'The Radical Populism Phenomenon in Politics Offers a Kind of Magical Thinking' – Anne Applebaum
19 November, 2016

What You Need to Know:

Pulitzer Prize winning author and Washington Post contributor Anne Applebaum gives her views on the victory of Donald Trump, the rise of populism across the U.S. and Europe and what Ukraine can expect from the next American president.

✅ Applebaum: "I think the phenomenon of radical populism is a form of politics which, like political movements in the past, offers a kind of magical thinking"

✅ Applebaum: "The one thing Trump has been very clear about for many years is his dislike of American alliances and his admiration for dictatorships, particularly Russian dictatorships"

✅ Applebaum: "Trump doesn't see America as a world leader of democracy or even as a country that promotes or advocates democracy.  If you begin to think about the ramifications of that, that changes almost everything"

Donald Trump’s unwillingness to advocate democracy worldwide could have large-scale ramifications. The Republican has consistently pledged to downscale the role of the America in the world, a fact that may have repercussions in global institutions such as the U.S-led NATO military alliance and the World Trade Organisation.  That's according to Anne Applebaum, an award-winning author, and journalist, in an interview with Hromadske on November 8.

“I hate to tell you but the one thing he's been very clear about for many his dislike of American alliances and his admiration for dictatorships and particularly Russian dictatorships. He's said this over and over again and he's never backtracked on it.” 

Trump’s victory provided Americans with one of biggest political upsets in decades. In 2012, bookmakers such as Ireland’s Paddy Power were offering outsider 80-1 odds the property tycoon would triumph at the Republican convention. His chances of becoming of succeeding Barack Obama were even lower. Yet these odds were quickly recalculated as the Republican nomination campaign heated up. Fast forward to this year and unlike many pundits, Applebaum says she refused to underrate Mr. Trump’s chances of entering the White House.

“The kind of language he was using and the way in which he was appealing to people is familiar to me, both from history and from other countries. There was a very similar election in Poland a year ago and in the Czech Republic. What we are seeing is the appeal of a kind of new identity politics and a political language that people are unprepared for.”

The U.S. presidential election results are a wake-up call for governments and the political establishment either side of the Atlantic.

In Europe for example, radical parties play heavily on voter fears that national sovereignty is being lost or that the ‘corrupt elite’ are all too ready to take advantage of ‘ordinary citizens’. These factors partly led to the Brexit camp’s success in June’s referendum to steer the UK politically further away from the  European Union. Meanwhile, the Dutch non-binding plebiscite on the E.U.-Ukraine treaty was hijacked by many Eurosceptic voices, which used the opportunity to dispense their anti-Brussels, anti-refugee messages to the mainstream. As for next year, key elections in France and Germany could be the nail in the coffin of post-war world order as we know it.

Yet despite these radical parties and ‘anti-establishment’ candidates,  Ms. Applebaum says their arguments ooze appeal but lack substance.

“It offers a kind of magical thinking; promises without explaining where they come from, a political movement that runs against existing institutions and against democracy as we know it and against the way the world works. It’s now clearly on the rise in a lot of countries all over Europe and the western world.”

Trump’s friendly stance towards Vladimir Putin has caused alarm in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine.

"I think there could be a change in sanctions politics and there could be a big change in America's relationship with Russia and also with other dictatorships...This is not a man (Trump) who is bothered by the rule of law or interested in the problems and the success of democracy around the world. And so, I imagine, he has no objection to being closer to Putin"

Hromadske’s Olga Datsiuk spoke with Anne Applebaum via Skype on November 8.