The impossible has happened. Reality TV just became the reality of the entire United States, the most powerful nation on earth.
Republican Donald J. Trump, among other things a reality TV star, has been elected president of the United States, an historic election that will have profound consequences for America’s European allies.
One of the direct affects on American expats in Europe is that the 2016 presidential election puts a man in the White House sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin just as NATO and European countries bordering Russia gird for a showdown.
Last week, Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek reported America’s European allies have met to discuss Trump’s public statements denying Moscow’s role in cyberattacks designed to interfere with the U.S. election. Intelligence, law enforcement and other government officials in the United States and Europe fear Trump has emboldened the Kremlin in its unprecedented cyber campaign to disrupt elections in multiple countries in hopes of weakening Western alliances, Eichenwald reported.
A more direct effect on American expats in Europe could be Trump’s connections to far right figures waiting in the wings to seize power in Europe on the way to destroying the European Union.
Nigel Farage, leader of the nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party and Brexit advocate, campaigned in Mississippi this summer for Trump. Yesterday, Farage told the BBC he would accept American citizenship if it meant he could have a job in Trump’s administration.
Even before the votes were counted, he called 2016 “the year of two big political revolutions.” A Trump win would be “bigger than Brexit!” Farage said.
For his part, Trump has called himself “Mr. Brexit,” apparently condoning not only the United Kingdom’s exit from EU membership, but the movement across Europe to dissolve the economic and social union.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherland’s right wing Freedom Party, rallied anti-Islam conservatives this summer at the Republican Convention in Cleveland.
The question now, though, is whether we’ll see U.S.-based companies begin to look for more stable countries from which to operate as have multinationals in London. Frankfurt, Amsterdam and other cities are vying to replace London. But which cities can replace Wall Street, the most powerful financial center on earth? Because in the end, nothing promotes prosperity like rule of law and social stability.
Throughout his campaign, Trump scoffed at the niceties of democracy and due process stating that he would put his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton in prison. A key plank in the Trump platform is a blanket ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. In July, Trump expanded that ban to include immigration “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”
He also has advocated erecting protectionist trade policies similar to those that helped provide the Great Depression.
In many ways, we’ve seen this movie before. The Trump victory on the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht echoes the Weimar Republic, which gave way to the National Socialists taking power in 1933. Trump will replace Barack Obama, the first black president, and a centrist who proved to be the most polarizing president in American history. Obama’s election, in turn, fed the hostility of what has now emerged as the Alt-Right, a white supremacist, anti-immigration movement that has moved into the mainstream with its support of Trump.
Another complication for Clinton proved to be the enduring hostility from Democrats who back Clinton’s primary opponent Bernie Sanders.
In the crucial state of Florida, which has 29 of the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency, the leftist Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, a Sanders supporter, received 1 million votes, the 1-percent that would have given Clinton a victory.
If there is an upside for expats here in Europe, it’s that we can look forward to welcoming a new wave of Americans looking for open, secular and stable countries to live. But the questions loom as whether the Trump election, following the Brexit vote by only four months, will set in motion a movement that brings Far Right candidates to power in the Netherlands, France, Italy and other countries, who in turn push to leave the EU.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.