A median of 55% of adults in 18 countries have confidence in U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
Digesting the survey’s results, I found myself wrestling with a bunch of things, places, ideas, and developments: Canada, this era of “white supremacists without borders,” self-serving “feminist foreign policies,” civil rights, the question of the acceptance of women’s leadership, and especially then often devalued African American women who have repeatedly been the “the backbone” of democratic renewal and racial reckoning in America in recent years.
I wrestled with the stuff you’ve probably already heard Canadians and Americans claiming, loudly, to cherish, especially in the post-Trump era. Canada and most of the 18 countries surveyed have expressed “values”, attitudes and practices often associated with a liberal democracy and tolerant society. Don’t forget the largely-uninterrogated claim to wide acceptance, in Canada and some of the liberal democracies of Europe surveyed, of racial diversity and multiculturalism.
According to the survey, Harris drew the most positive reviews in Sweden, where 77% of adults surveyed said they have confidence in the first African American person, first Indian American person, and first daughter of immigrants, to serve as Vice President of the United States.
The Pew Research Center surveyed 20,944 adults in Australia, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, between Feb. 14 and June 3, 2022.
The survey’s question asked respondents to state whether they had (1) a lot of confidence, (2) some confidence, (3) not too much confidence, or (4) no confidence at all, in the U.S. vice president’s and other world leaders’ ability to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”.
Across all 18 countries surveyed, a median of 60% of adults gave Harris, the 48th Vice President of the Unites States, a “confidence” vote. A median of 33% of adults gave her the “no confidence” vote. Overall, women are more likely than men to say they do have confidence in VP Harris’ ability to handle complex world affairs, according to the survey.
Hungary and white supremacy
The Pew survey found that VP Harris is least trusted in Hungary, where only 23% of survey respondents expressed confidence in her leadership on the world stage. In the rest of the countries surveyed, confidence in Harris ranges between 45% in Greece and 77% in Sweden.
Hungary’s 23% confidence in Harris shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. In this age of the “growing globalization of white nationalism,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is probably the most openly racist serving leader of an advanced economy today. Since assuming a hard line stance against immigration from outside Europe in 2015, he’s repeatedly stated that maintaining “ethnic homogeneity” in Hungary was his ultimate goal. Last week, Orban drew international condemnation after stating that he and Hungarians are firmly against becoming “peoples of mixed race” and joking about Nazi Germany’s genocidal use of gas chambers against Jewish people.
As reported by CNN:
Hungary’s hardline nationalist leader Viktor Orban is facing international condemnation after making remarks on race and multiculturalism that were slammed as a “pure Nazi text” by his longtime aide.
Zsuzsa Hegedus, who served as an adviser to Orban for two decades, quit Tuesday over what she called Orban’s “illiberal turn,” describing his comments in Romania on Saturday as a “pure Nazi text worthy of (Nazi propagandist) Goebbels,” according to her resignation letter published by Hungarian outlet HVG.
He was also denounced by the International Auschwitz Committee after comments in the same speech that were interpreted as a joke about the use of gas chambers against Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
Orban told a crowd that Europeans do not want to mix with people from outside of the continent.
“This is why we have always fought: We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race,” Orban said.
And yet, if the Pew survey was a strictly “confidence” versus “no confidence” vote, Hungary’s 23% “confidence vote” wouldn’t be so awful. For example, 47% of people surveyed in Singapore have “no confidence” at all in VP Harris.
The Pew Research Center survey’s on VP Harris is an interrogation, in 18 countries, of the question of the acceptance of the leadership of a woman of color on the world stage.
Kamala Harris is the first African American person, first Indian American person, and first daughter of immigrants to hold the office of Vice President of the United States, the world’s most powerful country. Her parents, dad Donald Harris, a Jamaican, and mom Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, an Indian, met in 1962 while attending graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. According to the New York Times, they were both “idealistic foreign graduate students who were swept up in the U.S. civil rights movement” and would become “part of a Black intellectual study group” at UC Berkeley.
