“Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built”. With these words the chief strategist of French right-wing leader Marianne Le Pen welcomed the news of Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. Also Dutch right wing opinion maker and professional provocateur Thierry Baudet tweeted a few hours before the election results became official that “Trump would not only be a great leader for America: he would be a great leader for the West as a hole”.
Indeed, Trump’s election has created a big hole in Western democracy, and is the final phase of a year that will go down in history, just like 1917 and 1933 did in the twentieth century. Things have changed fundamentally.
All across the Western free world democracy is eroded by right wing, neo-fascist political movements and parties that have xenophobia and racism as core elements of their political program. This is the third time in one year that the underbelly of society has managed to use democratic means to enforce a decision that goes straight against the interests of the free world and undermine the democratic process.
In April the Dutch organized a referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Many of those voting at the referendum hardly had an idea where Ukraine is, but voted against out of protest against the political establishment, or just because they are by nature “against”. A few months later the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom was won by a similar slice of the population, who believed in the empty slogans of a group of populists and voted against the EU because they are “against” by definition.
And now we see the real United States. Not the United States that we like to see, the New York, Boston or San Francisco, the liberal open-minded America that is portrayed as the beacon of democracy. What we now see is the narrow-minded, racist, xenophobic and fundamentally ignorant backwater USA, who are “against” because they are against by definition, and for whom Trump voiced their anti-establishment gut feelings based on fear, anger, frustration and nihilism.
Yes, it is all the result of a democratic process, people voted and their votes need to be respected. But let us not forget that Hitler came to power in 1933 fully democratically, and subsequently fully democratically sent the German parliament home and established a personal dictatorship. He too, like Trump, claimed that he would make the country great again, all by himself, and that he would get rid of the corrupt establishment, the weak liberals, and those who were infecting the healthy parts of society – in Trump’s case not the Jews but the Mexicans, Muslims and all the other parasites that do not have the right to be part of America’s greatness.
Sure, we do not know whether Trumps’ Presidency will really endanger world peace and lead to a global confrontation. But those who voted for Hitler in 1933 also did not know they were basically destroying their livelihoods, and that it would lead to the destruction of Europe and tens of millions of death and the extermination of a large part of the Jews on the European continent. Those who did not vote for him, those who felt the danger that was ahead, woke up the following morning in shock by the outcome of the elections. They saw the dark clouds hovering over them, and had the same feeling of apprehension and disgust that we feel now. The rest of the story we know, and we are still recovering from the aftermath.
Trump will be a disaster for the United States, but probably the democratic structures are strong enough to limit the fall-out and after four years there might be a return to normality. The danger is much bigger for Europe, and in particular for those who are living in countries that border on Russia. For Putin this is the best possible outcome, a Zhirinovsky in the White House who has even less brains than his Russian counterpart, who is a living Potemkin Village of slogans. He now has free reign in Europe, where his right-wing political friends have already taken over much of the political stage and where one government after the other is taken over by right wing and sometimes openly neo-fascist movement. And the election of Trump is a mortal danger to Ukraine, the country that forms the front line against Putinist dictatorship and that will now be left alone in its struggle for survival.
Yes, I fully agree that the ongoing corruption in Ukraine is a menace and an insult to those who stood at Maidan and fight at the front against the Russian aggressor. But the combination with an American President who openly says he will not intervene if Russia invades the Baltics, results in a lethal combination.
God have mercy on us, we are heading for very dangerous times.