U.S. Election 2016: Other Trumps, "Beautiful" Bernie, Bricks For The Wall
From Latin America to Europe, the Middle East and beyond, newspapers around the world have expressed a growing mix of dismay and contempt as Donald Trump continues to rack up victories in the Republican party presidential primaries. But as the American billionaire moves closer to the nomination, international journalists are widening their analysis to note that this implausible political personage is not alone on the world stage. "Should we really laugh about the Republican debates when they build up their hate for Islam, without thinking about Le Pen, Orban and others?" Sophie Thresher writes for French daily Libération, referring to far-right French National Front Leader Marine Le Pen and Hungary's authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, both openly hostile to Muslims.
"Trump promised to erect a wall to stop migrants from entering the United States," Thresher continues. "But is there anything to laugh about and to lecture the Americans on when Europe is also letting insurmountable barriers be erected against migrants and refugees fleeing war, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking, the cold and death? Is British Prime Minister David Cameron any different from the Republican candidates when the former has washed his hands of the situation in Calais and the latter refuse to welcome refugees from Iraq and Syria?"
Danish daily Politiken asks rhetorically whether a Trump-like candidate could successfully emerge in Denmark, noting that one already did. Political scientist Martin Larsen writes that this Scandinavian Trump was named Mogens Glistrup, a controversial Danish politician, lawyer, tax protestor and parliament member (1973—1983 and 1987—1990) who founded the right-wing Progress Party. Glistrup too was outrageous, openly viewing tax cheats as "freedom fighters" and bragging on national television that he himself paid no income taxes.
"Perhaps most importantly, Glistrup, like Trump, was a political outsider," Larsen writes. "Secondly, Glistrup, like Trump, was saying things that were not only politically incorrect, but that seemed absolutely insane given the political culture that dominated in the '70s." Glistrup, for example, had suggested the abolition of the social security system to be replaced with oatmeal machines in the streets.
Such global commentary about the U.S. presidential election has been ample. Ahead of the March 15 make-or-break contests for GOP candidates Marcio Rubio and John Kasich in Ohio, Florida and other states, Worldcrunch continues its regular curation of presidential campaign coverage, from all languages and corners of the world:
Perhaps the foreign politician who Trump most closely resembles is former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an over-the-top conservative billionaire who first ran for office after a long career as a real estate and media magnate. In Les Echos, French political scientist and columnist Dominique Moïsi characterizes Trump as "a Made-in-USA Berlusconi."
But in an interview with Italian daily Il Giornale, which is incidentally run by Berlusconi's brother Paolo, Italian political scientist Alessandro Campi cites a very different (but no less colorful) Italian figure from Italy with similarities to the Republican frontrunner: Beppe Grillo.
Grillo, 67, is the longtime and wildly popular comedian who broke into politics a few years ago with a loudly entertaining message shared across the Internet that largely defies left-right models. Campi, a professor at the University of Perugia, says that both Grillo and Trump were able to "build a populist coalition that feeds off the anger directed at politics as a result of the economic crisis, while exploiting the opportunity that the web provides to mobilize the masses."
Devils wearing Dockers
What's extraordinary about Trump's supporters is their utter ordinariness, C.J. Werleman writes for Egypt's Al-Ahram weekly. Having attended the candidate's Nevada caucus victory speech, Werleman recalls expecting "the crowd to resemble a covert Ku Klux Klan rally." Instead, it was like "every white-majority suburban street in America."
But Werleman says the fact that the audience was essentially a bunch of white guys clad in Dockers — the sort that can be found any night of the week at a sports bar wearing their mobile phones on their belts — is precisely what's so terrifying.
"If support for Trump's racist and xenophobic appeals came mostly from easily identifiable racists and xenophobes, then it would be easy to marginalize and dismiss Trump supporters. The fact that his support cuts across all layers of ordinary America is what makes the rising likelihood of a Trump presidency both a real and horrifying prospect — and especially so for Muslim-Americans."
Normalizing absurdity, bigotry and insanity is what "gave us the genocides of Nazi Germany, Bosnia and Rwanda," Werleman writes. "Trump supporters are no more or less normal than the bureaucrats and passive citizenry that allowed such atrocities to take place, and they remind us that we should worry less about extremists and more about the ordinary."
In recession-hit Brazil, the prospect of a Trump presidency is causing not just general social anxiety but also more specific economic fears. Folha de S. Paulocolumnist Clóvis Rossi describes the billionaire's pledge to impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports "a declaration of economic war" that would "derail an already wavering economic recovery." It would be particularly brutal for the Latin American country because it trades heavily with both the United States and China and relies on the Asian behemoth as a customer of its raw materials.
Further "disaster will occur if Trump fulfills his promise to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.," Rossi writes, explaining that Trump is "sowing the seeds of a Ku Klux Klan frame of mind" that will affect "Latinos in general," including the 100,000 Brazilians living on American soil.
Elsewhere in Latin America, Mario Luis Fuentes, writing in Mexico's daily Excelsior, characterizes Trump as a "sociopath," cautioning that the world's most powerful country has become "a dangerous threat during a crisis of inequality, poverty and environmental degradation."
For all the breathless bewilderment and gloomy outlook of global opinion writers, some see cause for, if not celebration, at least some optimism. Describing the campaign of Democrat Bernie Sanders as "beautiful," Laurent Joffrin writes for French daily Libération that the leftist Vermont senator's suprising challenge against Hillary Clinton is refocusing a huge bloc of voters on social issues.
"After more than 30 years of economic growth that reserved the benefits for a small group of millionaires (or rather, billionaires), the Americans are discovering the extent of the inequalities that their successive leaders have allowed to develop," Joffrin writes. "For the first time in a long time, they are coming around to the idea of considering the advantages of a European-style minimum wage in the country of free enterprise and a minimal welfare state."
Time to buy brick stocks?
The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Ker reports that Australian business interests are already thinking ahead to a potential Trump presidency, calculating what the economic upshot would be.
Given that Trump has vowed to build a wall along the border with Mexico, Australian Foundation Investment Company executive Mark Freeman told shareholders Wednesday, "One of the stocks we might have to look at is Boral, because they manufacture bricks in the U.S. and they will need a lot of bricks to build that wall."
As Ker notes, Freeman was joking, "but then again, most people thought Mr. Trump was joking too when he flagged plans to run for president."