eyes on the U.S.

World Reacts To Trump Win, Braces For "Wild" Presidency

International newspapers and commentators chime in on an unexpected victory and the unpredictable nature of the incoming "Leader Of The Free World."

Close of a Shepard Fairey-inspired Trump illustration
Close of a Shepard Fairey-inspired Trump illustration
Benjamin Witte

PARIS â€" The reverberations of Donald Trump’s upset-for-the-ages victory in the U.S. presidential election spread quickly. Reactions ranged Wednesday from shock and chagrin to a certain wonder at that unique thing called American democracy.

For so many onlookers around the globe, despite the relative unpopularity of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, there was just no way it would happen. American voters couldn’t really, in the end, turn the White House over to a real estate tycoon and reality television star who’d never run for office before. Hand over the keys to White House and the nuclear codes to "The Donald"? Could they "succumb to collective political suicide," as John Carlin wrote in today’s issue of Madrid-based El País.

Trump Wins, How TV News Called It In 13 Countries par Worldcrunch

Pundits were split between focusing on Trump’s strengths or Clinton’s weakness. The former First Lady and Secretary of State may have been "the wrong person at the wrong time" who represents the "political elite" just when voters are demanding a different kind of leadership, writes Pascal Jalabert of the French newspaper Le Dauphiné.

Arguing along a similar line, The Guardian’s Dan Roberts faulted the former secretary of state for failing "to articulate a convincing defense of modern American capitalism." Clinton was also outdone but trust concerns: "Paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and a murky web of business connections to the family charity left many Americans doubting Clinton’s sincerity on matters of money and much else," Roberts wrote.

Canada’s Globe and Mail, in a Wednesday editorial, called the New York-born president-elect "a marketing genius" who "targeted the frustrations of a certain segment of the population â€" call them Middle America, call them the Silent Majority, call them whatever you will â€" and understood how to reach them." He’s not "the ideal candidate for the job," the daily argued, and yet he pulled off the "impossible," first with a "hostile takeover" of the Republican party, and then by beating the Democrats "on the electoral battlefield."

Paula Lugones, Washington correspondent for the Argentine daily Clarín, also wrote about Trump’s appeal to so-called Middle America voters, people who’ve lost jobs due to outsourcing of manufacturing, or because they’ve been replaced by machines. "They see immigrants as enemies, as ‘the other,’ who steal their jobs and American identity," she argued in an analysis piece titled "Why Donald Trump Won."

The other big question, of course, is what all of this means looking forward. Most observers agree that a Trump presidency launches the U.S. and the world as a whole into uncharted waters. And few see reason for optimism. Like the Brexit vote in Britain, and the rise of authoritarian leaders in Russia, Turkey and elsewhere, Trump’s victory shows that "we’ve finally entered the age of populism," argued Florian Harms, executive editor with Germany’s Der Spiegel, in a video posted Wednesday morning. As a consequence, "international politics are going to be wilder, harder, more unpredictable, and that’s bad," he said.

It could also mean more electoral surprises to come. A victory next year by Marine Le Pen of France’s far-right National Front, for example, suddenly seems less far-fetched. Not surprisingly, Le Pen was quick to take to Twitter and congratulate the U.S. president-elect.

There are also the infamous "wall" to be built in Mexico, Iranian nuclear deal to be scrapped, NATO and other longstanding alliances to be questioned and free trade to be tightened. Time will tell on all fronts. For Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, what matters is the next administration's "actions and executive policies," not "campaign declarations."

On the financial front, markets reacted quickly to news of Trump’s victory, tumbling in early trading. Canada’s immigration website crashed as well, according to news reports. As a neighbor and close ally of the U.S., Canada has particular reason to be concerned, as does Mexico, which figured heavily over the past year-and-a-half in Trump’s anti-immigration diatribes. Columnist José Cárdenas of the daily El Universal wrote Wednesday that the result "couldn’t be worse" for Mexico. The deportations carried out under President Barack Obama were bad enough, he argued. Now the country must prepare for a "wave" or removals. "Poor Mexico," he wrote. "So far from God, so close to the United States."
Mexican daily Excelsior"s Nov. 9 front page

And what can the United States itself expect? With both houses of Congress in Republican hands, Trump has the opportunity to pull the plug on "Obamacare," as the political right in the U.S. has been hoping for years, along with any number of other Obama administration accomplishments. He can knock down what Obama built "block by block, brick by brick," journalist Rita Siza of the Portuguese newspaper Público wrote. He’s "like a powerful hurricane," she added. "A political earthquake of incalculable magnitude with overwhelming aftershocks."

But Trump may also come to realize that there are inherent limitations to job. His lack of experience could also be a handicap, Moisés Naím, a Venezuelan economist and political analyst, told the Chilean daily La Tercera. "I can easily imagine that some of initiatives, the promises Trump has made, will be challenged by the courts and end up in the Supreme Court," he said. "Many of the things he promises he won’t be able to do."

Others are more wary, and fear the impact a Trump presidency could have not just on policy, but on America’s basic governing institutions. "The danger, going forward, is what Trump will do with the sitting members of the Supreme Court," Australian analyst Manjit Bhatia wrote in the South China Morning Post. "He could fire them for being unsympathetic towards him, for being part of the Democratic establishment … If he does, then every democratic principle that America has stood for will fall to one man who would behave like a corrupt Third World dictator or another despicable thug like Russian President Vladimir Putin."

Courrier International (France)

Maurizio Molinari, editor-in-chief of Italy's La Stampa, offered a mix of marvel and fear that captured the dropped-jam view from abroad: "Trump’s victory is a confirmation of the vitality of American democracy, capable of continuously transforming itself even as it unleashes both inside and outside the United States a flood of uncertainties linked to the unpredictability of the winner," Molinari writes. "It’s now up to Trump to the explain what he wants to do. In the meantime, the rest of the world must digest what happened last night: the people of the revolt are knocking at our door."

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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