European Populists Who Looked to Trump Now Look Away

European Populists Who Looked to Trump Now Look Away

2021-01-13 16:58:51

BRUSSELS – For the populists of Europe, the electoral defeat of President Trump, who was a symbol of success and a strong supporter, was bad enough. But his refusal to accept defeat and the violence that followed seem to have damaged the prospects of like-minded leaders across the continent.

“What happened in the Capitol after Donald Trump's defeat bodes badly for the populists,” said Dominique Moïsi, a senior analyst at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne. "It says two things: if you choose them, they don't leave power easily, and if you choose them, see what they can do to provoke popular anger."

The long day of riots, violence and death when Mr Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol has given countries such as France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland a clear warning about underestimating the power of populist anger and the prevalence of targeted conspiracy theories. with democratic governments.

Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute in Brussels, said the turmoil showed how the populist playbook was based on "us versus them leading to violence".

"But it's really important to show where populism is leading and how it plays with fire," she added. "When you have aroused your supporters with political arguments about us versus them, they are not opponents but enemies to be fought by all means, and it both leads to violence and makes the admission of power impossible."

How threatening the populists of Europe found the events in the United States to be was reflected in their response: one by one they distanced themselves from the riots or fell silent.

In France, Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Rally, is expected to take off another major challenge for President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 elections. She was determined to support Mr Trump, praised his election and Brexit as precursors to populist success in France, and reiterated his insistence that the US election was falsified and fraudulent. But after the violence, which she said was "very shocked", Ms. Le Pen had withdrawn, condemning "any act of violence with the object of disrupting the democratic process".

Likewise, Prime Minister Victor Orban of Hungary, a strong supporter of Mr Trump, declined to comment on the riot. "We shouldn't get involved in what's happening in America, that's America's business, we're rooting for them and we trust that they will succeed in solving their own problems," he told state radio.

Mr Sikorski, the former Polish minister, is a political opponent of the current government in his country. Europe, he said, had to "wake up to the dangers of far-right violence" and conspiracy theories. “There is far more right-wing violence than jihadist violence,” he said. "We can't assume that this kind of craziness will go away, because they have their own facts. We have to take off the gloves – liberal democracy has to defend itself."

Enrico Letta, a former prime minister of Italy who is now dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, said Mr Trump gave credibility to the disruptive views and approaches of populist leaders in Europe, thus freeing him is a big deal for them. Then came the riot, he said, "which I think has completely changed the map."

Now, like Ms Le Pen, Italian populist leaders felt "obliged to cut ties with some forms of extremism," said Mr Letta. "They have lost the ability to keep this ambiguity about their links with extremists on the fringes," he added.

He said Mr Trump's defeat and the violent response to it were significant blows to European populism. The coronavirus disaster alone, he added, represented “the revenge of competence and the scientific method” against the obscurantism and anti-elitism of populism, noting that the problems surrounding Brexit were also a blow.

"We are even starting to think that Brexit has been a positive thing for the rest of Europe, enabling a restart," said Mr Letta. "Nobody followed Britain out, and now there is Trump's collapse."

But Mr. Moïsi, the analyst at the Institut Montaigne, hit a darker note. After writing about the emotions of geopolitics, he sees a dangerous analogy in what happened at the Capitol, noting that among many of Mr. Trump's supporters, it could end as a heroic event.

The riots reminded him of the failed Beer Hall Putsch by Adolf Hitler and the early Nazi Party in Munich in 1923.

That attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government also had elements of farce and was widely ridiculed, but it became “the fundamental myth of the Nazi regime,” said Mr Moïsi. Hitler spent the prison sentence he received after the violence writing & # 39; Mein Kampf & # 39 ;.

Said Mr. Moïsi the death of Ashli ​​Babbitt, a military veteran shot by a Capitol Police officer. "If America is going badly," he said, "this woman could be the first martyr."


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