In June 2020, Harris praised Joe Biden, a white man who had, in her own words, “the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman” as his presidential Democratic Party running mate. Harris wrote on Instagram:
My parents marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s because of them and the folks who also took to the streets to fight for justice that I am where I am. They laid the path for me, as only the second Black woman ever elected to the United States Senate. Years later, we are still fighting for justice and to confront the systematic racism that has plagued our country since its early days. But the power of this movement cannot be denied. Change is possible.
It’s worth noting that Americans accepted the 2020 Biden-Harris presidential proposition in the midst of the toxic, “stormy and divisive four-year presidency” of Donald Trump, a leader who openly embraced white nationalists, far-right extremists, white supremacists, QAnon adherents, and other white-dominated hate groups.
While individuals deputizing “world leaders” aren’t exactly the most “interesting” political figures to talk or write about, Harris holds her own against the leaders of some of the world’s most influential countries. World leaders.
As per the Pew survey, the median of 55% of people who have confidence in Harris to do the right thing in global affairs is slightly less than the median of roughly 6-in-10 who have confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.
But the median of 55% of people who have confidence in Harris across the 18 surveyed countries puts the U.S. vice president far ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who are viewed positively by a median of 18% and 9% of adults, respectively.
View from Canada
Then there is the view from the United States’ closest neighbour and biggest trading partner, Canada. In his final years in power, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper often elicited comparisons with Hungary’s unapologetic white supremacist, Orban. In 2014, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Harper government’s cancellation of federal healthcare for refugees was “cruel and unusual” treatment of the “vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged” seeking Canada’s protection. The cancellation “shocks the conscience and outrages Canadian standards of decency,” the court ruled.
Just before Canada’s 2015 federal elections, Harper hired Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist, raging anti-immigrant racist, and “master of the dark arts”, in a futile attempt to to reboot his doomed re-election campaign. Previously, while working on ex-Australian PM John Howard’s campaigns, Lynton had created “a degree of xenophobia and fear for ‘refugee invasions’”. He’d deliberately, strategically used words and phrases like “‘un-Australian’ and ‘illegals’ in a veiled pitch for support from racist, white Australians.”
Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau, then leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and 29 other Liberals, voted YES to Harper’s Bill S-7, the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”, a law that was widely condemned for its daylight appeal to white supremacism and proposal for “zero tolerance” to the supposed “barbarism” of communities of color in Canada. Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom called S-7 a bill that “panders to fear of immigrants.” Canadians had expected Trudeau to question S-7’s “dark, racist overtones and anti-Muslim rhetoric”.
After assuming power in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a radical departure from the Harper era. He assembled a gender-balanced cabinet. Then Trudeau’s Canada adopted a highly-questionable, “white saviour industrial complex”-informed, “white fragility”-inspired, racially-illiterate “feminist foreign policy”.
Furthermore, I’ve lost count of the number of times “feminist” PM Trudeau has deliberately, strategically, relentlessly nurtured (1) the uninterrogated global image of “Canadians”, himself included, as unrivaled paragons of morality, ethical behaviour, openness, kindness, fairness, compassion, humility, racial tolerance, racial diversity, racial equity, gender equity, women’s rights, multiculturalism, internationalism, globalism, international human rights standards, global citizenship, and the global common good, (2) the myth of Canada’s moral superiority over the U.S. on the world stage, and (3) the “allegory of Canadian freedom reigning triumphant over American bondage”, since 2015.
For example, there was that pivotal moment, in January 2017, when Trudeau loudly tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith,” and,“Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”. He was addressing a largely unquestioning, “white saviour industrial complex”-informed, “white fragility”-inspired, racially-illiterate white-majority western audience and global community that unconditionally loves him, and lacks the courage to constructively criticize Canada’s 23rd prime minister.
