but the real difference is the Electoral College.
Then you have the American Senate: California (where 14% of the entire country lives) gets outvoted by the Dakotas (where more bears than people live). 15 million more Americans have voted for Democratic senators, and yet the senate is a 50/50 tie right now (that Kamala Harris has to break), and only because some Georgia run-offs went the right way. I’m not aware of a European country that has the “two senators from every state, regardless of population…or basic common sense” system.
Similarly, a majority of the Supreme Court has been appointed by Presidents who didn’t win the popular vote, and that’s obviously skewed the result from what it should be.
Because the United States has waaaay too much Minority Rule, you see substantial changes get blocked in the Senate, SCOTUS, and White House. In the Democratic-controlled House—which tracks the closest with popular vote, although not always due to gerrymandering like in 2012—they’ve passed over 300 bills that McConnell’s minority-controlled Senate refused to even allow a vote on for several years.
The way the United States was founded, they had to make a ton of concessions to get every state to agree to join the union. There were many compromises giving smaller states and rural areas more power than they should’ve had, but the Founders also expected they’d revisit the issue later in Constitutional Conventions—which have never taken place. This means that we’re still stuck with a system where to get a constitutional amendment passed, you need 34 states to vote “yes” on it, in addition to both houses of congress, and the President. Needless to say, it is nearly impossible to get real, big change done in a country where 14% of the entire nation (California) gets the exact same vote as 0.1% (Wyoming).