Overnight, the Philippines elected a new president. Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of Davao City, appears to have won enough votes to earn the title, an achievement that comes thanks in part to his tough-on-crime policies.
And by "tough on crime," I mean "murder criminals." Duterte's seemingly sincere proposal for dealing with criminals is to simply execute them — a practice that he apparently undertook in Davao. He's said that he'll just pardon himself for the executions as he gets ready to leave office.
That's if he leaves office. He's also referred to himself as a "dictator," which bodes poorly. Then there was the time that he lamented that he hadn't gotten the chance to rape a woman who was killed in a hostage situation in the Davao jail. "I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing," he said. "But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste."
For Americans, the analogy didn't take long to arise: Duterte became "the Donald Trump of the Philippines" or "Trump of the East," as The Washington Post noted over the weekend. Duterte is obviously more extreme than Trump, though he rejects the comparison for another reason. "Trump is a bigot," he has said. "I am not."
Since Trump's infamous escalator glide in June, there's been a booming market for declaring people or things to be "the Donald Trump of" something or somewhere. The Post's Adam Taylor recapped other world leaders to earn that title last year.
A quick survey of others:
- Bryce Harper is the Donald Trump of baseball
- Jim Harbaugh is the Donald Trump of college football
- Rex Ryan is the Donald Trump of pro football
- Inspector General John Sopko is the Donald Trump of inspectors general
- A guy who owns a lot of property near Kansas City is the Donald Trump of "the East Crossroads"
- Theodore Beale is the Donald Trump of science fiction
- Y Combinator is the Donald Trump of incubators
- The leader of the rebellion in the video game Skyrim is the Donald Trump of Tamriel
- "Batman v Superman" is the Donald Trump of comic-book movies
- One unfortunate soul was named the Donald Trump of "hoarding, trash and garbage" by his brother
- Axl Rose is the Donald Trump of rock-and-roll — according to Trump
The rationales used for these appellations varies. Often (usually), it's a pejorative — a dismissal of something as crude or ignorant or obnoxious. Sometimes, it's a compliment, marking an outsider who's beating the odds. Sometimes, it's all of the above.
Time magazine suggests that in the case of Duterte, that the analogy isn't apt. Duterte is a career politician, after all, and the political culture in the Philippines is much more tumultuous than ours (suggesting that Duterte is less of an oddity in his performances than is Trump to us).
It's also probably the case that referring to Duterte as that country's Trump undercuts the extent to which his proposals and comments are jarring and worrisome. Duterte is the Duterte of the Philippines, and it's worth figuring out why that's something to be concerned about.