The suggestion here is that Canadian political leaders and society widely, uncompromisingly, accept the leadership of women and racial minorities. In fact, reading the Trudeau government’s feminist foreign policy sales pitches on the world stage in the past couple of years, you would be tempted to believe that Canada is the undisputed champion of the world when it comes accepting and nurturing the leadership of women, in Canada and abroad.
A good 60% of Canadians surveyed by the Pew Research Center do have confidence in Harris’ leadership on the world stage. But that figure is much lower than the expressed view from Sweden (77%), which also has a “white saviour industrial complex”-informed, racially-illiterate “feminist foreign policy”. It’s much lower than that of the Netherlands (69%), Poland (68%), and Belgium (65%).
The median of 68% of people in Poland who have confidence in Harris is quite interesting, especially when compared to the expressed views of Canadians. That’s because Poland is not often counted among Europe’s liberal democracies. Earlier this year, the Berlin-based Civil Liberties Union for Europe stated that the rule of law was under attack in both Poland and Hungary:
Hungary and Poland continued a slide into authoritarianism, accelerating the dismantlement of democratic standards by seizing further control of the justice system, civil society and media, while cutting basic human rights and fuelling divisions by scapegoating migrants and other minority groups.
And, unlike Canada and Sweden, Poland does not have a stated, highly-publicized feminist foreign policy.
A median of 68% of people in Poland, a country where political leaders violate basic human rights and fuel societal divisions “by scapegoating migrants and other minority groups,” have confidence in U.S. Vice President Harris, a woman of color. By comparison, a median of 60 of people in Canada, a country with a feminist foreign policy and leader who famously, loudly tweeted that “Canadians” will unconditionally welcome “those fleeing persecution, terror & war” because “diversity is our strength,” have confidence in Harris’ ability to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.
Meanwhile, a surprising 33% of adults in Canada have “no confidence” in VP Harris’ ability to find solutions to the world’s urgent problems, according to the Pew Research Center survey. Compare that figure to the “no confidence” vote from the folks in Poland (12%), Sweden (19%) Netherlands (21%), Belgium (25%), and Japan (27%).
Throw ideology into the mix and the of people in Poland are still more positive than Canadians of VP Harris’ leadership on the world stage. In Poland, 71% of right-leaning people have confidence in Harris’ leadership, compared to 50% of right-leaning Canadians. Meanwhile, 54% of Greeks on the ideological right have confidence in Harris. In Canada, 67% of people on the ideological centre have confidence in Harris, compared to 74% of people on the ideological centre in Poland.
The 68% of people on the ideological left in Canada who have confidence in U.S. Vice President Harris’ ability to tackle the world’s urgent, complex problems is much lower than the 81% of people on the ideological left in Poland expressing the same view.
The Pew Research Center survey found that in Canada and other celebrated liberal democracies, such as Sweden, Australia, and the Netherlands, more women than men have confidence in the U.S. vice president’s ability to do the right thing in global affairs.
Let’s digress for a second…
In her victory speech after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Harris paid tribute to her late mother. “Maybe” Gopalan Harris, said the then U.S. Vice President-elect, “didn’t quite imagine this moment,” but she “believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.”
Harris honored “generations of women — Black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often Prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.”
Then Harris stated that her position as U.S. vice president would inspire other women to dare to break long-standing barriers:
But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.
And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before. And we will applaud you every step of the way.”
Feminist PM Trudeau’s Canada is not at the top of the list of surveyed countries where more women than men expressed confidence in Harris. When the expressed confidence in Harris to do the right thing is read from the gender categories of women and men, Canada comes third, behind Sweden and the Netherlands.
A staggering 83% of Swedish women have confidence in Harris to do the right thing in global affairs, compared to 68% of Canadian women. Only about half of Canadian men (51%) have confidence in Harris, compared to 72% and 64% of Swedish men and Dutch men, respectively.
Finally, it’s worth noting that, if you’re from Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and South East Asia, your views weren’t part of the Pew Research Center’s survey on the 18-country views on U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ leadership on the world stage. With the exception of Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, the 18 countries surveyed are Canada and white-majority European countries.