As of the writing of this project-listicle, I’m sure we’ve all heard of Donald Trump – some would even say we’ve heard quite enough of him.
Yes, that guy.
But what most wouldn’t be aware of is that Trump’s victory created an odd sort of domino effect, if each domino were a populistic demagogue either already in power or vying to be elected coming into the public awareness. What follows is a gallery of what I call “The Other Trumps” – other politicians that, like Trump, use populism, hatred and fearmongering to their advantage – and as such have caught the eye of the American press. While these politicians have all been in the game for much longer than Trump, his election caused the press to pay renewed attention to them – in some cases, to their rise and the factors creating it; in others, to their government; but in all cases to the ways in which they comment on current society, be it in person or on social media.
In all cases, these “international Trumps” are all due a reintroduction – each for their own reasons – so here we go.
1 – MARINE LE PEN: FRANCE’S TRUMP (OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?)
(Credit: Bruno Ferrante Marques)
Marine Le Pen, now former head of the traditionally right-leaning party “Front Nacional,” has politics almost literally in her blood. Her father is none other than the founder of the “Front National,” Jean-Marie Le Pen, a man whose accusations of xenophobia, hate speech and inciting hatred are all shared with his daughter. It was almost logical then that when Marine Le Pen took control of the “Front National” after an internal campaign in 2011 that she would want to dissociate the party from the man who repeatedly denied the Holocaust and climate change – but some would say that she shifted the focus of the ultra-conservative party from anti-Semitism to Islamophobia.
Le Pen also rarely seems to address issues involving women’s rights – “except to target Islam and immigrants.” Since April of last year, Le Pen has been running for President, yet despite her stepping down from the presidency of the “Front National” on April of this year, she doesn’t seem to have separated herself from the far-right views of her old party. Here’s a few choice quotes from her debate on May 4th, after the first round of elections:
- “The European Union is going to die, because the people don’t want it anymore.”
- “Rampant globalization leads to mass unemployment. We want to rearm in the face of globalization.”
- “Massive immigration is an oppression. It isn’t a chance for France; it’s a tragedy.”
After the first round of elections in France (a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were), Le Pen only barely got second, losing by almost 3% to Emmanuel Macron – who, coincidentally, is an outsider (in this case, a banker), but a more positive, centrist one. While polls such as the following, from the UK’s The Guardian, predict that Le Pen may lose to Macron in the second round, nothing can be taken for certain as this second round approaches this Sunday.
(Credit: The Guardian)
The American Press seems to regard Le Pen with apprehension. Le Pen and Trump are like counterweights to each other – as highlighted in this article from the New York Times post-debate, both Le Monde (France’s most recognized newspaper) and Macron’s camp were quick to draw comparisons between Le Pen and Trump, mainly due to their explosive rhetoric. It doesn’t help that Le Pen was supportive of Trump, something she has “significantly backed away from” recently.
Nevertheless, her increasing vows to disconnect France from the European Union make her a danger for democracy across the Atlantic, as highlighted in this analysis from CNN. Her belief that the Euro is “a weapon in the hands of the European Central Bank” and her unchanging opinions about immigration in France don’t just harken back to Trump’s constant talk of “draining the swamp” or his oft-promised border wall – they draw strict parallels to each other. Outlets like the Washington Post even call Le Pen “one of many signs of an unwinding order” in their article highlighting how this rise of the far right in Europe may be the end of democracy as we know it.
2 – JAIR BOLSONARO: JOKE OR THREAT?
(Credit: Bruno Ferrante Marques)
Jair Bolsonaro, a former army parachutist-turned-politician from Rio de Janeiro, is no stranger to controversy – after all, he creates it with everything he says. This article from the New York Times highlights some of his “Worst Of”: he’s said that a fellow legislator “doesn’t merit” being raped by him; if he had a gay son, he’d “prefer that he die in an accident”; and in one of his more disgusting moments, he praised Colonel Ustra, a known torturer during Brazil’s military dictatorship, while the Brazilian congress voted for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff – who had been tortured by Ustra.
