European dismay at Trump’s triumph in New York
Europeans stared transfixed as in an unfolding horror movie as Donald Trump declared victory in the New York Republican Presidential primary.
Trump elicits dismay in any case because of his sheer ignorance of Europe and anywhere else in the world but the New York triumph has brought new causes for apprehension because the GOP primary confirmed the worst fears of traditionally loyal friends of the US.
There is consternation at the sight of voters in America’s most cosmopolitan city and state with such close historic ties to Europe and parts of Asia being so enthralled by Trump.
The point is that Trump as an individual is not important here. The power lies with the mass of voters who support him so unconditionally as to have raised him to the current pedestal and put him in sight of the Oval Office.
In all countries, both allies and enemies, governments and foreign offices closely study American politics especially elections. This time, a prime contender is a person of whom outsiders know almost nothing and whose public statements and florid rhetoric indicate that he is an empty vessel, when it comes to knowledge of the world that surrounds America. Yet, he has support massive enough to change the future of American politics substantially.
At top count, American’s are about 330 million out of the world’s more than seven billion people and the US economy is about 20 percent of the $75 trillion global economy. So how outsiders react to the political phenomena driving voters to support him is not without peril for America’s influence in the family of nations.
The chief cause for dismay so far is the almost wanton destruction of the Republican Party. Many around the world, who continue to fight in their own countries for more democracy and open markets, have long admired it as a reliable force within the US that promotes ideals they would like to see installed more firmly in their own countries.
The shock now is that the GOP establishment has axed itself in the foot. It has been so engrossed in its own infighting among right wing, Tea Party and center-right republicans that it failed to notice how far a powerful swathe of voters has moved away from its ideals.
Unless the GOP leadership pulls a miraculous rabbit from its hat in coming weeks, Trump may actually become the Republican candidate against the Democrat’s Hilary Clinton.
Analysts in US say Trump is propelled by Republican voters who insist that the next President should be from outside the establishment. He is also the favorite of those who are angry with the US government and the vituperative partisanship in Congress that has brought legislative progress to a near halt.
For those in Europe and Asia who consistently side with the US against anti-Americanism, Trump’s arrival in sight of victory is caused by a surge of anti-establishment contempt among a wide swathe of Americans.
This surge is disturbing because the establishment generally reflects stability and predictability, which means that changes happen slowly and thoughtfully. Thus, foreign politicians, including those who support US values at the cost of losing votes in their domestic constituencies, have continued to trust that American policies will not stray too far from the establishment’s ideas.
It now seems that the GOP establishment has lost touch with its mainstream voters almost completely. There can be no worse indictment of a political party in a democracy.
If good sense prevails, in the European view, among American voters and Trump loses, sharp damage will still have been wrought on the way US democracy and politics operates in future elections. “Trumpism” will not die with Trump’s defeat in November or at the Republican convention.
It is worth remembering that the Tea Party was a marginal force ignored by political analysts less than two decades ago. It rose to central power in Congress and may be in slight decline currently but it has significantly changed Republican and American politics.
The angry and disillusioned constituencies that Trump represents will not simply evaporate if and when he fails to capture the Republican ticket or the Oval Office. Many of America’s foreign friends expect that anger to be reflected in changes to US foreign and other policies regardless of Trump’s fate. That is the key cause of growing dismay.
The White House, State Department, Commerce Department and Pentagon pride themselves on policies that carry forward American “values” around the world. The apprehension now is that Trump’s rise will alter those values in line with the weight of those who support and vote for him even if his Presidential bid fails.
That would force defenders of those values around the world to retreat a little as trust declines in the American model of democracy and the choices of its voters.