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President Trump. A chance for Europe?

Ridiculous, right? A preposterous man with the weirdest of haircuts, simple language and silly hand gestures has been elected the next President of the United States of America. The incomprehension and ingenuousness with which the US political establishment has tried to deal with the phenomenon Trump is most alarming. No-one should ever again underestimate the brute force that incarnates (right-wing) political populism these days. In Germany (AfD), in France (Front National), in the Netherlands (Party for Freedom), in Hungary (Fisdesz).

Has our world gone completely mad?

Well, we live at the end of a globalisation and democracy cycle. Largely construed to begin with, fewer people than ever believe in the principal promise of globalisation, namely that there will only be winners in the long-term. And since globalisation has increasingly interwoven our democracies with overall economic performance, democracy itself is under pressure.

Democracy has won big throughout the last century. No modern day elected despot enters a stage screaming: “I’m your authoritarian ruler. Yeah!”. They all are going about their shady business in the name of democracy. Though they don’t mind destroying it.

Evidently, democracy isn’t enough to fight and reverse social inequality and exclusion. Trump was elected because he managed to appeal to the disenchanted white lower middle class American. He mobilised a pretty ordinary Republican electorate. In terms of demography: Old trumps young once again.

Europe in the spotlight

Trump has announced that he will keep the US away from international hot spots. The guardian of global order, which the US once represented, is retreating. Maybe for the better, since the world is far from being a safer place due to US interventions of the 20th and 21st century.

Europe will have to concentrate on its own issues, now that the US is likely to take a geopolitical U-turn. The EU should focus on completing its stagnant integration process. From doing away with a harmful revolving door effect to making sure multinationals properly pay taxes where they generate their profits. And it should add a social dimension to its efforts.

For the short run, things look murky indeed and probably will get worse before they’ll get better. Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders are looming right behind the corner. But it’s the long haul that counts: The notion of a united Europe is still strong and bears the potential to overcome the unfolding crisis of liberal democracy that we are witnessing. Let’s not waste that chance.

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