Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Why Is the World Obsessed With Donald Trump?

Politics

He’s everywhere.

Spray-tanned face and white teeth exploding through the front pages of newspapers and magazines. Implausible hair mesmerizing on Twitter and Facebook. Comments on female journalists and illegal Mexican immigrants echoing across the ether. It is likely that Donald Trump will be nothing more than an ephemeral political phenomenon but he is still a phenomenon.

"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive," said Donald Trump in a tweet in 2012. Photo credit: Creative Commons

Politically divisive at home, Trump unifies internationally. My utterly subjective sense is that he is the American many global citizens have been waiting for since the end of the George W. Bush presidency: an American the world can look at and ridicule, a symbol of U.S. arrogance and anti-intellectualism. Paul Thomas of the New Zealand Herald put this view best when he wrote that, “Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.”

Bashing the U.S. is a favorite pastime of portions of the international press because we Americans have made it so damn easy. We trumpet the fact that our nation is created and protected by God. We parade our guns as evidence of freedom. We revel in a military power we are unafraid to use. We laugh in the face of facts and science. We elected George W. Bush. Twice.

And yet Trump is not the only phenomenon on the U.S. political scene. Another presidential hopeful, also unlikely to get the final nomination, is receiving far less ink internationally than his casino-owning counterpart. As Bernie Sanders mounts an unlikely challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, the media give him short shrift in favor of yet more Trumpisms.

In Sanders we have a candidate who espouses many of the political values supposedly held dear to Europeans: an opposition to economic inequality, a belief in the need for a livable wage and promotion of universal healthcare. Sanders is even willing to out himself as a fan of Scandinavian welfare state politics. He’s getting huge numbers at his speeches and rallies. On top of this, he is smart, articulate and passionate.

Read page 1

Given these facts, there is more than a little irony in this international media obsession with Trump. This isn’t to say that the international media are rooting for U.S. failure or embarrassment — the global love affair with Obama in 2008 puts that argument to bed — but rather that when a Trump-esque figure emerges in the U.S. (think: Sarah Palin), a certain measure of schadenfreude becomes palpable.

This is not a uniquely American trait. Europe and the U.S. often hold mirrors up to each other, sometimes reveling in misfortune. The collapse of the Greek economy, for example, was met with glee by portions of the right-wing U.S. media who used the crisis to score points about the weakness of the EU and the failure of “socialist” policies.

What Trump does for Europe, for example, is to make it feel better about itself: “Things might be bad here but at least we don’t have … that.” The problem, of course, is that many of the policies espoused by Trump are not far off what major political parties propose in Europe. The bluster and bombast of people like Trump and Palin make it easy to dismiss a European slide into American-style politics, yet if we strip away the fake tan and hairspray, things can get uncomfortably close.

A recent (albeit contested) poll in Sweden, for example, put the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats as the most popular party in the country. France’s Front National scored a huge result in the 2014 EU elections. Despite concerns over the privatization of the National Health Service, David Cameron defied all predictions and was re-elected in the UK. The list goes on. In the relationship between Europe and the U.S., Europe has considered itself to hold the monopoly on social democratic values. The treatment received by Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn by substantial portions of the UK press and political establishment, however, is a reminder that politics once considered part of the European mainstream 20 years ago are now openly ridiculed as pie-in-the-sky radicalism.

This brings us back to Sanders and the international coverage of U.S. primary season. Leftist politics aren’t the stuff of front pages: political discussions on unions in the U.S. don’t set many global newsrooms on fire. Yet, as I watched Jimmy Carter (in the wake of his cancer diagnosis) give one of the most thoughtful and dignified press conferences by a politician in recent memory, I could not help but wish that people like Carter and Sanders would be afforded the international media oxygen given to people like Trump.

Breathless reports of a depoliticized American citizenry fawning over a cartoonish autocrat make for good reading, but they are also de-contextualized. Trump is polling in the low 20s for a party that will likely get in the high 40s in a national election (in 16 months) where the voter turnout will be in the mid-50s. Yes, that’s still a lot of people but there are also millions of Americans disgusted with the political status quo as represented by the Republican and Democratic parties. By ignoring those millions in favor of media-friendly crackpots we relegate principled challenges to corporate-dominated politics in the U.S. to a mere footnote in our public debate.

Trump is an easy target and more importantly, he’s profitable clickbait. But Trump is also political and journalistic junk food: a diversion from a deeper, uncomfortable discussion about what ails both the U.S. and Europe. There are serious people out there talking about these ailments. It’s time we ate our vegetables.

Christian Christensen, American in Sweden, is Professor of Journalism at Stockholm University. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrChristensen

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Donald Trump: Keystone XL Pipeline Would Have ‘No Impact’ on The Environment

7 Lessons Learned About the Politics of Climate Change

Hillary Clinton’s Keystone XL Crisis

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

People relax in Victoria Gardens with the Houses of Parliament in the background in central London, as a heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celsius on June 25, 2020. NIKLAS HALLE'N / AFP via Getty Images

The chance that UK summer days could hit the 40 degree Celsius mark on the thermometer is on the rise, a new study from the country's Met Office Hadley Centre has found.

Read More Show Less
A crowd of people congregate along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 2020, amid a surge in coronavirus cases. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP / Getty Images

By Melissa Hawkins

After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.

Read More Show Less
A Chesapeake Energy drilling rig is located on farmland near Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 2012. Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

Climate advocates pointed to news Sunday that fracking giant Chesapeake Energy was filing for bankruptcy as further evidence that the fossil fuel industry's collapse is being hastened by the coronavirus pandemic and called for the government to stop propping up businesses in the field.

Read More Show Less
Youth participate in the Global Climate Strike in Providence, Rhode Island on September 20, 2019. Gabriel Civita Ramirez / CC by 2.0

By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud

Human beings all over the world agreed to strict limitations to their rights when governments made the decision to enter lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. Many have done it willingly on behalf of the collective. So why can't this same attitude be seen when tackling climate change?

Read More Show Less
A crowd awaits the evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota on June 23, 2012. Mindy / Flickr

Fire experts have already criticized President Trump's planned fireworks event for this Friday at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial as a dangerous idea. Now, it turns out the event may be socially irresponsible too as distancing guidelines and mask wearing will not be enforced at the event, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Mountains of produce, including eggs, milk and onions, are going to waste as the COVID-19 pandemic shutters restaurants, restricts transport, limits what workers are able to do and disrupts supply chains. United States government work

By Emma Charlton

Gluts of food left to rot as a consequence of coronavirus aren't just wasteful – they're also likely to damage the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The gates of the unusually low drought-affected Carraizo Dam are seen closed in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico on June 29, 2020. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP via Getty Images)

Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Monday after a severe drought on the island left 140,000 people without access to running water, despite the necessary role that hand washing and hygiene plays in stopping the novel coronavirus, as The Independent reported.

Read More Show Less