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Trump Wins Coveted Key Endorsement From … A Holocaust Denier

Donald Trump has ridden a wave of far-right American populism to front-runner status in the Republican presidential primaries. It may be an ugly, sexist, xenophobic, racist wave, but that has not stopped him from defying expectations and going from a reality TV star buffoon dismissed by the mainstream to reality TV star buffoon that is now inches away from being the Republican nominee for president. In America many are bewildered and are struggling to answer the question, ‘how did we get here?’ Some are looking to the growth of extreme-right populism in Europe for explanations.

The ongoing repercussions of the economic crisis and poor response from government to migration issues and the refugee crisis have driven many voters in Europe toward extreme-right parties. Parliamentary systems that require broad coalitions and often allow small parties to be kingmakers have helped to strengthen European populism by giving small parties an often disproportionately important voice.

A recent Politico article suggested that to understand the current political rise of Mr. Trump and his extreme rhetoric as well as the success of Bernie Sanders’s socialist-leaning policies, Americans need to look to Europe,

Trump’s support of the social safety net coupled with unabashed xenophobia and protectionism might not be familiar to American voters, who are used to having their “conservative” politics be strictly anti-welfare, pro-trade, and low-tax. But it is immediately recognizable to supporters of the plethora of right-wing parties topping polls across Europe.

With European Populism On The Rise Europeans Should Love Trump, Right?

One of the reasons that Mr. Trump continues to elicit strong reactions of disgust among Europeans in spite of the fact that there are no shortage of extreme-right parties in Europe is the boldness with which he declares his hateful rhetoric. In France many have noted the rise of the extreme-right party Le Front National, headed by Marine Le Pen. Ms. Le Pen has dragged up the party once led by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, by making it over, which included ousting the Holocaust-denying Le Pen Senior. Over the weekend Mr. Le Pen endorsed Donald Trump. It should sit nicely next to his endorsement from former KKK grand wizard David Duke.

“If I were American, I would vote for Donald TRUMP… May God protect him.”

In the early 2000s in Belgium the extreme-right party the Vlaams Belang made gains in regional, federal and European elections. This success came after a party makeover moving away from a more overtly racist program. Even with ongoing economic and migration challenges in Europe the extreme right still has to sugarcoat itself to make headway. What is baffling to many Europeans about Donald Trump’s rhetoric is that it is so direct. Similar ideas have to use more insidious means to gain mainstream success in Europe. Whether that is better or worse is debatable.

Europe Flirts With Populism, But Isn’t Ready To Commit

Europe has seen a significant backlash against this brand of politics, though. Europeans like to flirt with the extreme-right, but have tended to react strongly when they get to close to danger. In 2002 France was shocked when the Front-National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the second round of the presidential election and almost all parties called for their supporters to vote against him. As a result his opponent Jacques Chirac won with more than 80% of the vote.

Mr. Le Pen’s daughter faced a similar situation in late 2015. In December Ms. Le Pen was a candidate in a regional election in the North of France and when she made it through the first round of voting the Socialist Party (PS) candidates pulled out, effectively giving their votes to the centre-right Party, UMP.

Reactions like these suggest that while Europeans are sometimes drawn to the far-right like moths to a flame, but they know not to get burned. The question now is, will Americans pull back from Trump before they get burned.

Featured image via Marie-Lan Nguyen, creative commons, and Gage Skidmore, creative commons.

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A Canadian, currently located in Dublin, Nikita Oliver-Lew has an avid interest in all things political. She has an MSc in Comparative European Politics from Trinity College Dublin and hopes to return to her PhD studies on migration in Europe.