WP: Trump’s win may be the beginning of a global populist wave

Washington Post: LONDON — Not long before Americans shocked the world by selecting Donald Trump to be their next president, a wealthy Brazilian businessman who played a reality-star boss on television became mayor of South America’s largest city.

On the other side of the globe, in Southeast Asia, a gun-slinging vigilante who vowed to kill all criminals and dump their bodies until the “fish will grow fat” was elected to lead a nation of 100 million.

And in Britain, voters with a centuries-long streak of moderation and pragmatism opted to ignore the overwhelming advice of experts by leaping into the abyss of life outside the European Union.

The populist wave of 2016 that carried Trump to the pinnacle of international power and influence didn’t start in the United States. And it certainly won’t end there.

Instead, the biggest prize yet for a global movement built on a seemingly bottomless reserve of political, economic and cultural grievance is likely to be an accelerant to even more victories for people and causes bent on upending the existing world order.

“Success breeds success,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Right now, everyone is susceptible to it. The drivers seem to be universal.”

[Can Trump’s win boost France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen?]

And unless something dramatic changes to curb the populist appeal, a scattering of surprise victories this year could soon turn into a worldwide rout — the triumph of those who preach strong action over rule of law, unilateralism instead of cooperation and the interests of the majority above the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.

“Their world is collapsing,” tweeted a jubilant Florian Philippot, senior adviser to French far-right leader Marine le Pen, following Trump’s victory. “Ours is being built.”

With French presidential elections due next spring, Le Pen is well-placed to add Paris to the list of world capitals that have fallen to the populist tide. She is seen as a lock to make it to the final round of voting, and although her chances have long been discounted among political prognosticators in France, that changed after Trump’s victory.

Well before France votes, Austria could become the first country to elect a far-right head of state in Western Europe since 1945 when it picks a president next month. On the same day, Dec. 4, Italians will vote in a constitutional referendum that could bring down the center-left government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi — while boosting the fortunes of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Although the exact causes of the populist surge vary from country to country, the broad outlines are similar across national boundaries.

Anxiety over economic gains that accrue to the few and leave the rest stagnant or sinking. Unease with the cultural implications of an increasingly interconnected world. And alienation from a self-serving political class that aligns with the wealthy at the expense of the working class.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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