The economic, social and political gaps between the power hubs of New York and Washington on the one hand and the American Mid-West and Southern states on the other is equal to the space dividing London from the rest of Britain. These distances probably compare to the vacuity separating earth from the moon. This is the main argument of commentators, who see close parallel developments between Trump’s triumph and Brexit.
Similarities and differences
The same analysts see the immigration issue and the ‘export’ of jobs from Britain and the US as key common factors. The loss of employment is taking place through globalization and free trade agreements with low cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Analysts also add to the common US and British realities the fast growing economic inequality and the stagnating, if not falling incomes of the middle classes. This has created everyday problems in footing the bills and maintaining the previous level of life for large parts of the population.
Thus, you come up with the full analysis by pundits, explicating the earthquakes that shook the Western world during the last five months. Of course, there are also some different factors in operation. In Brexit a kind of crude chauvinistic aggression against mainland Europe was present, while in the US the evangelical Christian right-wingers wholeheartedly endorsed Trump’s moralizing rhetoric.
Anger against the elites
Then, comes the anger against the political and economic elites, fuelled by reports about fraud and corruption. In the US, Washington is in many places almost a swear word. This lurking catastrophic force was so obvious, that only the politically blind couldn’t see. All that was needed to release it were certain modern day charlatans, like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Alas, the worst is now before us all. Is it the serpent of fascism? Who can tell for sure?
But all these economic, social and political processes are also in motion in mainland Europe. Right and left wing populist rhetoric have already gained power in Poland, Hungary and Greece and have greatly increased their appeal everywhere else. Austria may elect now the first extreme rightwing President after the WWII. However, the key driver for mainland Europe is France.
Next year, if Marine Le Pen wins the Presidential race in France, then the entire Europe will be drifting towards a kind of modern day fascism. Marine Le Pen’s governing practice is xenophobic, inward looking, anti-pluralistic and, at the limit, anti-social and autocratic. It’s not by chance that last Thursday Trump chose to communicate with Turkey’s autocrat Erdogan, one of the three foreign leaders the US President-elect decided to call just after visiting the White House. There he met Barack Obama to arrange the details for the transition of power.
What about Austria and Italy?
In less than three weeks, on 4 December, Austria is to hold a Presidential election and the Italians are to vote in a referendum. In both cases the results will constitute a landmark for Europe. If the Austrians finally choose to elect Norbert Hofer as their President, the extreme right candidate, and the Italians turn out a resounding ‘no’ in the referendum, Europe would be taking a road which may lead to dark uncharted waters.
For one thing, Norbert, in the heart of the European Union, will directly contest the basic EU values and the principles of cooperation and unity. In Italy, in the case of a ‘no’ result, the country will enter in a political limbo and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will be probably forced to resign. To be reminded, that presently the largest Italian political party is the Five Star movement under Beppe Grillo, a former comedian Eurosceptic and unpredictable harlequin. Imagine a G7 gathering with uncontrollable Donald Trump, Teresa May, Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen and Beppe Grillo.
All those populist ‘politicians’ have now gained a powerful position by promising a better life for hundreds of millions of voters on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. However, how are they going to handle the social unease, even unrest which is certain to break out, when after some failures of populist policies, the false promises are exposed? And social turmoil will erupt, because the bulldozing of immigrants won’t improve the everyday problems of the working and the unemployed people. Harassing the immigrants won’t help the working classes to make ends meet and a growing part of voters will continue to be under economic and otherwise stress.
For example, Trump’s promises to spend $6.5 trillion of borrowed money for public infrastructure projects and tax cuts, cannot be endorsed by the Republican controlled Congress. The same is true for Britain. Only a few weeks after Brexit the new Teresa May government in London stated its intention to further reduce government spending, in order to better control public debt and borrowing.
On Wednesday 20 July, May answered a question by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the major opposition Labor Party: “You talk about austerity. I call it living within our means. You talk about austerity but actually it’s about not saddling our children and grandchildren with significant debts to come.” The rest of the populist leaders on both sides of the Atlantic are of exactly the same mind.
Trump ‘forgot’ to promise a rise of the nationwide basic salary, and the tax cuts he promised are meant for the very rich, in line with the basic Tea Party ideological ‘principles’. He won the election on the same canvas as the Brexiteers, with chauvinistic xenophobic rhetoric, bellows about ‘national greatness’ and promising even worse conditions for those in need, of the lowest income quantile. That’s why he attacked Obamacare, counting on the worst human vice of feeling better – watching others suffering more.
Populists before reality
All that however won’t help the new western political quasi fascist ‘movement’ to effectively help the economy or remedy the difficult social realities. A large part of society then will for certain take to the streets. Alas, under the new bossy political ideology, the predictable reaction of those in power will be brute force. Trump’s liking of the Turkish autocratic President Erdogan is an infallible witness to that.
As for the plan of the populists to rewrite the basics of international trade, they will find it too difficult to implement. If, for example, Trump tries to neutralize the World Trade Organization, the results will clearly be economically damaging for everybody and will destabilize the entire planet. It is not difficult even for Trump and Boris Johnson to understand that changing the global trade patterns exceeds by their powers.
In conclusion, during the next few years, voters on both shores of the Atlantic will be confronted with political stalemates created by their own hands. Alas, people on many occasions in the past have willingly driven the world to a mess. This may happen again now because the elites which govern the western world felt secure enough in their reign over the ‘masses’. The ‘populists’, being very good marketeers, show a crevice in that security and don’t miss the opportunity to invade the temple of absolute power. Unfortunately, for the many, the new political order will surely prove more dangerous than the current elites.