Much of the world has been shocked and dismayed by Donald Trump’s electoral success, but there are those who are delighted. “This was a victory for the forces which oppose globalization, are fighting illegal migration and are in favor of clean ethnic states,” declared a spokesperson for Golden Dawn, Greece’s far-right party, which is sometimes characterized as neo-Nazi. Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister who has said he wants to build an “illiberal state” in his country, hailed the results as “great news.” The deputy leader of France’s right-wing National Front Party, historically seen as ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic, was exultant as well. “Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built,” he said.
You cannot be judged by those who approve of your actions, but it’s worth trying to understand what Trump’s admirers are celebrating. In some cases, Trump’s appeal is that he is against political correctness. Beppe Grillo, the former comedian who now leads Italy’s Five Star Movement, noted that like Trump, his party had been labeled sexist and populist but that people didn’t care. The Guardian, which has compiled many of the favorable responses, reported that Grillo applauded Trump supporters for filtering out the media and giving a big “f--k you” to the “freemasons, major banks and Chinese groups.”
For others, it is the sense of kinship among strongmen who are unconcerned with human rights. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad called Trump a “natural ally.” Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian leader of the Philippines, said of him, “We both like to swear . . . we’re the same.” Duterte has been hostile to the United States because Washington has criticized the extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses that have marked his tenure. Robert Mugabe, who has clung to power in Zimbabwe for 36 years while destroying that nation’s economy and liberties, has been similarly hopeful. A full-page editorial in a state-run paper there hailed the election of “the mighty Trump,” and the 92-year-old dictator has reportedly described Trump as a “friend.” No doubt Duterte and Mugabe hope that a Trump administration will go easy on them.
What unifies Trump’s foreign admirers is the idea that the existing global order is rotten and should be torn down. Many of Trump’s domestic supporters would agree. All of the European parties cheering Trump’s victory seek the destruction of the European Union and, more generally, the tightly knit Western community centered upon shared values and interests. They are almost all strikingly pro-Russian because they see in Vladimir Putin’s Russia a country that actively seeks to undermine the current international system. Many of these groups take covert and overt support from Russia and benefit from the Kremlin’s cyberwarfare. “We all need to use [Trump’s election] together to reshape the transatlantic relationship, and to end the big conflicts in Ukraine and Syria together with Russia,” said Frauke Petry, the leader of Germany’s ultra-nationalist party Alternative fur Deutschland, according to the Guardian.
But what is this globalism to which these people are so opposed? After 1945, after the Great Depression and two world wars, Western nations established an international system characterized by rules that honored national sovereignty, allowed for the flourishing of global commerce, and encouraged respect for human rights and liberties. This order resulted in the longest period of peace among the world’s major powers, marked by broad-based economic growth that created large middle classes in the West, the revival of Europe, growth in poor countries that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and the spread of freedom across the globe.
The U.S. role in all this was pivotal. It set the agenda and provided security, which was about more than just deterring the Soviet Union and other aggressive powers. Radek Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister, said, “America’s influence and its commitments have been our security blanket. They have allowed Europe’s national rivalries to stay dormant. If you take away those guarantees, Europe could get very unstable.” And remember, the European Union is the world’s biggest market and the United States’ largest trading partner.
For the United States, “globalism” has produced enormous advantages. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States dominates the global economy, in technology, education, finance and clean energy. One in five U.S. jobs is a result of trade, and that number is growing fast. The United States maintains the world’s reserve currency, giving it a huge economic advantage.
The benefits of growth and globalization have not been shared equally, and the pace of change causes anxiety everywhere. But these are reasons to invest in people, upgrade their skills and better integrate communities. They are not reasons to destroy the most peaceful and productive international system ever devised in human history.
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