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Darkness falls in Washington

Trump victory is terrible news for a Europe facing external threats and an internal identity crisis

Democratic voters following the vote count in New York.
Democratic voters following the vote count in New York.ELSA (AFP)

The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections is terrible news for democrats around the world. At the same time it is also a source of satisfaction and opportunity for enemies of democracy.

The devastating victory of an unpredictable and dangerous demagogue plunges the world into a state of complete uncertainty, and one with immediate economic and geopolitical repercussions. The shock suffered by democratic voters in the US is the same as that being experienced in the capitals of Europe, which now risk seeing themselves abandoned by Washington at a particularly difficult historic moment because of a conjuncture of external threats and an important internal crisis of identity.

Russia and China will be rubbing their hands with glee

After Brexit, Trump’s victory could finish off of a European project which has always been inspired and protected by the US.

The US electorate has shown that no society – no matter how prosperous it is, or how deeply rooted its democratic tradition – is immune from demagoguery and its promise of quick and simple solutions to complicated problems like the economic crisis or the management of immigration, or from its discourse of hate when it comes to any minority group or collective which might serve as a scapegoat. It doesn’t matter whether that is Mexicans, reduced to the category of rapists or drug dealers, or women – slammed as intellectually inferior – or Muslims, all of whom are catalogues as terrorists, without exception.

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The vote heralds a black future of economic instability and economic uncertainty, especially if Trump immediately rolls out the protectionist agenda with which he seduced voters. With their vote of yesterday, the people of the US have decided what sort of role they want their country to play in the world and it has nothing to do with what the United States has achieved and represented in the last 100 years.

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Millions of citizens of the country which won two world wars in defense of liberty and against totalitarianism and which, over the last half century, has deployed a vast array of resources to protect its democratic allies have placed their trust in a man who believes that the security of the US depends on washing one’s hands of what is going on in the world and its historical allies.

Russia and China will be rubbing their hands with glee at this genuine and dangerous childishness when it comes to international relations. But it can’t be said that there were no clear signals. For the first time in a long time there were two options on the table that were not just different but clearly antagonistic: the international and multilateral perspective defended by Hillary Clinton and the isolationism of Donald Trump. And both were clearly explained during the campaign.

Yesterday represented a major upheaval for the international order in terms of both commerce and security reflected in the alliance between democracies. And Europe is the one most harmed by this political earthquake when it comes to at least three issues of vital importance: the first is the construction of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which formed a fundamental part of Europe’s strategy for reinforcing political links with the US.

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The second is the jihadist threat, where Washington has, to date, assisted Europe through its security services and the deployment of its military in the south of Europe. The third is the urgent European need for unequivocal US support in the political and military crisis with Russia. President Vladimir Putin has made unthinkable moves during this Cold War convinced that Europe is too weak to respond. And now he can count on the US being reticent about intervening. This mean the EU has more than enough reasons to be worried about the direction its most reliable ally could take.

The US democratic system has demonstrated that it functions cleanly and transparently and is accessible to candidates, like Trump, who deny both of these characteristics of the system and who announced beforehand that he would not recognize his defeat.

Thanks to the foresight of the founding fathers, who always envisaged the prospect that someone like Trump could make it the White House, the Constitution has an elaborate system of checks and balances aimed at avoiding a despotic government based on the tyranny of the majority. These mechanisms will have to be employed to their full with Trump, who, like any other populist, has to learn that votes don’t justify everything and that when it comes to democracy, the law, liberty and individual rights always prevail.

English version by George Mills.

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