Who will ride on Trump’s wave?

What kind of effect might Donald Trump’s victory have of various populist, extremist parties especially in Europe, how they can use this victory? Read few comments.

Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Post-Doctoral Researcher Scuola Normale Superior

The victory of Trump has already been hailed by many populist radical right actors in Europe, including Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen and Beatrix von Storch from Alternative Fur Deutschland, among others. As a matter of fact, many western European far right parties have built links with Donald Trump in the past months, endorsing his populist political style, his anti-establishment stances, and his outspoken opposition to migration. As a result, many of these parties perceived to be allies of Trump’s struggle against the establishment (perfectly embodied in the figure of Hillary Clinton), so that now they consider his victory as theirs. In this respect, the main connection between Europe’s far right and Trump’s movement in the US are opposition to the establishment and the status quo. It is in this sense that one has to understand their support for Putin’s Russia – which is perceived as an example of centralised, decisive executive power, and as an alternative to the current state of affairs, in Europe and beyond.

A first main effect of Trump’s presidency is symbolic. His election shows that populist parties that have often be considered as protest parties which are better suited to play the role of challengers than that of incumbents, can actually win elections. This effect can build up on the momentum gained with the victory of Brexit in the UK, and will first be tested at the upcoming French presidential elections, where the Front National is expecting to reach the second round. If, as some are suggesting, the election of Trump marks the demise of the ideology of ‘lesser-evilism’, then one could also expect broader consequences in the European electoral market.

A second main effect concerns the acceptability of openly xenophobic and sexist narratives (and behaviour) in the European public sphere. The so called alt-right culture originates in Europe, promoting white supremacist and racist stances under the guise of opposition to politically correct culture, but it has become mainstream in Trump’s campaign and it now seized power. In so doing, it is likely to change the perception by European far right actors of what it is legitimate (and convenient) to say in the public debate, and what – instead – is not.

A third effect will be on expectations by the far right. The happenings in 2016, Brexit, the election of Trump, the elections in Austria, the very close results of the Hungarian referendum, seem to suggest that momentum is changing in Europe, to the advantage of populist right-wing actors. Moreover, the far right might now convince itself to be the master of its own destiny, since Trump showed that it is possible to win the presidency of the USA despite the more or less opposition of the national and international media system as a whole.

Niklas Bolin, Senior Lecturer/Post-Doctoral Researcher, Political Science, Mid Sweden University

The victory of Trump obviously is a success for far-right politics in general. Still, however, we don´t know what he really will achieve once in office. During the campaign he has proposed a number of very radical ideas about building walls and throwing out Muslims etc. To what extent he will actually go ahead with this plan, let alone the unlikeliness he will get the congress to accept it, is really uncertain.

For radical right parties in Europe the Trump victory is seen as yet one step towards becoming accepted into the mainstream. These parties share some of the radical ideas proposed by Trump, e.g. about immigration and the contempt for “the establishment”, and are likely to use the win as an argument that their ideas are shared by the most important leader of the world as well as millions of Americans. Still, although we know some radical right leaders have had real contacts with Trump, e.g. Farage, we do not know to what extent radical right forces in Europe will be successful in expanding their contacts with Trump and other American leaders. Trump will most likely need to establish good relations with the leaders of Europe, which are mostly non far-right politicians. Leaders that will not be very happy to see Trump engage too much with people like e.g. Le Pen, Wilders etc.

Jonathan Dean, Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds

Donald Trump’s victory may serve to galvanise and energise a number of right-wing populist and extremist parties across Europe, and I have no doubt that some comparable politicians (such as, perhaps, Le Pen in France) will look positively upon Trump’s victory. However, it is difficult to predict or anticipate exactly what effect Trump’s victory will have on the electoral fortunes of the far right in Europe. Indeed, it is probably more accurate to say that the kind of politics Trump represents – a strange form of right-wing, racially charged anti-establishment politics that seeks to tap into voters’ feelings of marginalisation and disenfranchisement – has been around in Europe longer than it has been in America. Trump’s victory feels, to me anyway, more like America catching up with Europe. While personally I expect that Trump’s victory might improve the chances of Le Pen winning the forthcoming French presidential election, I think that in Europe it is already clear that there is widespread electoral support for right-wing populist parties with the potential to win power, and this would have remained the case even if Trump had lost.

Matthew GoodwinProfessor of Politics, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Senior Visiting Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House

Once again the opinion pollsters, academic forecasters and large chunks of the mainstream media have collectively failed to identify the right currents. While many commentators in the United States dismissed the Brexit comparison, arguing that Hillary Clinton was in a far stronger position, it appears that they too underestimated the determination to turnout among mainly white, working class and less well educated Americans who feel under threat from rampant globalization and increasing rates of ethnic and cultural change.

Kai Arzheimer, Professor of Political Science, University of Mainz

Given Trump’s rhetoric and his comments on immigration, minorities, the EU, and Russia, they will try to frame this as a victory of one of their own (see what Le Pen is doing in France). But at least in the German case, they will also be very cautious, because Trump is (at least at the moment) almost universally unpopular in Europe.



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