Why Europeans can’t stand Donald Trump
Depending on which story is being floated, Donald Trump either is or isn’t canceling his planned trip to the United Kingdom, reportedly set for next fall. But whether Air Force One lands at Heathrow or not, the U.S. president would be greeted with the equivalent of a giant British raspberry. And we’re not talking about the kind served in a clotted cream cake at Wimbledon.
Why do Europeans have such a low opinion of our chief executive? Maybe it’s because he’s such a wanker, as many are only too happy to point out.
A recent piece in Politico Magazine spells out some of the serious reasons.
“Donald Trump is probably one of the least popular American presidents on this side of the Atlantic for a very long time,” says Bildt, a card-carrying member of Europe’s political class and charter member of the security institutions that have shaped its post-Cold War order.
Do Europeans dislike Trump even more than George W. Bush, I ask, recalling the hostile days after the 2003 invasion of Iraq that most Europeans opposed and which keeps Bush from visiting the continent to this day?
Yes, Bildt tells me. Trump’s “brutal” and “vulgar” campaigning, his disdain for the facts, his lack of “civility,” are much worse than the policy disputes of the Bush era; they’ve already “caused a gulf to open up between us.”
And that’s just the beginning.
We recently returned from a trip to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Britain. Nearly all of the regular folks we talked to—in pubs, in restaurants, in taxis, on tour buses, wherever—expressed disdain for the Donald.
They were polite about it, of course, especially the Brits. Our accents identified us as Americans, so we would always get the neutral question, “What do you think of Donald Trump?”
We would answer that we didn’t vote for him, that we voted for Hillary Clinton, that we donated money to her campaign and made phone calls for her, and that we thought he was an embarrassment and a disaster, etc., etc. They always smiled and nodded in agreement. Some showed us new ways to insult him.
“He’s up your nose, isn’t he,” said a cab driver in Galway, Ireland, which sent me Googling for the equivalent of an Irish urban dictionary. It basically means, “He’s annoying.” Well, we could have told him that.
“The media treat him like he’s Princess Diana,” said one diner next to us in a restaurant in England’s Lake District. “I don’t mean that in a positive way, but they can’t seem to take him off the front page.” Many of us in this country have similar criticism of our media’s endless Trump obsession.
Do you know anyone who has a favorable opinion of Trump, we asked our fellow diner and his partner, two men from Coventry.
“I’m sure there’s someone,” was the answer, “but I certainly don’t know anyone.”
Tour guides, who usually try to be as personable and non-threatening as possible to maximize possible tips, were perfectly willing to poke fun at Trump.
A Dublin bus driver and tour guide explained that the Irish usually love American presidents. The forebears of John F. Kennedy came from County Limerick, County Wexford, and County Cavan, and all three counties are proud to claim their links to the 35th president. Ronald Reagan has ancestry in County Tipperary. Even Barack Obama (or maybe that’s “O’Bama”) has ties on his mother’s side to County Offaly. All of those counties warmly welcomed those leaders on presidential visits.
“But no county has claimed Donald Trump!” the guide said to the laughter of everyone—many of them Americans—on the bus.
Another bus driver, this one taking us across the island of Mull off the western coast of Scotland, cheerfully described the sights along the road, giving explanations of history, geography, and wildlife. She was excited to spy some Scottish highland cattle, the long-haired cattle that she explained were bred by Queen Victoria’s husband Albert in the 1800s.
“Every part of the cattle is used,” she told us over the loudspeaker. “Now, even the cattle’s hair is used. We take strands of it and send it off to America where it’s used to make wigs for Donald Trump,” she said as many on the bus laughed.
“I apologize to any Trump voters,” she said in her rich Scottish burr. “But I’ve never met a one.”
Before the recent U.K. snap election, some American media ran pieces, like this one from CNN, explaining why some unemployed British voters favored Conservatives and how they wanted a leader like Donald Trump, in the same way U.S. media seem addicted to stories about Trump supporters in the Rust Belt. Then U.K. voters tossed out many Tory MPs and elected more from Labour, leaving a hung Parliament for a weakened Prime Minister Theresa May. So much for that stereotyped analysis.
Actually, we only met one person throughout our travels with a positive opinion of Donald Trump: a cab driver originally from Russia. “Everyone knows CNN is fake news,” he told us. We didn’t give him a tip.
There are so many reasons people in Europe don’t like Trump. His decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement was met with condemnation and howls of protest. His recent trip to the Middle East and Europe was widely mocked worldwide, even as Trump claimed that the trip was a “home run.” Nordic prime ministers trolled Trump with a photo of their hands on a soccer ball, reminiscent of Trump’s hands on a glowing orb in Saudi Arabia. Showing manners worse than a third grader, Trump shoved the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way to claim front and center camera position at the NATO summit in Brussels.
European politicians have learned that standing with Trump hurts rather than helps them at the ballot box. Just look at the elections since November 2016. Most voters are rejecting the right-wing politics of populism. According to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight:
The pattern has been repeated so far in every major European election since Trump’s victory. In the Netherlands, France and the U.K., right-wing parties faded down the stretch run of their campaigns and then further underperformed their polls on election day. (The latest example came on Sunday in the French legislative elections, when Marine Le Pen’s National Front received only eight seats in the French National Assembly.) The right-wing Alternative for Germany has also faded in polls of the German federal election, which will be contested in September.
The beneficiaries of the right-wing decline have variously been politicians on the left (such as Austria’s [Alexander] Van der Bellen), the center-left (such as France’s Emmanuel Macron) and the center-right (such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democratic Union has rebounded in polls). But there’s been another pattern in who gains or loses support: The warmer a candidate’s relationship with Trump, the worse he or she has tended to do.
It’s not just that they want to avoid him; world leaders are now openly making fun of him. A recent Washington Post story has examples ranging from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull doing a Trump impersonation at a black-tie dinner to Macron inviting climate scientists to come work in France.
Late-night comedians throughout Europe and much of the world are showing no mercy with their Trump trolling. And they aren’t hampered by a Federal Communications Commission that bleeps profanity or other actions that would never fly on American television.
You might remember a spoof video from the Netherlands that went viral a few months ago mocking Trump’s insistence about “America First!” The idea spiraled into an effort led by German late-night comedian Jan Böhmermann, who called on other countries’ comedians to produce their own videos showing why their nations deserved to be second. “From now on, we are going to ridicule the shit out of the president of the United States and his fucking phony administration. … When the whole world is standing up to make fun of you, you really have achieved something truly great.”
A website called “Every Second Counts” contains video entries from 34 countries, from Armenia to Switzerland, with Slovenia calling dibs on “sloppy seconds” because it’s Melania Trump’s homeland, at least until she came to the U.S. as an illegal immigrant.
The Last Leg is an award-winning British comedy and TV talk show whose hosts have shown Trump no mercy, most recently because of his ridiculous tweets attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan after the London Bridge terror attack. This clip gives a hint as to why a Trump trip may get a somewhat (ahem) cheeky reception.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on June 19, 2017.