NEW YORK -- Explain Donald Trump. A populist? A Republican? A conservative? An anti-establishment outsider? A businessman? A celebrity? A 21st century politician? An entertainer? The next president of the United States?
Having spent the first month of Trump's campaign belittling his hair, and the second berating his commentary, journalists have spent month three expounding on the forces responsible for his persistent popularity. To do so, watchers have turned to comparisons with national politicians to illuminate the Trump ascent.
On Monday, David Ignatius of the Washington Post contrasted Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting similarities in “narcissism” and the use of “vulgar expressions.”
In a piece entitled "Is Donald Trump an American Putin?" Ignatius wrote: “He promises to restore his country’s greatness, without offering a specific plan. He uses crude, vulgar expressions that make him sound like an ordinary guy, even though he’s a billionaire. He’s a narcissist who craves media attention. And for all his obvious shortcomings, he’s very popular. Whom am I referring to? Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course. But the parallels with a certain American politician known as the 'The Donald' are obvious.”
A recent editorial in the Economist reached for a similar global icon, likening Trump to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the venerable weekly expounding on the limits of “Trumpismo” and the businessman's “populist pandering.”
“Mr Trump's rivals were geared up for a fight to be seen as the second-coming of Ronald Reagan, a champion of conservative principle," the author wrote. "Mr Trump blindsided them all with an American version of 'Berlusconismo'. This mix of charismatic personal authority and populist pandering has allowed Mr Trump to rise to the top of the polls while playing fast and loose with conservative doctrine.”
The Economist article built on similar insight from Reihan Salam, who wrote a piece for Salon that placed Trump within the context of “troubling global movement toward populism and nationalism.”
He wrote: “One of the first political figures to perfect this brand of politics was the very Trumpian Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media tycoon who rose to power as part of a coalition of right-of-center parties in the mid-1990s, and who has been in and out of power ever since, dodging corruption charges and worse all the while.”
A blog post on The Huffington Post UK made the comparison between the rise of Trump, and that of Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn.
The blog read: “In the UK, the popularity of Farage and Corbyn represents a similar rejection of conventionalism, both attracting support from citizens who feel that neither Labour nor the Conservative Party represents them. Members of parliament have become a political class, the only goal of which is to stay in office. They no longer serve their constituents or represent them.”
In Germany, the property tycoon was compared to politician Bernd Lucke, a founder member of the populist Alternative for Germany Party, with Süddeutsche Zeitung noting that Lucke and Trump peddle a similar message: people have “been tricked by the elites.”
The Munich-based publication described Trump as a “classic American populist” riding on the discontent of “mainly white-collar workers in the United States,” who are “deeply unsettled” by stagnating wages, immigration and social change. Lucke has recently founded a new party called the Alliance for Progress and Renewal, with immigration, the economy and anti-environmentalism at its core. "Progress and Renewal" is a similar sentiment to "Make America great again."
In France, Le Figaro asked the question: "Is Donald Trump America's Jean-Marie Le Pen?" referring to the former French politician and leader of the Front National. The newspaper interviewed Anne Deysine, a US, specialist at the University of Paris, who noted the similarities, particularly "the attitude of the two men, which is characterised by provocative, offensive language and a refusal to observe political correctness."
On Trump's popularity, Deysine offered the standard line: "The American people are fed up with the political and economic situation. They do not feel the effects of the recovery in their daily lives. Trump has the great advantage of being able to embody the violent exasperation of the average American and middle class. His accusations in every direction allow frustrated voters to think or hope that a candidate has finally heard and understood them."
In Australia, an unflattering parallel was made between Trump and Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In a recent comment piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, Julie Szego noted how both men struggle to view women beyond domesticity.
Noting how Trump is “typical of conservative politics," Szego wrote: “His [Trump] belittling of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after the first televised Republican presidential debate is a symptom of an underlying condition that's tarnishing the conservative brand in the United States and here.”
Noting Trump’s comments on the host's menstruation, the author suggested, “Tony Abbott’s inability to self-censor his natural tendency to link women with domesticity is, like his inability to self-censor generally, the stuff of legend.”
Yet the most remarkable comparison came from author Hector Tobar, who wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled "Why Latino Children Are Scared of Donald Trump." In the article, the bewigged businessman was likened to a “folk demon,” similar to the Chupacabra. “Now we can add a new bogeyman to the repertoire of scary Latino bedtime stories,” he wrote. “His name is The Donald.”
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