Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and the British referendum rejecting continued European Union membership in the same year should have acted as a wake-up call for the elites of the West. That did not happen – and it became blatantly evident during the US presidential race. Joe Biden may have won, but not by a comfortable margin. More than 70 million Americans did not just vote for Trump but actually supported him with fanatical enthusiasm. Were it not for the Covid-19 outbreak, Trump would have most likely swept to victory.
Trump, of course, will continue to have a catalytic effect on developments because he expresses a deep and fast-moving current. He comes with a clear and simple message to people who feel intimidated or frustrated by globalization or technology threatening their jobs. He plays with people’s insecurities with the skill of a virtuoso violinist – from fears among some Whites that they will be a minority in the US by 2050 to concerns about rising taxes and gun control.
The American elite mistakenly thought that it shared the same fears and frustrations with others in the country. However, the disrespect for the institutions, the vulgar attacks on the nation’s top infectious disease expert, the legitimation of extreme racists are not issues for the other part of America. Much like a cult leader, Trump unflinchingly guides his flock into irrational territory. He spreads the conspiracy theories that serve his politics and makes his supporters risk their health when attending rallies without masks. He ignores or challenges the traditional mass media who make the mistake of fighting him in a ferocious manner, thus confirming his pet theory: the system is fighting Trump.
What happened and what will continue to happen in the US is very dangerous. We are talking about a tectonic fault between two parallel worlds. It warrants attention, also here in Greece. The coronavirus and the second lockdown are creating a lot of frustration and the winter may find many people in economic despair and the youth in a state of uncontrollable rage. There is no such thing as a Trump-like politician on the horizon. After all, Greece has already gone down the anti-systemic path, which came to a dead-end.
Anyone who closes their eyes and ears to society is bound to be taken by surprise. I do not know by whom, how or when. This is the advantage of extreme conspiratorial populism: like a blaze that starts in a remote part of some forest, no one seems to know how to put it out when the flames come close.