I have a new job. It's to explain Donald Trump to Europeans.
The only requirement is that I am American and can stroke my chin thoughtfully when someone asks me, as they now often do, how in the world do people in the US support Donald Trump?
I've been on a three-city tour, including London and Paris, and have been gratified at the response to my concise explanations, even though it's not easy to explain the rules of "The Apprentice" and describe the ersatz Spanish architecture of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, where he let Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Pressley somehow spend their honeymoon.
The British, having invented Western democracy, are of course worried about their famous colonial offspring, the United States. Having heard about the televised debates featuring Trump and his Republican rivals, they politely wonder out loud how Americans define "debate." In Britain, debates go by rules developed at Oxford University which have something to do with facts and logic and a set time for calmly and wittily making arguments.
I respond that American debate rules, in which it is fair game to call competitors stupid and discuss the comparative size of genitalia, were established at Trump University.
The French wonder how is it that Trump's Manhattan penthouse apartment is done up in the style of Louis XIV and his Versailles palace. Does this mean a President Trump would oppress Protestants, invade Holland and rule for 72 years like Louis did?
I answer that although The Donald and the Sun King share tastes in gold, marble and chandeliers, Trump is mostly concerned with insulting Mexicans and invading China and anyway, he is not married to the pious daughter of the King of Spain but to a Slovenian model who has appeared practically naked on magazine covers. Also, Trump is already too old to rule 72 years. Maybe a couple dozen.
Italians are naturally concerned with the bruta figura (bad form) of Trump's public appearances and his appeal to violence. But in some ways, the Italians beat Americans to Trump territory. Italy's most dominant politician of the past 20 years was Silvio Berlusconi, who like Trump is a gazillionaire and a former cruise ship entertainer who mastered television performances. He habitually loved and left comely women and has had two wives. That's just one behind Donald! His current squeeze is a Neapolitan lady 49 years younger than him, but so far, they are just "partners."
While not habitually as vulgar as Trump, Berlusconi once called Angela Merkel (trigger warning!!) an "unf#ckable lard ass." His main rhetorical tactic was to frontally attack the traditional Italian ruling class and call people who didn't like him Commies.
Presently, the main Italian opposition political group is the brainchild of a comedian whose off-the-cuff rants most resemble Trump's. His favorite public speaking phrase is vaffa, which loosely means (trigger warning No. 2) f#ck off. He campaigns on the notion that all current Italian politicians should go home.
In fact, what I notice running around Europe is how many mini-Trumps are at large and how often their main platform is to express discontent with their ineffectual rulers of the past two decades or so. Hard to argue with that. A lot of it has to do with uncontrolled migrant flows into Europe, a continent-wide economic stagnation, chronic unemployment and general dithering. And anti-immigrant European politicians were campaigning to ban Muslim immigration long before Trump.
Here's a sample of stuff that could easily please a Trump rally:
- A follower of Nigel Farage, the anti-immigrant politician in the UK, blamed heavy rainstorms on gay marriage legislation. Make the UK Great Again!
In short, Trump is a Western World fad, like kale. So, America, don't feel so bad. We're in good company.