'Bullies' like Trump also Rise in Europe (Frankfurter Allgemeine
"Trump is the out-sized American version of a populist
phenomenon that can also be observed in other Western states, especially in
West Europe. … Reflecting nothing but contempt for the political compromise
that is the essence of democratic societies … people who think this way are
filled with anger about such political activity - and full of suspicion because
economic, social and cultural conditions are changing so much so fast. No
wonder immigration is the most divisive and inflammatory issue on the right. It
should be said, however, that it also resonates with 'normal' people
experiencing a sense of insecurity."
Donald Trump is
an oversized American version of a populist phenomenon that can be observed in
West Europe as well. Why are people like Trump so fascinating?
Trump is a political bully who is plowing through the Republican field in the
U.S. presidential primaries. He is clearly ahead in the polls and that in spite
of (or because of) saying things that can only be described as xenophobic,
sexist, degrading and insulting. To Trump, who made big money as a real estate
entrepreneur and presents himself as a rocket-propelled grenade against
“political correctness,” shame is an alien concept. He doesn't blush, and of
course, he cannot be intimidated. Trump throws raw meat at people’s feet, is
argumentative and incites people against the establishment - and precisely
because of this, a large segment of the conservative audience cheers him on!
The fiercer the attack and the more insensitive the presentation - the better.
So far, anyway.
is an interesting development. In American society, a political and social
atmosphere has developed that rewards this type of bullying rhetoric. It is a
milieu in which such rhetoric is appreciated, reflecting nothing but contempt
for the political compromise that is the essence of democratic societies. In
this context, it is regarded as a welcome counterbalance to Washington’s
“normal” politics - in its institutions, practices and ways of communicating.
The people who think this way are filled with anger about such political
activity - and full of suspicion and concern because economic, social and
cultural conditions are changing so much so fast. No wonder immigration is the
most divisive and inflammatory issue on the right. It should be said, however,
that it also resonates with “normal” people experiencing a sense of insecurity.
is the out-sized American version of a populist phenomenon that can also be
observed in other Western states, especially in West Europe. In Switzerland,
entrepreneur/politician Christoph Blocher of
the Swiss People’s Party, with tough slogans contrary to the current Zeitgeist, has already
succeeded precisely because they so bluntly express putative public sentiment. Geert Wilders has for
years been the poltergeist of Dutch politics. His political offering consists
of little more than a threefold rejection of Europe, immigration and Islam.
Even Wilders, who incidentally has no ambitions to govern - nor is it likely
that Trump has such aims - strikes a chord in those unhappy with the direction
things are going.
Nigel Farage [left], head
of the U.K. Independence Party [UKIP], is a master ofbig talk (minus the insults), posturing on
the podium and clowning around. Of course he causes offence here and there, but
he collects lots of sympathy points elsewhere. That was particularly the case
during the 2014 European elections in which his party did very well. Farage,
too, has become a hero of sorts among those who feel that their interests and
needs have been ignored by those in office who set the tone culturally. Such
people now dream of a kind of resistance - against the European Union and of
course, against immigrants. In Scandinavia there are people and parties that
also fit this mold. In Germany, corresponding groups are searching for a
corresponding leading figure. The former head of Alternative for Germany, Bernd Lucke, wasn’t a
charismatic-enough demagogue, clown and entertainer. Besides, he isn't a
right-wing radical or racist. The stars of European right-wing populism of
course refuse to be labeled as such; in France, even Front National Chairwoman
Marine Le Pen values respectability - but she's one of the few who really
aspires to power.
do those who have such a fascination with characters like Trump have in common
that they are willing to accept or even celebrate major gaffes or dumb
wisecracks? Is it that they are people who “boldly” buck the establishment?
Aside from sheer bigotry, researchers of populism keep coming back to the
conclusion that in Western societies, those who feel overwhelmed by the great
economic, social and cultural changes over recent years; who feel threatened in
their home, which is more than just a geographic space, but which also has
something to do with socio-cultural identity - are more susceptible to this
sort of thing. For many of these people, immigrants, especially those from
culturally-distant parts of the world, represent the most visible change in
their identity-environment, the diversification of which is not considered
desirable and all of which results in rejection – and sometimes extremist
shouts and violence.
Once again it's time for an American history lesson from the people of Latin America. One could have a Web site devoted...
the way, radicalization and escalating rhetoric in political debate are not
unique to the political right. Think about Greece's Syriza Party and what its
leaders have been able to achieve. Or one can look at Great Britain. There,
Labour appears delighted to appoint a diehard leftist [Jeremy Corbyn] as head
of the party. Back to the future? One shudders at the thought.