And yet, Bolsonaro’s had a steady political career, having been a federal deputy (in other words, a congressman) for the state of Rio since 1991. Bolsonaro now eyes the presidency: “Having someone like Bolsonaro speak publicly like he does and still be a big deal and a politician validates the people who are breeding that kind of anger in Brazil. And there are many of them,” said NGO executive director Alessandra Orofino to Bloomberg in January of 2015, further adding, “It’s very similar to the Trump phenomenon.” Bolsonaro even has his own nickname: whereas the United States have their “God-Emperor Trump,” Brazil has Bolso-mito – a portmanteau of Bolsonaro and “myth”. In the following prediction posted by Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro’s support has only grown from 2015 to 2016 – and while presidential campaigns can only begin within a certain amount of days from the election, as per the rules in Brazil, Bolsonaro’s 8% may still rise – to the chagrin of the people.
(Credit: Folha de Sao Paulo. The graph represents who Brazilians would vote for in 2018 in two different scenarios based on the Social Democracy Party’s possible candidates. Note that one of the top potential candidates is Luis Inacio Lula da Silva – a former president.)
The American Press, whether it be more mainstream outlets or alternative ones, view Bolsonaro with an appropriate level of disgust. One of the more famous articles covering him actually comes from Vice, one of the first to highlight that Bolsonaro wanted to mirror Trump in his personal quest for the presidency: “Bolsonaro himself compares his current ability to ride the wave of anti-systemic feeling in Brazil to the Donald Trump phenomenon thousands of miles north. ‘I like Trump’s position… the only difference is that I’m richer!’ […] ‘He’s not politically correct, and that’s why he’s massacred by the left-wing media.'” The article goes on to mention Bolsonaro’s appearance on VICELAND’s Gaycation hosted by actress Ellen Page, wherein she interviews Bolsonaro in order to understand his “disdain for the gay community” of Rio. Meanwhile, the aforementioned New York Times article describes him as “A fixture on the fringes of Congress” who has “expressed extreme views since the 1990s,” bolstered primarily by “the rancor on the streets of Brazil’s cities, where protesters have vented antigovernment fury” – thus creating this need for an anti-establishment candidate.
Bolsonaro’s 8% may seem like little, but it’s more than incumbent President Michel Temer’s 2% – something that can turn Bolsonaro from a distasteful joke into a threat for Brazilian democracy.
3 – RODRIGO DUTERTE: A TRUMP APPROVED BY TRUMP?
(Credit: Bruno Ferrante Marques)
Rodrigo Duterte is another one whose political career has been going on longer than Trump’s – though not by too long, since the former mayor of Davao became President of the Philippines in June of 2016. Controversy has surrounded Duterte since his days as mayor (a title he held onto for 20 years), having been connected by the Human Rights Watch to over a thousand extrajudicial killings of criminals in Davao – even admitting on live television, “Am I the death squad? True. That is true.” Daniella Silva of NBC News writes that “Duterte rode an anti-establishment wave to the presidency in May 2016, despite his history of outlandish comments,” using a war on drugs and crime as the main base for his campaign.
In the same NBC article, Wilson Center senior scholar Marvin Ott describes Duterte as having “a very distinctive personality — very flamboyant, very much like Donald Trump — lots of bravado, lots of bombast” – relatively light terms for a man who threatened to throw politicians out of helicopters and once compared himself to Hitler, stating he’d “‘be happy to slaughter’ three million drug dealers and users” (all apologies for the latter comment notwithstanding). As seen in the graph below, Duterte won with an overwhelming 14 million votes, “over 6.6 million more than his closest rival, administration candidate Mar Roxas”.
(Credit: Philippines News Update)
In another strange similarity with Donald Trump, Duterte also has a strong dislike for former U.S. President Barack Obama, especially after having become president of the Philippines. Obama called Duterte in May of last year to “highlight enduring values [..] including our [The U.S. and the Philippines’] commitment to democracy, human rights, rule of law and inclusive economic growth.” Months later, Duterte told Obama he could “go to hell” and called him a “son of a whore.”
