Thursday, April 14, 2016

America Hasn’t Gone Crazy. It’s Just More Like Europe.

Ivan Krastev, NYT
APRIL 14, 2016

Sofia, Bulgaria — FOR most Europeans these days, traveling to America is like landing on Mars. Even the most sophisticated political analysts can’t make head or tail of what is happening in the country. They are offended by the rise of Donald J. Trump, puzzled by Bernie Sanders’s democratic socialist appeal to young American voters, and confused by President Obama’s unsentimental, risk-averse foreign policy that decided against punishing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for crossing Mr. Obama’s own red line on chemical weapons.

I stand in marked contrast to my fellow Europeans’ mystification. As I witness the anger of the middle class, the arrogance of the unloved elites, the shared disbelief in the effectiveness of military power and the pervasive fear of the future — perhaps for the first time, I feel I understand exactly what is going on in America.

Take Mr. Trump’s insurgency, built on barking out the basest and craziest comments. His success, making even Ted Cruz look mainstream, baffles many in the United States and abroad, who are used to seeing American politicians walk a careful line between red-meat populism and mainstream respectability. The center, until now, has always held.

But Mr. Trump would be at home in Europe. Mainstream parties barely get half the vote in national elections. What wins instead are the visceral appeals of political resentment. When I enter a cafe here in Sofia or in Warsaw or Amsterdam, I hear groups of women and men calling for foreigners to be bused out of the country, Muslims to be barred from coming in and walls to be erected on our borders.

(More here.)


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