The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s victory places U.S. at the front of a global right-wing surge

President-elect Donald Trump, with his family, addresses supporters on election night in New York City. (Jabin Botsford /The Washington Post)

Last week, even as most pundits and election prognosticators assumed Hillary Clinton was in poll position to be the next American president, Steve Bannon, the chief executive of Donald Trump's campaign, seemed confident.

“I still think that most of the people in the establishment don’t realize how deep this movement is and how powerful it is,” he said in an interview with a right-wing radio show, where he suggested that, no matter the outcome of Tuesday's election, the politics unleashed by Trump's campaign were here to stay. And not just in the United States.

How 'globalism' is the boogeyman of 2016

“This whole movement has a certain global aspect to it,” Bannon said, linking Trump's rise to a constellation of populist revolts across Europe. “People want more control of their country. They’re very proud of their countries. They want borders. They want sovereignty. It’s not just a thing that’s happening in any one geographic space.”

Those were the politics that underlay Brexit, the calls for Britain's departure from the European Union that won a referendum earlier this year. While critics of that campaign voiced disquiet familiar to critics of Trump — over the racism, misinformation and xenophobia fueling the pro-Brexit push — they failed to grasp the genuine and profound angst and frustration of a segment of the voting public. That anger has been tapped by a host of populist, ultranationalist parties across Europe.

“I’m not particularly surprised because the political class is reviled across much of the West, the polling industry is bankrupt, and the press just hasn’t woken up to what’s going on in the world,” Nigel Farage, one of Brexit's main boosters and a loud British advocate for Trump, said in a video message uploaded to his Twitter page. “So 2016 is, by the looks of it, going to be the year of two great political revolutions. I thought Brexit was big, but, boy, this looks like it’s going to be even bigger.”

Brexit marks the revenge of the nation

In the wake of his electoral victory, Trump was also hailed by far-right leaders who are seeking their own insurgent wins at the ballot box next year — including Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

“Their world is crumbling. Ours is being built,” tweeted Florian Philippot, Le Pen's chief strategist.

Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, echoed this sentiment with clearly less enthusiasm: “A world is collapsing before our eyes.”

Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi Greek party that endorsed Trump last month from the floor of Parliament in Athens, cheered Trump's victory. The AfD, a far-right, anti-immigrant party in Germany with links to its fascist past, celebrated Trump's win as a “historic chance” and eyed the toppling of Germany's increasingly unpopular Chancellor Angela Merkel — who, in Tuesday's wake, now finds herself in the unenviable position of being the preeminent champion of the beleaguered global status quo.

“Mr Trump’s proposed policies threaten to take an axe to the liberal world order that the U.S. has supported and sustained since 1945,” wrote Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman, outlining the chaos that Trump's stated isolationism and protectionism may unleash on markets and international security agreements.

Already, the specter of the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin — an autocrat whom Trump spoke of with admiration during the election cycle — looms over the aftermath of the vote. “Russia is ready and wants to restore the fully fledged relations with the U.S.," Putin said Wednesday in a statement on Russian state television.

And, judging from Trump's own messaging, other right-wing leaders outside Europe may also find more common cause with a Trump White House than with previous American administrations.

See Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, whose office issued a statement congratulating Trump: “The U.S. President-elect Donald Trump expressed his utmost appreciation to the president, pointing out that his was the first international call he had received to congratulate him on winning the election.”

As WorldViews detailed earlier this year, Trump is deeply fond of the Egyptian strongman, who came to power in a military coup and has cemented his rule through an unprecedented crackdown that has filled the country's prisons and led to the deaths of hundreds of opposition Islamists.

In a wider frame, Trump comes to power as right-wing movements are in the ascendancy around the world: Illiberal and reactionary politics have fueled support for governments in Russia, Turkey, India and the Philippines and threaten to further fracture the European Union. Their contexts are all different, but a similar pattern can be discerned: an impatience with a supposedly corrupt or broken political system; resentment of affluent elites; and a belief that only tough, strong leadership can save the day.

Once a fringe candidate in the American political circus, Trump now stands at the forefront of a world-historic moment, marshaling these grievances. Where he goes from here will be watched closely by foreign politicians who want to follow his lead — or stave off the success of their own countries' would-be Trumps.

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