November 6, 2016 it is a historic date that separates two mentalities, two eras, two completely different viewpoints and two Presidents who are the polar opposite. Officially, it gave the United States of America a new Commander-in-Chief. But beyond that, it also brought into being winds of change that were bound to reach European shores as well.
Trump Changed Politics Forever
It is not an overstatement to say that the way of doing politics and campaigning was forever changed after Donald Trump’s highly unconventional campaign. He is a charismatic straight shooter, unapologetic and a talented entertainer. The former Presidential candidate dared utter opinions that were quite atypical even for the conservatives in the Republican Party. In Europe, his views were considered outrageous blasphemy by many.
In at least the last two decades, the Old Continent has not had any governing political forces similar to the Republican Party, with the exception of the British Conservatives. Most countries have been led by centrist or social democrat parties, if we are to define them by American standards. On economic issues the center-right parties such as the German CDU, the Italian Forza Italia, the French Republicans, the Spanish Rajoy-led Partido Popular, for sure espouse and defend the free market, low taxation, less bureaucracy and deregulation. Yet, on social issues, they resemble the American Democratic Party. It is difficult for Europeans to understand the Americans’ fascination with guns, obsession with borders, preservation of cultural ties and tradition, opposition to marijuana, skepticism regarding global warming and their overall viewpoint on life.
The European Right’s Struggle to Get Votes
Up until 2016, the parties that identify in one way or another as right-wing or conservative, fared rather poorly in European and national elections. All that changed after Trump’s election as President of the US. In Italy, Lega Nord led by Matteo Salvini jumped from 4.3% in the 2013 national elections to 17.6% in 2018, to 34.3% in the 2019 European elections. Currently, it is the top political party in Italy, if the polls are any indication. Its conservative allies, Brothers of Italy, guided by the eloquent conservative Giorgia Meloni, have reached double digit percentages in the latest regional elections, threatening to surpass the 5 Star Movement. It would not be a surprise if they find themselves as the third political party in Italy. In Spain, we find the same occurrence as well. Santiago Abascal left the Partido Popular, due to the party moving too much towards the center. He founded his own party, Vox, that went from 0.2% of the vote in 2016 to being the third political party in the country. The charismatic Abascal is a welcome addition to the Spanish political arena, bringing a charm that stands opposite to the political correctness and robotic language of his opponents.
Political Transformation Favors the Populist Right
While in Italy and Spain this has been more visible, and the parties more successful, the trend is the same in the Netherlands, France, Visegrad 4 and even the Nordic countries. The conservative forces in Europe were not only awakened, but actually began winning their battles after the 2016 US Presidential elections. Trump’s victorious rhetoric emboldened right-wing groups in Europe. He showed that it was possible to win by fighting for the forgotten men and women, defending the borders, a specific way of living, the country, free markets, low taxes, deregulation, entrepreneurship, freedom of expression, the right to choose your children’s education and the right to life. This is the winning formula that came from the US and these European forces seized on the opportunity and changed their political discourse, adapting it to the Trumpian “script.”
Europe’s Center-Right Jumped Ship and Went Left
Yet, this is a winning formula because of the mess that social democrat, left and far-left governments in Europe had made. The center-right forces that had governed since the end of the Second World War had moved left to occupy the center and earn the trust of left-leaning voters. This void to the right needed to be filled. The majority of the conservatives felt unrepresented and their issues unaddressed. The 2012 crisis, the lack of European leadership and focus on secondary issues to citizens that had lost jobs irritated many who lost trust in politicians and institutions. Yet, until 2016, nobody had articulated these public concerns the way Trump did.
The left had shamed and blackmailed the center-right forces into accepting its political discourse and the causes it defends. Political correctness, globalization, climate change, multiculturalism, a common way of thinking, a pretext of battling racism and sexism were forced on the European and American citizens as the only issues that matter. Any who dared resist, or speak a different opinion, would be branded a racist, sexist of xenophobe. It was this threat to the freedom of expression, and the lethal attack on a certain western way of life that gave rise to Trump. Afterwards, after seeing their counterpart across the Atlantic, European politicians and citizens began to fight back.
The Transatlantic Fight Against Arrogant Progressive Elitists
The battle, however, is similar on both sides of the Atlantic. Unelected bureaucrats that answer to no one, together with progressive elites used to back room dealings, fake philanthropists, most of the media and celebrities are fighting hard to preserve the status quo. In front of them the patriots stand strong and determined, those that seek to preserve Christian culture, the defenders of a Europe of nations with a shared history, common values and virtues that wish to live in peace through cooperation. These patriots want to conserve the national identities from the globalist annihilation that comes with politically correct progressive censorship, a forced one-way of thinking, political correctness and open borders.
Trump’s election was actually a blessing in disguise for Europeans. Perhaps, they stand to benefit as much as any American. He awoke their national identities, is urging them to spend more to defend themselves so they are vigilant against the Russian and Chinese threats, and is encouraging that they step up and be the allies America needs to confront the challenges of the 21st century. A strong Europe is needed to keep the geopolitical balances of the world intact. America knows this, and the current government is encouraging the strengthening and the return of the Old Continent to its former glory. That is not to say that the US will not look after its interests first. The two continents should be allies, as well as in healthy competition. As the European states ought to be among each other. It is only natural that each country looks after the national interest and puts their citizens first, and afterwards cooperates with one another. This is another lecture that the current American President is teaching Europe and the world.
November 2020: the Most Consequential Election in a Generation
Come November 2020, there will be two models once again clashing. The American left has embraced socialist ideas. In case the Democratic candidate is Bernie Sanders or if his supporters are very involved in the nomination process, for the first time in American history a self-proclaimed socialist will be the nominee or power-broker of a major party. In case Joe Biden is chosen to face President Trump, he will have to adopt some of Sanders’ far left proposals to appease the angry twitter progressive mobs. Either way, it will be an ideological clash that is certain to hit European shores. Once the coronavirus threat subsides, the menace of socialism and its ideological successors will once again be confronted first in the US and subsequently in the next elections each country will have in our continent.
For this reason, this November’s election will overshadow the one from four years ago as the most consequential in our generation. The eyes of the world will go from the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee, across the plains of Texas, from New York to L.A., with the hopes of getting a glimpse, as to which way the winds will blow come 2021.
Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were the symbols that joined the two continents in facing the main threat of the last century. Donald Trump’s win will ensure there is a new successor to carry forward John Paul’s vision, this time outside the Vatican Walls.