BRUSSELS — For Europe’s populists, the electoral defeat of President Trump, who has been a logo of success and a powerful supporter, was bad enough. But his refusal to accept defeat and the violence that adopted seems to have broken the prospects of equally minded leaders throughout the continent.
“What happened in the Capitol following the defeat of Donald Trump is a bad omen for the populists,” mentioned Dominique Moïsi, a senior analyst on the Paris-based Institut Montaigne. “It says two things: If you elect them, they don’t leave power easily, and if you elect them, look at what they can do in calling for popular anger.”
The lengthy day of rioting, violence and loss of life as Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol has offered a transparent warning to international locations comparable to France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland about underestimating the power of populist anger and the prevalence of conspiracy theories geared toward democratic governments.
Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute in Brussels, mentioned the unrest confirmed how the populist playbook was based on “us versus them and leads to violence.”
“But it’s very important to show where populism leads and how it plays with fire,” she added. “When you’ve aroused your supporters with political arguments about us versus them, they are not opponents but enemies who must be fought with all means, and it both leads to violence and makes conceding power impossible.”
Just how threatening Europe’s populists discovered the occasions in the United States may very well be seen in their response: One by one, they distanced themselves from the rioting or fell silent.
In France, Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Rally, is predicted to mount another significant challenge to President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 election. She was firm in supporting Mr. Trump, praised his election and Brexit as precursors to populist success in France and echoed his insistence that the American election was rigged and fraudulent. But after the violence, which she mentioned left her “very shocked,” Ms. Le Pen pulled back, condemning “any violent act that aims to disrupt the democratic process.”
Like Ms. Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, populist leader of the Italian anti-immigrant League get together, mentioned, “Violence is never the solution.” In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, a prominent right-wing party leader, criticized the assault on the American legislature. With elections in his nation in March, Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, “The outcome of democratic elections should always be respected, whether you win or lose.”
Thierry Baudet, one other high-profile Dutch populist, has aligned himself with Mr. Trump and the anti-vaccination movement, and in the previous has known as the independence of the judiciary and a “phony parliament” into query.
But already in issue over reported anti-Semitic remarks and rifts in his get together, Forum for Democracy, Mr. Baudet, too, has had little to say to date.
Still, Forum for Democracy and Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom collectively are more likely to get about 20 p.c of the vote in the Dutch elections, mentioned Rem Korteweg, an analyst on the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands.
Even if populist leaders appear shaken by the occasions in Washington and nervous about additional violence on the inauguration on Jan. 20, there stays appreciable anxiousness amongst mainstream politicians about anti-elitist, anti-government political actions in Europe, particularly amid the confusion and anxiousness produced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Capitol Riot Fallout
Janis A. Emmanouilidis, director of research on the European Policy Center in Brussels, mentioned that there was no uniform European populism. The varied actions have completely different traits in completely different international locations, and exterior occasions are just one issue in their various reputation, he famous.
“Now the most pressing issue is Covid-19, but it’s not at all clear how politics will play out post-pandemic,” he mentioned. “But,” he added, “the fear of the worst helps to avoid the worst.”
The “amazing polarization of society” and the violence in Washington “creates a lot of deterrence in other societies,” Mr. Emmanouilidis mentioned. “We see where it leads, we want to avoid it, but we are aware that we too could get to that point, that things could escalate.”
If economies tank and populists acquire energy in France or Italy, he mentioned, “God forbid when Europe faces the next crisis.” That concern — with a watch on the 2022 election — appears to have been partly why Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has been so solicitous of France and of the demands of Mr. Macron.
In Poland, the federal government has been very pro-Trump and public tv didn’t acknowledge his electoral defeat till Mr. Trump did himself, mentioned Radoslaw Sikorski, a former international and protection minister who’s now chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the United States.
“With Trump’s defeat, there was an audible sound of disappointment from the populist right in Central Europe,” Mr. Sikorski mentioned. “For them, the world will be a lonelier place.”
Similarly, Prime Minister Victor Orban of Hungary, a agency supporter of Mr. Trump, declined to touch upon the riot. “We should not interfere in what is happening in America, that is America’s business, we are rooting for them and we trust that they will manage to solve their own problems,” he advised state radio.
Mr. Sikorski, the Polish former minister, is a political opponent of the present authorities in his nation. Europe, he mentioned, wanted to “wake up to the dangers of far-right violence” and conspiracy theories. “There’s far more far-right violence than jihadi violence,” he mentioned. “We can’t assume this kind of craziness will go away, because they have their own facts. We need to take the gloves off — liberal democracy must defend itself.”
Enrico Letta, a former prime minister of Italy who’s now dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, mentioned that Mr. Trump “gave credibility to the disruptive attitudes and approaches of populist leaders in Europe, so having him out is a big problem for them.” Then got here the riot, he mentioned, “which I think changed the map completely.”
Now, like Ms. Le Pen, Italian populist leaders have felt “obliged to cut their ties to some forms of extremism,” Mr. Letta mentioned. “They have lost this ability to preserve this ambiguity about their ties to extremists on the margins,” he added.
He mentioned that Mr. Trump’s defeat and the violent responses to it have been appreciable blows to European populism. The coronavirus catastrophe alone, he added, represented “the revenge of competence and the scientific method” in opposition to the obscurantism and anti-elitism of populism, noting that the troubles surrounding Brexit have additionally been a blow.
“We even start to think that Brexit has been something positive for the rest of Europe, allowing a relaunch,” Mr. Letta mentioned. “Nobody followed Britain out, and now there’s the collapse of Trump.”
But Mr. Moïsi, the Institut Montaigne analyst, struck a darker observe. Having written in regards to the feelings of geopolitics, he sees a harmful analogy in what occurred on the Capitol, noting that it might go down as a heroic occasion amongst a lot of Mr. Trump’s supporters.
The rioting reminded him, he mentioned, of the failed Beer Hall Putsch by Adolf Hitler and the early Nazi Party in Munich in 1923.
That effort to overthrow the Bavarian authorities additionally had parts of farce and was extensively ridiculed, but it surely grew to become “the foundational myth of the Nazi regime,” Mr. Moïsi mentioned. Hitler spent the jail time period he was handed after the violence writing “Mein Kampf.”
Mr. Moïsi cited the death of Ashli Babbitt, a army veteran shot by a Capitol Police officer. “If things go badly in America,’’ he said, “this woman could be the first martyr.”