The success of President Donald Trump may appear to signal the beginning of a new movement, one in which the anti-establishment populists are taking control of governments around the world. But is “The Trump” really so unique? It is a uniquely American viewpoint to see the success of these movements in the U.S. as the ushers of new political paradigms. Media would lead us to believe that these changes catalyze only when they occur in America. But President Trump, however large his personality may make him, is neither the harbinger nor the final chapter in this story. Still, his rhetoric and policies could loose a new world order stretching the breadth of humanity.
Go back to 2000. Vladimir Putin — who is having his fair share of media coverage in U.S. news outlets today — is elected president for the first time. Running on a promise to “unify the people of Russia,” Putin addressed the common man’s problems: unemployment, lifestyle comfort and economic stimulus. In the words of another, he vowed to make Russia great again. In the following decade, his public service both as president and prime minister demonstrated his commitment to reestablishing Russia’s superpower status, to lead Russia for the benefit of Russians.
Replacing Putin’s cool authoritarianism with bombastic excess, Silvio Berlusconi has been a major player in European politics for the last 20 years. Elected president of Italy in 1993, Berlusconi was a larger than life personality during his executive tenure and political life, placing equal emphasis on rebuffing sex scandals as upending his country’s staggering economy. Like President Trump, Berlusconi was a businessman and faced a wall of criticism from the international community over his scandals and business interests. His dogma proclaimed him the only feasible savior who could dredge Italy out of recession and make the country great again.
And today? Things are a mess but one thing is certain: there are many Trump-like figures in power who are here to stay. Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines in mid-2016 — a self-admitted murderer of three criminals who is waging a hardline war on drugs. Viktor Orban of Hungary has disavowed any migrants seeking refuge in his country, labeling them “security risks” and fostering a policy of political isolation from the rest of Europe. In France and Germany, decisive elections this year will plot the course of European leadership in the next decade. In a trend of each world leader making their own country great again — that seems as timeless as the world — the election of President Trump blends into a high tide of similarity.
While President Trump might be just another card in a deck of nationalist or populist world leaders, his presidency is distinct for one simple reason: as leader of the U.S., President Trump has a far greater influence on world affairs than any Viktor Orban or Marine Le Pen of France. In every corner of the globe, the U.S. projects its power and bends reality to its agenda. The scale of the possible ramifications from Trump’s presidency sets him out from the crowd. Curbing regional, political, military and economic dynamics is one thing. Extending that power to the world is unprecedented and risks making what seems like an isolated movement into an international and supranational one. The trend is contagious. What started as “Make America Great Again” could develop into a “Make Earth Great Again.”