The success of Donald Trump's presidential campaign caught just about every political observer in the U.S. flat-footed. Those around the world, however, may not have been quite as shocked by Trump's rise. While no figure like Trump has burst into American politics with such success in quite some time, Trump-esque politicians have surged in popularity around the globe over the last several years. When you look at the many foreign versions of Donald Trump, his popularity in the U.S. — while no less discouraging — does make a bit more sense.
Most analyses of Trump fixate on his bombastic, gleefully-offensive public persona, which are wholly unlike that of any other American politician. But the specific policy cocktail he's prescribing is just as unusual in America. While most American politicians are firmly in either the liberal or conservative camps, Trump's platform combines domestically liberal economic policies, such as support for the welfare state and opposition to fiscal austerity, with conservative stances on immigration and globalization.
This specific ideology is more or less unheard of in America, but plenty of politicians around the world have trumpeted a similar mix of policies. Let's look at a handful of foreign leaders who shed some light on Trump's success in the U.S.
The bumbling former mayor of Toronto is most famous for smoking crack and resembling Chris Farley, but he's also eerily similar to Donald Trump. As biographer John Filion notes, Ford succeeded by running as an anti-politician — a crude and over-the-top candidate who prided himself in violating conventional political rules. Like Trump, Ford courted voters who felt disenfranchised by the existing political structure, dominated the media with offensive statements ("Those Oriental people work like dogs," he once said), and ran on a hard-line anti-immigration platform. He also played up his own buffoonery to his political advantage.
As some have pointed out, the closest international analogue to Trump may be former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who ran Italy for nine years on and off between 1994 and 2011. Like Trump, he made his money in real estate, has a ridiculously inflated ego, hurls sexist insults at female politicians, courts racists and xenophobes, uses humor to distract the media from his extremist policies, and so on. It's no surprise that Trump is reportedly a fan of Berlusconi.
The man who transformed the UK Independence Party (UKIP) from a powerless fringe party into a force to be reckoned with shares many policy similarities to Trump. He's crudely anti-immigrant, at one point using the term "Ebolans" to refer to refugees of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and insists that the U.K. is suffering due to its integration with the global economic community. Like Trump, he supports keeping the retirement age low and frequently claims that the U.K. is getting beaten by other countries in trade. Also, like Trump, he looks a bit like one of the Muppets.
Marine Le Pen
The leader of France's National Front Party, Marine Le Pen, is every bit as nativist as Trump. She's suggested that Muslim immigrants praying in French streets is tantamount to an "occupation of territory," and while Trump has called to ban all Muslim immigrants, Le Pen has gone a step farther, calling to end immigration to France altogether, "[both] legal and illegal." However, both also want to protect and preserve retirement benefits, an economically liberal stance that puts both of them at odds with their respective countries' conservative parties.
Viktor Orbán is the prime minister of Hungary. While Trump has proposed building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Orbán actually had a border fence constructed between Hungary and Croatia and closed Hungary's border with Serbia in September to prevent Syrian refugees from entering. He has said that "all the terrorists are basically migrants," and opposes "minorities that possess different cultural characteristics and background than us." In short, Orbán's views on immigration not only inform Trump's, they also make Trump look like a center-of-the-road moderate