The emergence of what might be called the Euro-Trumps has been driven by the growing importance of immigration as a political issue, nurtured by a feeling that the European Union has become unresponsive to the will of the people. These nationalist politicians have been pushed into prominence by the long economic stagnation that’s followed the 2008 financial crisis.
Trump’s European counterparts draw their support from globalization’s losers—working-class voters who feel squeezed between an elite that doesn’t have their interests at heart and a growing class of immigrants they worry doesn’t share their values. “It’s people who feel that liberal democracy has failed them,” says Duncan McDonnell, a professor of political science at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, and co-author of Populists in Power. “They feel abandoned, and they’re ready to explore other options.”
So common are positions like Trump’s in Europe that it might be easier to count the countries that haven’t seen Trump-like politicians than to list the ones that have. In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League is an important power broker; its Senate leader, Roberto Calderoli, once publicly and unapologetically likened Cécile Kyenge, the country’s first black cabinet member, to an orangutan. In Finland, the Finn Party’s soft brand of Nordic nationalism has elevated its leader into the government as foreign minister. Austria’s Freedom Party, Greece’s Golden Dawn, the Danish People’s Party, the Sweden Democrats, the U.K. Independence Party, and the Swiss People’s Party are all fanning the flames of xenophobia into electoral success.