The NY Times reports that “the morning after the Islamic State attacks on Paris, Donald Trump approvingly retweeted the words of one of his supporters: “THE WORLD IS PLAYING EVERYTHING RIGHT FOR TRUMP! EVERY DAY HIS POINTS ARE PROVEN.” ”
Long before the destruction and death in France last week, Trump’s presidential campaign was following the path of right-wing working class parties in Europe. Over the past decade, these parties have capitalized on animosity to immigration and the perceived threat it presents to Europe’s “autonomy, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” its “postwar economic model,” and its “Christian identity.” This movement appears to be growing in power, and the violence in Paris certainly won’t diminish its strength.
Just as the “disaffected, lower educated/working-class native folks” in Europe “are fueling the rise of the Front National, UKIP and other parties,” similar constituencies are drawn to the Trump campaign in the United States, according to Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a foreign policy think tank:
These are the folks who have lost out, at least in their perception, to globalization and immigration — they feel threatened by cheaper labor abroad and migrants at home.
The terrorist attacks in Paris will deepen the loyalty of voters like this to Trump. Already, there are clear signs that the violence in France has provoked renewed anti-immigrant sentiment in this country, especially toward refugees from Syria.
The ascendance of European far-right parties over the past decade has laid out a tempting path for Trump. The parallels between Trump’s brand of American right populism and European working-class conservatism are striking.
First, both movements demonize immigrants in language that even traditional politicians who share their views ordinarily reject.
“Without any action, this migratory influx will be like the barbarian invasion of the fourth century, and the consequences will be the same,” Marine Le Pen, president of the National Front in France, declared at a September rally in a suburb of Paris.
“The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” Trump declared on June 15. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Trump and much of the anti-immigrant European right support domestic social programs that provide universal benefits — benefits like Medicare and Social Security, available equally to all citizens, regardless of income or economic status. This separates right populism from fiscal conservatism, which calls for paring back or privatizing services, or means testing eligibility for them.
While Trump is sharply critical of means-tested programs for the poor — “That’s what I find so morally offensive about welfare dependency: it robs people of the chance to improve” — he remains a staunch defender of Social Security and Medicare. Trump told a Republican gathering in New Hampshire on April 18:
Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.