Being such a controversial figure, Duterte has obviously caught the attention of the American press, especially considering Donald Trump himself has invited Duterte to visit the White House earlier in May of this year. In an analysis by Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post, the invitation was called “A sign of the times” – in an interview with Tharoor, John Sifton, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, called it “an abomination”; “If Duterte were not immune as head of state, he would be barred from admission into the United States […] Existing U.S. laws and policy prohibit visas and entry to persons against whom credible allegations of gross human rights abuses have been made.”
Duterte declined the invitation, stating he is “tied up” and “cannot make any definite promise” – but it’s telling, when the new American President openly invites, without criticism, a man whose war on drugs has arrested and killed thousands with no remorse while joking about it all the way.
4 – GEERT WILDERS: THE PREJUDICED PEROXIDE POPULIST
(Credit: Bruno Ferrante Marques)
If one were to mix the political career and controversial party history of Marine Le Pen with the inflammatory rhetoric of Bolsonaro and Duterte, one would get Geert Wilders, the “peroxide-blond populist” of Holland. Wilders has been in politics since 1997 after having been elected as a representative for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, which is, ironically enough, one of the most liberal parties in Dutch politics – and the one party that stood in Wilders’ way during the 2017 Dutch General Election, but more on that later.
Wilders reportedly left in 2004, clashing with the party’s ideas on coalescing with other political groups, as well as their liberal stance after the deaths of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and poltician Pim Fortuyn (the former a filmmaker that made an exposé on the treatment of Muslim women; the latter, a controversial, xeno- and islamophobic politician; both deaths were notable in that both were killed by people who disagreed with their views on Islam). Later in 2004, Wilders created “Group Wilders,” his own party which would later become the Freedom Party, under which he’d run for the Dutch house of representatives several times over, gaining both a place in the Dutch parliament – and more importantly, a following.
Wilders is mostly known for his incredibly offensive stance against Muslims, immigration and globalization – all of which the Netherlands, as a country, is mostly positive towards. “He has called for banning the Quran because he compares it to Hitler’s work “Mein Kampf,” […] and for closing mosques and Islamic cultural centers and schools,” writes Alissa J. Rubin of the New York Times, and has overall campaigned for “less, less, less” – less Morroccans in the Netherlands, that is. These overwhelmingly prejudiced views are mirrored on his Twitter account, where he unabashedly tweets some of his more controversial worldviews coupled with pictures of himself (who else?):
And if all that wasn’t enough, he even has an author’s page on Breitbart.
But here’s what really separates Geert Wilders from the rest, what makes him, as the title of this listicle says, surprising – Geert Wilders lost. Geert Wilders was set to lose from the beginning, and everyone knew it, even the American Press.
Every recent article on Geert Wilders isn’t about his history as a controversial, hatemongering politician, but rather as how this very hatemongering cost him a shot at the presidency. Just look at some of these headlines:
Every analysis of the 2017 Dutch General Election pointed out how Wilders, almost against all odds, lost to incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Party for Freedom and Democracy – Wilders’ Party for Freedom only gained 13% of the seats as opposed to Rutte and the VVD’s 21%. In other words, as Rutte himself puts it, “the Netherlands said ‘whoa!’ to the wrong kind of populism.” Now, that isn’t to say Rutte himself is spotless – after all, this is the same man that said that “people who don’t respect Dutch customs need to ‘behave normally or go away'” – but it does say something about the future of these sorts of populists in Europe.
And that’s the thing about all four of these examples: while the world may have losthope with people like Trump or Duterte in power, Wilders’ loss is a glimmer of hope and an example of resistance that will hopefully replicate itself in Brazil in 2018 and to a much greater extent in France next month. Sure, there are a few greater threats and worries (a personal worry of mine isthat even if Bolsonaro doesn’t win in my home country, Lula, the former president with a history of corruption and currently under investigation, might just win instead), but this rising tide of populism and demagoguery is definitely not to be ignored.
Here’s hoping that the rest of the world will learn from Rutte and Wilders, and say “Whoa” to the wrong kind of populism, whether it be blocking future populists or resisting current ones.