OPINION

The decline of the West

the-decline-of-the-west

The West is facing a major leadership crisis. I’m not saying this to play down our own pitiful state, but as an observer of developments in the USA and Europe.

The American political system has at times seen extremists and some very colorful characters appear on its central political stage. But there was always a feeling that in the end a sense of balance would emerge and that the lunatics would never rise to the superpower’s top job. Now Donald Trump appears to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential election, trailed by two extremists who, by necessity, appear almost sensible.

Over on the Democratic camp, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging the Washington establishment, has proved to be a tough opponent for Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s candidacy is of particular interest. The more extreme, provocative and inaccurate he becomes, the more popular he appears to a particular category of voter. The New York Times and TV networks are keeping a check on his big lies but no one seems to care. He is expressing – very successfully – an anti-systemic trend in an unprecedented manner. Jeb Bush fell victim to this trend, paying the price for coming from a political dynasty and being part of the old establishment.

Some wonder whether Trump could actually be elected president. Experts say this is out of the question, as they believe that a visible or invisible establishment in Washington and Wall Street and will stop him. But they fail to realize the essence of the phenomenon. The power of the so-called establishment is considerably lower and whatever it embraces is seen as toxic.

How did this happen? For a while now, middle class America has been feeling the pressure, sensing that it is losing the privileges it had become accustomed to. The arrival of social media in a way emancipated public opinion, as it moved away from traditional media centers. But this is suffocating the center as well as logical and moderate voices. Dialogue on the Internet turns every discussion into a rant. It is no coincidence that Trump wins every time he adopts a new conspiracy theory.

More and more US analysts see similarities with what’s going in Europe, where a lack of powerful, sensible leaders is leading the continent into choppy waters. Meanwhile, resolute leaders representing nationalism and populism are coming to the forefront. 

In the middle of all this, Greece is the weakest link: the first to be hit by the debt crisis and paying a hefty price for weak institutions and leadership. Traditionally, when the country faced a major crisis, a leader who knew who to address at decision centers would emerge. Now it’s hard to know who to talk to and get a valid answer. Imagine this scenario: a Greek PM having to call Donald Trump to rein in Recep Tayyip Erdogan.