Europe and The Donald

Britain EU

Alex Dunn

Alex Dunn is TCP’s European contributor.  His post explores the confusion in Europe wrought by the  election of Donald Trump.  Hopefully, Winston Churchill’s assessment of the US will turn out correct:  “You can count on Americans to do the right thing… after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” – Ed.

It is only a few months ago, back in the heady days of summer, when Europeans would chuckle that by the end of 2016, the United Kingdom could have chosen to leave the European Union and Donald Trump could be elected president of the USA.

Unlikely or particularly momentous election results are entertaining to ponder.  The more outrageous the perceived outcome of putting a polarizing candidate in the hot seat the better.

The media have made hay since Trump humbly put himself forward for public service and the (former) UK prime minister David Cameron made good on his election promise of a referendum on membership of the EU.

Anybody with column inches to fill could see that two electorates had been tossed a hand grenade each and were dared to pull the pins.

On either side of the Atlantic, the principal actors were more than capable of filling a news cycle with their bons mots;  Trump, a global name and Nigel Farage, the scourge of the European Union.

Whilst both Brexit and President Trump were two possible outcomes that the British and American electorate could deliver, it was never going to happen, was it?

In theory Britain could turn its back on the EU, a little over 40 years after fighting to be admitted to the club.

In theory the Americans could choose to reject an established politician and hand the nuclear football to a reality TV star, who has never held public office.

It is also theoretically possible that the EuroMillions lottery ticket that I bought this evening could make me rich beyond my wildest dreams.

Someone once told me that most people find it difficult to comprehend statistical likelihood. The numbers are beyond us, so in visualizing the chances of my numbers coming up, consider the following.

I am handed the telephone books for all of Germany and told to select a single number from any of the many volumes. My random choice of name and number is known only to me.  A pilot is then told to fly me anywhere he chooses in his helicopter and to land outside a house.

The odds of me knocking at the door of said house and the door being answered by the person that I chose from the telephone book, is about the same as winning EuroMillions.

So just because something could happen, does not mean that it will? Some things are just too unlikely.

The French once flirted with a major electoral upset by putting the extreme right wing Jean-Marie Le Pen on the ballot, up against Jacques Chirac back in 1982. For those of you unfamiliar with Monsieur Le Pen, knowing that he considered the Nazi gassing of Jews to be “just a detail in the history of World War II” and that the French national soccer team had too many black players, should give an indication of the man’s world view.

In the weeks before the general election, the French agonised over having an extreme right wing candidate on the ballot. There was a palpable embarrassment amongst many French at that time, that the world was seeing a very different France to the one which they wanted to project.

The election was a staggering victory for Chirac, who won 82% of the vote. The French seemed to be saying, “we have made our point here. Our protest vote to get this clown onto the ballot is enough, but we don’t actually want him as president – we are not crazy!”

It seems that many of today’s Europeans had the same feeling about Trump.  He was just a poster boy to shake up the establishment.  On this side of the Atlantic, we are aware of a disenchantment with the political elite living in the rarified bubble of Washington.  Trump is seen by some as a man who cuts to the chase and speaks to the common man.  Hilary is seen as a crook and a war monger by the same people.

America and indeed the world has heard what Trump is about over the past 18 months and it seems that the voters liked what they heard.

There remains a question that is going to be very difficult to answer definitively; do the Trump voters take him at his word, or do they merely like his unconstrained straight-talk?

Do they really believe he will build a wall along the US-Mexican border, or do they just appreciate a candidate talking about immigration in the terms that they believe the politically correct politicians never do?

Clearly this is important because if Trump fails to deliver on his promises, there could be many millions who’s literal interpretation of his sound bites are going to come back to bite him.

If he does try to deliver on his promises, it is difficult to fathom the depths that the world will sink to. In short, there is no good way for this to end.

The European media that I have seen has been predictable in their coverage of the election. The earnest liberal press have sent journalists to the rust belt and sought out the very best stereotypical red-necks they can find, to rant enthusiastically about how Hillary should not be president because; the woman’s place is in the home (it is still 2016 when I last checked), there are too many Mexican criminals / ISIS terrorists pouring over the border, and most poignantly, how Donald Trump understands the working man and is going to fix the economy.

It appears many of the poor white communities in the US have pinned their hopes on Donald Trump because they know him to be a rich business man.  They have seen the sky scrapers bearing his name.  This guy is successful, so if he can run a business, he can run a country right?

I have heard him described as a “self-made” man, which is as richly comic as his father was comically rich.

Clinton has been accused of shady business dealings.  But when a light was shone on Trump’s tax affairs, voters congratulated him on beating the system.

I would have preferred to see more interviews with Republicans who were not caricatures, but still representative of the body of people who calculated that Trump was a better bet than Clinton.

Where are these people, because from what European’s have been fed by our media is that a toxic brew of delusion and double standards is the reason for this reality.

