The Trump Effect: Could Trump Cause a Backlash against the Rise of Populist Parties in Europe?

By Devon Winsor

Just as President Donald Trump’s far right ideals have galvanized support in the United States, a rise in similar ideals has occurred in Europe as well. The success of the United Kingdom Independence Party’s campaign to leave the European Union, the rise of Marie Le Pen and the National Front in France and the Five Star Movement in Italy, are just three of a multitude of examples of the resurgence of far right parties and ideals in Europe. These groups have seized momentum after President Trump’s surprising win in the U.S., citing his victory as a reason for their future success. President Trump’s win also illustrated to the parties’ supporters that citizens around the world share their views and concerns. However, Trump’s controversial vernacular during his campaign, specifically about women, and his subsequent policies implemented during his first few weeks in office have caused a backlash in Europe that could be detrimental to these far right parties.

The Women’s March the day after President Trump’s inauguration did not only occur in cities throughout America, but in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, and many other cities across Europe. According to CNN, approximately 100,000 people participated in the Women’s March in London, and the Mayor of London even spoke out condemning President Trump’s views on Islam. These responses to Trump in a region unaffected by President Trump’s laws regarding women indicate the growth of unity against the principles that President Trump represents. Although the European far right parties that have seen an increase in support over the past few years do not threaten women’s rights, their alignment with President Trump could cause a backlash from a group otherwise unaffected by their policies.
Furthermore, President Trump’s controversial executive order that banned immigration from seven majority Muslim countries was met with disdain in Europe as well. Immigration has remained one of the most important and controversial issues in the European Union, especially after the refugee crisis, and it has been one of the main causes in the rise of the far right parties. For example, in a study performed by the British Election Study Team, the most prominent concern for British voters that desired to leave the European Union was immigration. This is the topic in which President Trump’s policies most aligned with the far right parties and their supporters. However, leaders throughout Europe have criticized Trump’s Muslim ban, including Angel Merkel, Theresa May and Francois Hollande.

These leaders, however, represent mainstream politics and their opinion is most likely not highly valued by those that already support the far right parties particularly because his ban has been praised by the leaders of the movement. Therefore, President Trump’s policies may not impact the support for the far right parties, but they could unite other groups against these parties, improving voter turnout in favor of other candidates in order to prevent these parties from gaining power.

In particular, Trump’s policies may galvanize momentum for politically disengaged citizens in Europe that have more centrist political views. President Trump’s policies have been considered some of the most divisive policies in history, being criticized by politicians and other public figures throughout the world, yet his successful campaign indicates that his values resonate with citizens. Thus, considering how divisive the current political climate remains, European citizens who may otherwise not engage in politics may feel the need to become involved in order to prevent similar policies from being implemented, especially after seeing the results of the Muslim ban, which were highly publicized in the media, with a particular focus on Muslims who could no longer return to their home in the U.S.

Despite the fact that polling in favor of the far right movements such as the National Front has remained strong, the future decline of these groups may be imminent. President Trump’s divisive nature could awaken a group of citizens in Europe that have seen the results of his policies and desire to prevent them from spreading to Europe. Those that already support strict immigration laws will continue to praise President Trump, but they may not realize that aligning themselves with someone as divisive as President Trump could cause citizens who prioritize other political issues, such as women’s rights, to more vocally support opposition parties.

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