The British are wryly commenting that at least this will take people’s minds off Brexit, the U.K.s pending departure from the EU. But, say it quietly, there are murmurings that even that momentous decision may be reversed.

The same cannot be said for the next US President. Come some chill January day in Washington, the world will tune in and stare wide eyed at the inauguration ceremony.

Europe – we raised an eyebrow at the election of Reagan, we sniggered at Schwarzenegger becoming a governor and we gasped at George W Bush.  There is nothing more to prove.

USA – Hold my drink.

6 thoughts on “Europe and The Donald

  1. Well, Trump may f&%k up the ability of any American governmental institution to function so severely that even our military is crippled to the point that it cannot meddle offshore for a few years or so. I’m just grasping for any possible silver lining to the approaching disaster. This could not make the US-caused Mideast chaos any worse than it presently is (a plus!), can it? And who knows, that roiling schiststorm may even subside somewhat if our big fat unwelcome nose is removed.

    I hate to see us sever NATO ties, though (a giant negative), which is not out of the realm of possibility, and I expect will result in very negative consequences for the country Trump is president of. But also for everybody in Europe and the UK (at minimum), too. Assuming Chump aggressively pursues this aim, maybe JCS counsel will prevail with enough Republican legislators to prevent implementation.

    I’m not going to even broach the topic of absolute US GOP federal government policy control for 2 years minimum (4 years if the House remains Red in ’18 — the odds of regaining the Senate that cycle lie near those of buying a winning lottery ticket that cycle). Climate change, economies local and planetwide, near term impact on human rights,etc., all currently prominent subjects of daily nightmares I rarely experienced prior to 8 November: I have zero optimism for post-2016 positive US federal policy approaches for dealing with any of these issues.

    • I don’t have an educated opinion about the value of NATO, but will venture a thought or three anyway. “Defensive” alliances, in theory, seem like a credible idea. But weren’t such alliances part of the muck-up that brought forth WW I? It also seems to me that NATO hasn’t really had a defensive posture for awhile. It seems NATO has been fairly aggressive in its destruction of Yugoslavia and Libya, and in its chest-thumping theatrics towards Russia. What would U.S. policy makers lose by the dissolution of NATO? They make mostly unilateral decisions anyway, don’t they?

      • The mutual defense pledge just provides the US military with opportunities to flex its muscles most anywhere it chooses. (And “funny” how Afghanistan migrated to the North Atlantic while we had our backs turned, eh?) In a sane world, the dissolution of the USSR c. 1991 would have demolished any justification to maintain NATO. Now Russia herself, and Mr. Putin specifically, are in the crosshairs of the Pentagon, being painted as a new threat to world peace. The Obama administration has pushed for tightening the NATO noose around Russia, rather than trying to ease tensions. I can’t picture–despite the apparent unpredictability of the POTUS-Elect–Trump moving to “dismantle” the alliance, though he may seriously press his effort to make these European entities pay up for their “protection” by Big Daddy USA.

      • Apparently the US is the main financier of NATO . Mu understanding is that we supply 70% of its budget.. Bet most Americans aren’t aware of that.
        NATO was probably always a device to keep Europe anti Russian or (Soviet). The US seems to have adroitly usede NATO to advance many of our paranoid schemes like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc..Not a trail of successes.

  2. A few quick points: 1.) Do Brits and Europeans understand this marvel called the Electoral College? The perceived “lesser evil” got more votes than Trump, FWIW; 2.) a sufficient number of voters declared that they ARE “crazy” and proud of it, in the appropriate states, to produce the upset. In the town where I live in rural New England, Trump positively mopped the floor with Clinton, though she won my state as a whole; 3.) do Trump voters take him at his word? I suspect they certainly do. At a rally right here in my “liberal” state, the yahoos were out there chanting “Build the wall! Build the wall!”; 4.) it befuddles me that anyone could believe Trump is any degree of a peacenik. His avowed policy toward any player on the global geo-political stage that doesn’t bend its knee to him is obliteration. Delivering on this vow is another question, of course; 5.) some sage who predicted Trump’s win (I didn’t pursue details of the CNN story to get his/her identity) is quoted as predicting that impeachment awaits. Really? With the GOP in control of the Senate? That would require some real bipartisanship, by cracky!; 6.) re: interviewing “Republicans who were not caricatures,” our friends overseas need to understand that to be a member in good standing of the Modern Republican Party one must drink the Kool-Aid of Kraziness by the gallon! Global warming (and don’t forget evolution!) is a hoax, Obama was born in Kenya, abortion must be outlawed again, prayer to Jesus should be mandatory in all schools, etc. This is the pathetic reality that brought about the phenomenon called President-Elect Donald J. Trump. So, is the USA really a shining beacon to humanity, the most advanced nation on Earth? I can’t even posit the question with a straight face!!

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